A Meeting with U.S. Consul General Juan Alsace

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Recently we met with U.S. Consul General Juan Alsace at the American Consulate in downtown Toronto. We had the chance to discuss unfolding global events, the relationship between Ontario and the United States, and draw on Mr. Alsace’s almost 30 years of experience in the foreign service. Mr. Alsace has served in several overseas placements including ones in Iraq, Chile, Spain, and Turkey. It was a pleasure to learn about the Consulate’s work and Mr. Alsace’s professional experience and approach to diplomacy. Additionally, Mr. Alsace highlighted similarities and differences between the legislative systems of Canadian provinces and American states, which was extremely helpful in light of our study tour to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.. Many thanks to Mr. Alsace and his staff for welcoming us to the Consulate!

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We’re All Legal Beagles Here! Lunch with the Law Society

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Walking the corridors of the famous Osgoode Hall was a dream come true for the aspiring lawyers of our cohort when we joined the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) for the time-honoured tradition of a fabulous afternoon luncheon.

After a round of introductions where we were acquainted with Geoff Owen, Aaron Denhartog, Advisor, Public Affairs at the LSUC, Robert Lapper, CEO of the LSUC, Sheena Weir, Executive Director of External Relations and Communications at the LSUC and Sabreena Delhon, Manager of The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) at the LSUC. The conversation flowed freely as we enjoyed three mouth-watering courses and discussions covering everything from politics to personal anecdotes about our plans post-OLIP and our experiences at Queen’s Park. A lively debate was struck on the topic of Ryerson’s declaration of intent to open a law school in 2020 and how that might impact the Toronto legal market, with discussions on the growing cost of a legal education and the results of the Integrated Practice Program at Lakehead University.

The cohort was well-prepared to discuss the legal field following our meeting earlier this month with OLIP alumnus, Aaron Denhartog, who is currently working as a Public Affairs Advisor at the Law Society of Upper Canada. Aaron had shared his extensive knowledge of the current legal landscape in Canada while answering questions about everything from legal aid funding to the structure of the country’s law schools.

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Following lunch, we had the pleasure of a tour around Osgoode Hall, where we learned some of the great legal history of Ontario, including the military service of many lawyers, commemorated by a large plaque in the library. Of course, a tour of any storied old building would not be complete without a secret or two, as our guide showed us a hidden crawlspace behind a stained-glass window. As she explained, the staff and lawyers in the building affectionately tell people they were “up in the window” whenever their absence is noted. Perhaps soon a few of us will be wandering Osgoode Hall telling the same joke one day!

Thank you to Ms. Weir and the Law Society for hosting us and for your continued support of the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme. As the goal line of the program rapidly approaches, our plans for the future are becoming not too distant, so stay tuned for our last exciting weeks in provincial politics!

Meeting with the Honourable Ernie Eves, 23rd Premier of Ontario

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Ernie Eves, the 23rd Premier of Ontario with the 2016-2017 OLIP interns

The interns’ time at Queen’s Park is slowly but surely drawing to a close and as the end of the programme approaches, there is a lingering risk that interns can grow world-weary about the political sphere.

Our meeting with Ernie Eves put any risk of that to bed, with a meeting that was thoroughly invigorating! Mr. Eves became Premier after serving as Minister of Finance under the government of Mike Harris, whose “Common Sense Revolution” has left a legacy in Ontario that many people still remember. Mr. Eves became Premier directly after Mr. Harris, but spoke highly of his time as part of Mr. Harris’ government, his own government, and indeed, of all governing parties in general.

“It’s easy to solve all the problems when you don’t have to,” he said of being in opposition, a humble sentiment that echoes some of what we heard in our meeting with former Premier Bob Rae. He demonstrated a great amount of respect for the Legislature as an institution, and for all of his elected colleagues.

“People on all sides of the House are there for the right reasons,” he said.

He spoke at length about the importance of responsible government, and discussed his ideas around social policy and outlined his contributions during the time of the Harris government.

“I regard myself as a progressive Conservative,” he said, and went on to talk about investments in disability accommodation, care for people with autism, and healthcare, that he managed as Premier.

There was a lot to take away from our meeting with Mr. Eves, his commitment to public service chief among them. As he said, “some things are more important than politics.”

Thank you for taking the time to meet with us, Mr. Eves.

Talking Telecommunications with Jodi Parps of Rogers

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During the April constituency week, while our MPPs were visiting their ridings, our cohort had the chance to sit down with Jodi Parps from Rogers Communications to talk a about the telecommunications industry in Ontario.

As Jodi explained to us, Rogers has expanded over the years into a diversified market, including ownership of the Toronto Blue Jays, our favourite baseball team! But it’s not all fun and games at Rogers. Being such a massive media magnate means that the company has vested interests in many sectors, even in transit, as it supports a network of Rogers camera vans heading to events across the province.

We decided to buck the trend at this point in the meeting and spent the rest of our time having a refreshing and open conversation about politics in Ontario, how we were enjoying being interns at Queen’s Park, and of course, where we were headed after with our program expiry date rapidly approaching.

Thanks for coming by to speak with us, Ms. Parps and thank you to Rogers Communications for your sponsorship of OLIP! Hit that refresh button regularly to continue seeing the news as we enter our last few days in the Pink Palace. Go Jays!

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Jodi Parps of Rogers Communications with the 2016-2017 OLIP interns

MARCHing Along: A Month in Review

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7 months down, 3 to go!

March came in like a lion and out like a lion for the interns, with few moments of calm as we continued with our second placements and exciting meetings with sponsors, alumni, political influencers, and interns from other legislatures!

