A Meeting with Ontario’s Ombudsman,Our Provincial Watchdog

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On Thursday, September 15th, Ontario’s Ombudsman, Mr. Paul Dubé, welcomed the OLIP interns to his Bay street office. Mr. Dubé, Ontario’s “Watchdog” so to speak, took the time to explain his role and that of his Office in improving governance and promoting fairness in Ontario. The Ombudsman’s Office pursues these goals through the four pillars of “Independence,” “Confidentiality,” “Impartiality,” and a “Credible Investigation Process.”

We were surprised to learn that the Ombudsman’s Office handles more than 20,000 complaints from Ontarians each year and responds to them in an independent, effective, and unconstrained manner. The Ombudsman, acting under the Ombudsman Act, investigates and resolves individual and systemic problems within provincial government bodies and, more recently, within municipalities, school boards, and universities. Mr. Dubé emphasized the collaborative way in which his Office assists these different public bodies to ensure that government services are provided to Ontarians in the fairest way possible. Additionally, he explained how his Office’s work represents an effective addition to the that of elected representatives and the court system.

We also had the pleasure of meeting Deputy Ombudsman, Barbara Finlay, as well as a former OLIP intern who now works for the Ombudsman’s Office. The Office employs individuals from diverse backgrounds in a variety of roles, including articling students, counsel, investigators, communication officers, and early resolution officers. Perhaps an intern from our group will one day work alongside the Ombudsman as well!

Fun fact: “Ombudsman” is a Swedish term dating back over 200 years meaning “citizen’s representative.”


Thank you for an informative and enjoyable visit, Mr. Dubé and staff!

The Next Chapter of Orientation: Visiting the Legislative Library

The “Pink Palace’s” first Legislative library was destroyed by fire in 1909. Since then, the library at Queen’s Park has ‘risen from the ashes’ and now stands as one of the best-equipped libraries in the country. It is an indispensable resource for Ontario’s MPPs and their staff at the Legislature. It is also a great resource for us as we prepare to write academic papers on the inner-workings of Ontario’s Legislature.

We were delighted that our orientation included a visit to the library during our first full week at Queen’s Park! An early-morning mix and mingle with the library’s helpful staff was followed by a tour of their wonderful facilities. This even included a stop at the reading room reserved for Ontario’s MPPs!

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The Interns also had the pleasure of meeting the Research Services team at the Legislature. Established in 1979, Research Services at Queen’s Park is responsible for answering any question an MPP or Legislative Committee might have and provides non-partisan, confidential, accurate and accessible information to those at the Legislature who request it.

 
Thank you to everyone at the Legislative Library and the Research Services Branch for showing us the ropes!

Meeting the Speaker of the House: The Honourable Dave Levac

 

 

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After just over a week on the job the interns are beginning to grasp the vast complexities of all that goes on within the Legislature. Last Wednesday morning we met the man in charge of maintaining order in the House: The Honourable Dave Levac, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Mr. Levac keeps everything on track in what can sometimes seem like a labyrinth of complex procedure.

Our meeting with the Speaker provided us with the opportunity to learn more about him and his important role. Mr. Levac shared insight about his duty as “referee” on the Chamber floor where he ensures that members follow proper parliamentary procedure to allow for respect in legislative proceedings. We also learned about the nature of political representation and how the Speaker’s commitment to his community has allowed him to serve his constituents in a way that transcends partisan boundaries. Throughout our meeting, Mr. Levac’s passion was palpable, filling us all with a sense of pride to be participants in this programme and to be working at the Legislature.


That pride was further amplified when Mr. Levac introduced us in the House at the beginning of Question Period. Sitting in the Speaker’s Gallery, we met the gazes and smiles of the MPPs for whom we will soon work. Although we appeared cool and collected, our excitement was difficult to contain.

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As we continue our orientation with an increasingly clear vision of what the next ten months have in store, we cannot wait to continue learning, working, (and blogging!), about our experiences at “the Leg”.

Integrity is Key: Meeting with the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario

As part of the ongoing quest to understand the ins and outs of the Legislature, this past Tuesday the interns were able to steal a conversation with The Honourable J. David Wake, Integrity Commissioner of Ontario, shortly before the Speech from the Throne. Established in 1988, the Office of the Integrity Commissioner is responsible for the maintenance of ethical conduct in the Ontario Public Service. Mr. Wake explained how his Office deals with issues ranging from MPP integrity to expenses and lobbyists’ registration. He is entrusted with the authority to investigate potential ethics violations, provide punitive recommendations, and in some cases, apply sanctions himself.

Mr. Wake also explained that a great deal of the Office’s time is spent providing advice to MPPs and public servants on ethical behaviour. His Office can advise on post-employment restrictions, act as a watchdog for government and opposition behaviour and give guidance on receiving gifts. The office also helps MPPs review their major assets and liabilities yearly to ensure that they are not placing themselves in danger of conflicts of interest. These services are something that we will be sure to keep in mind as we progress through our internships. Perhaps we will be able to infuse what we learned into our own careers one day!

