After so much debating about going North or South for our first trip, it came somewhat relieving that our Ottawa/Quebec trip was a standard part of the programme. Moreover, no fights about who we are meting, as local interns were organizing it all for us. It might seem like a total lack of control for some freedom lovers, but it turned out to be one of the best experiences we have had so far.
Ottawa, as a political heart of the country, received just slightly more of our time. We were not surprised by the fact that capital politicians might be extremely difficult to meet with (in comparison to somewhat slower paced Queen’s Park). Therefore, we were fortunate to have Ottawa interns going out of their way to arrange some truly unforgettable discussions. If not for them we would not have had a chance to chat with the Minister Baird and McKay or sit down with Bob Rae, Justine Trudeau or a prominent young NDPer Meghan Leslie. Just in time for our future destination (Quebec City) one of the Bloc Quebecois MPs gave us a scoop on francophone issues.
Despite the unusually warm weather in Ontario, Quebec City did greet us with the traditional negative teens (in the end of March) and snow that we’ve missed this year. However, minor inconveniences were forgotten the minute we stepped into probably the most beautiful legislative building I have visited so far. We were wondering if MNAs had to learn to not be distracted by the beauty of the chamber during the debates. And it is easy to get distracted if you are not a fluent francophone trying to follow the debate, which is not translated. This was a little detail that everyone picked on and even tried to argue with Quebec intern about it. There was probably no clear winner, but there has been a lot of cultural sharing and better understanding as a result.
Of about dozen of meetings that interns organized for us, every single one turned out to be extremely educational and eye-opening. Be it Jacques Chagnon from the Liberal Party, Agnes Maltais from the Parti Quebecois or the Minister of International relations, they all had something to say that challenged some of the traditional views of Quebec politics.
Thankfully we’ll have a chance to show Quebec interns how grateful we are for the amazing time by doing exactly the same once they visit us in Toronto.