March was a month of interviews… interns continued interviewing MPPs, Legislative Staff, Independent Officers, and others to write our academic papers for the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) conference at the end of May. We also interviewed OLIP candidates… and picked next year’s incredible interns!

These future interns will be joining an incredible network of alumni, many of whom we met this month, including Lisa Clements (Chief, Public Affairs and Communications at the Art Gallery of Ontario), Chris Morley (Former McGuinty Chief of Staff and current OMERS Government Relations VP), Aaron Denhartong (Public Affairs Advisor at the Law Society of Upper Canada). We also met alumni Sydney Oakes, Senior Policy Advisor at Chiefs of Ontario, who visited with Ontario Regional Chief Day and Chiefs of Ontario Chief Operating Officer Nathan Wright.

They will also be joining a network of legislative interns across Canada, and in March we had the pleasure of hosting Manitoba’s Legislative Interns. Their whirlwind tour brought them throughout the Leg, to City Hall for a visit with 6ix Dad Norm Kelly, and to George Stroumboulopoulos’ house, which also serves as the HQ for The Strombo Show.  

This month we wrapped up our meetings with party leaders by spending some time with Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown who previously served as an MP in Ottawa. We also met with former MP Jean Augustine — the first African-Canadian female to serve in Parliament— and a former PC Chief of Staff, Senator, and Basic Income Champion Hugh Segal.

We learned more about Human Rights with Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane, discussed identities and race with journalist Denise Balkissoon, and talked with Jennifer Richardson about her work as Ontario’s new Anti-Human Trafficking Director Jennifer Richardson.

We rounded out the month at Maple Leaf Gardens for a tour with Alain Brandon and Jesse Dhaliwal (from our sponsor Loblaws), a visit to the BellLightbox Theatre to chat with Garrett Rodman (TIFF’s Manager of Government Relations), and a trip to the Mexican Consulate to meet with Consul General Thierry Muñoz Ledo and Deputy Consul General Dolores Repetto.

After a long 31-day March, the interns have no plans of slowing down in April! Be sure to follow us on our social media pages (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) to keep up with our journey.

Food for Thought: Behind-the-Scenes at Loblaws

Julia_Loblaws logoIf you have the opportunity to take a stroll into the Loblaws at the corner of Church and Carlton in downtown Toronto, make sure to pay special attention to the strategically placed sporting paraphernalia that subtly adorn the store’s aisles and pillars. When you find yourself sandwiched between the ketchup bottles and tuna cans, cast your eyes downward to the floor tiles where you’ll find a small red circle. It is easy to miss so make sure you’re looking closely! That red circle marks centre ice of Maple Leaf Gardens, the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs (or less formally known to most fans as “The Buds”) long before shoppers came to browse the fresh produce or feast their eyes on the renowned “wall of cheese”. From 1931-1999 Maple Leaf legends such as Dave Keon and Frank Mahovlich dodged, weaved and stick handled on skates where Loblaws now stands, battling the Original Six for the puck and, ultimately, the Stanley Cup.

As we toured the store, we noticed how simple touches that pay homage to the store’s former life as Maple Leaf Gardens was just one of the tangible examples of how Loblaws transforms grocery shopping from a regular routine into a unique and memorable experience. During our tour, we peppered front-line staff with questions about the grocery industry and learned about the vast supply networks that Loblaws accesses in order to acquire the highest quality products. While exploring the produce section we even had the opportunity to sample these products in the form of delicious juice made fresh in-store!

 

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After our tour, we moved upstairs to a long dining-style table within the cooking school, a fitting spot for our chat with Alain Brandon, Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Government Relations as well as Jesse Dhaliwal, Senior Government Relations Analyst at Loblaw Companies Limited. During our meeting we discussed how Loblaws has evolved and grown to become one of the largest private sector employers in the country and how the company has expanded far beyond food and into the clothing and pharmaceutical industries via Joe Fresh and Shoppers Drug Mart. We were surprised to learn about the sheer number of policy interests of the company from health to energy while getting a glimpse of the company’s thoughts on the future of food in Canada.

Thank you to Loblaws as well as Mr. Brandon and Ms. Dhaliwal for a such an informative discussion and tour and for their continued support of the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme!

A Chat with Political Trailblazer, Jean Augustine

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Jean Augustine with the 2016-2017 OLIP interns

During our time as OLIP interns, we’ve had the opportunity to meet with politicians from all different stripes and backgrounds, however it’s not every day that we meet a trailblazer that has paved the road into politics for so many. We had the pleasure of meeting with Jean Augustine, former Minister in Jean Chretien’s cabinet as well as Ontario’s first Fairness Commissioner.

Ms. Augustine walked into the room and made us all feel at ease with her wonderful sense of humour. As luck would have it, this meeting was scheduled just one day after the federal budget dropped, prompting inspiring comments from Ms. Augustine about examining the budget through a gender lens. Ms. Augustine spoke about the benefits derived by everyone when a budget ensures equality of both men and women and how the family and the public at large prosper from gender-conscious fiscal policies. Ms. Augustine spoke with us about how applying this gender lens to public policy is easier said than done, but added that when it is done properly, positive economic benefits are inevitable.

As one of nine women appointed by the leadership to a riding association to run, Ms. Augustine’s political journey inspired a number of women to enter into politics. In addition to her time as a Member of Parliament, Ms. Augustine has had an incredible list of additional accomplishments. Having immigrated from Grenada, Ms. Augustine brought her personal story and experience to the role of Ontario’s very first Fairness Commissioner which helps new immigrants have their prior education and training be certified here in Ontario.

Thank you, Ms. Augustine, for taking the time to meet with us and inspire us with your political insights and experiences!