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Like many around Queen’s Park this past Monday, Mr. Wake was needed shortly after our meeting at the Speech from the Throne, an event we also did not want to miss. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post about our experience watching Question Period and other activities included in our busy orientation! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more updates on our progress in the Pink Palace.

The New Kids on the Block…Whitney Block That Is!

It is hard to believe that we have been OLIP interns for just four days. From our first day on the job, we were ushered into our new roles, which began with a flurry of fascinating meetings with the OLIP administrative team and Legislative officials. By doing so, we have become more familiar with our roles as OLIP interns at Queen’s Park and the rich history of the programme, which is entering its 41st year. What is equally as exciting as the job itself are the other interns that we have the opportunity to work with every day. Our diverse interests and experiences have already helped to generate thought-provoking political discussions as well as fast friendships.

attic-9A tour of the Legislature rounded out our first three days of training and orientation activities. The excitement among our group was palpable as we were whisked along the grand hallways to the frequently (and not so frequently) visited corners of “The Leg.” One of these places was the attic where giant circular windows revealed stunning views of Toronto’s cityscape. While visiting the attic, we also learned about some of the ghostly encounters experienced by some members of the Legislative Security Service.

We had the chance to sit in the public galleries of the Legislature and were captivated by the many stories that accompany woodcarvings and fixtures that adorn the Chamber. As our eyes glanced up to the ceiling, we were transfixed by four new panels painted by Gustav Hahn in 1893, which were revealed this summer after being shrouded by years of paint and canvas.

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Days later, we found ourselves sitting in that same public gallery. This time, our eyes were fixed on the floor of the Chamber to watch an event that few have the chance to witness in person – a Speech From the Throne. Needless to say, our first experience watching the commencement of the fall session at the Legislature was a special one filled with pomp and circumstance. We also had the opportunity to rub shoulders with politicians and guests at a reception hosted by The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, following this eventful opening of session.

As the 41st cohort of OLIP interns, we are looking forward to more adventures this upcoming year and we hope that you will follow us on our journey not only through this blog, but also through our other social media outlets such as our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Until then, we are the new kids on the (Whitney) block and we are thrilled about it!
If you are interested in applying to become an OLIP intern, please visit our website www.olipinterns.ca for more information!

Brampton and Bill: Our Meeting with Former Premier Davis

On a mission to meet with every living Premier of Ontario, the Interns had the pleasure of meeting with the Honourable Bill Davis, Premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985. We were able to chat with Mr. Davis in his hometown of Brampton, Ontario and learned not only about him and his life but also about the importance of Brampton to Mr. Davis himself, as well as the rest of Ontario.

We all appreciated hearing Mr. Davis’ many stories about his time as the leader of this great province and his experience with the Education portfolio. Through talking with the former Premier, it was evident that education was something that he cared about in the 70s and something that he still cares about today. Mr. Davis talked to us about higher education and how it has changed over the years.

Considering the time in which Mr. Davis was Premier, we were able to talk about his experience being a part of a party that had lead the province for many years as the “Big Blue Machine.” It was fascinating to hear Mr. Davis’ recollections from that time in Ontario’s history and his opinions of Ontario’s future. While Mr. Davis is out of politics now, it was clear to all of us that his political knowledge has not waned in the slightest – he is still sharp as a tack and fit as a fiddle. We all learned a lot from Mr. Davis and I’m sure that we appreciated greatly the fact that he carved out time in his day to meet with us.  

Lunching & Learning about the Law Society of Upper Canada

Pursuing a legal degree after OLIP finishes is a time-honored tradition for many of our programme’s alum. Each cohort produces a certain number of aspiring lawyers, keen minds hoping to better themselves and Ontario through one of the province’s oldest and most noble professions. On the opposite end of the spectrum live the Lawyer Deniers, individuals who seem intent on avoiding the practice of law at any cost. They’ve informed their parents, colleagues, mentors, friends, partners, and pretty much anyone else who will listen that the law is the last thing that will ever be on their minds.

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Now I know what you’re thinking… Could these two seemingly uncompromising groups ever find accept each other? If so, how…and why?

You’ll be pleased to learn that the answer is a resounding yes, thanks to the generosity and hospitality of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Each year, the Society hosts the interns and OLIP’s Programme Coordinators to a delicious lunch in one of the oldest and grandest sections of their headquarters. We’d heard that we were in for a memorable experience before we arrived, and certainly weren’t disappointed. The Law Society treated us to a delicious three-course meal that would thrill any foodie, and each affiliate Member listened attentively to the stories and adventures of the interns around them.

After our main course, the Treasurer welcomed to the luncheon, and encouraged us to describe our backgrounds and career ambitions. Each intern painted a different vision for their future, and all benefitted from the Society’s words of encouragement. As each person reminded us, we did not necessarily need to choose between the world of politics and the law; both could (and would!) follow us throughout our lives.

We capped off our lunch with a wonderful tour of the building, learning about the creation and evolution of the Law Society of Upper Canada since its origins in 1797. The building is stunning, and our guide helped bring its rich history to life. Many thanks to Director of Public Relations Sheena Weir, Treasurer Janet Minor, and all our other superb hosts for their hospitality and warmth!