Well we’ve finished day two and I’d say the program has been full of surprises from the first, though I’m certainly not complaining. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from the OLIP program but, if the first couple of days of orientation are any indication, it certainly wasn’t this. Not quite anyway. Yesterday we all met on the steps of the main building and were escorted into the Amethyst Room where we got to talking about the program. If I thought that they would be going easy on us the first day my hopes were quickly dashed. The whole day was packed with excitement, though admittedly most of that came from anticipation of events to come. My first surprise I suppose is that orientation would be lasting a whopping 20 days. Confronted with this information, I’ll admit, I was a little dismayed; after all, I had been under the impression that this job was about actually being of use to someone. But as I listened on it began to dawn on me exactly why the program had been organized that way, and why this would be of special advantage to me. I hail from Vancouver B.C. and though I get my undergrad at Queen’s it wouldn’t be much of an overstatement to say that I’m more or less a stranger to Ontario provincial politics and on that score I am profoundly outnumbered by my peers, who know so much that it makes me shake in my boots a little. Clearly I have lots to learn. But, I quickly learned, so does everyone. As it turns out, life and politics in the legislature bear little resemblance to what we see and hear on the outside. What we see as citizens is alliances, arguments, political fits and scandals; all of them skirmishes in a great war to gain favourable public opinion. What we don’t see is all the work that goes on behind the scenes, and the many players that make good legislating possible and while it helps to have a grounding in politics at the macro-level if you don’t know the ropes at the micro-level you’re still at square one as far as working in the legislature goes. 20 days of orientation may seem like a lot, but its worth it to get everyone up to speed on how things actually operate. It also gives me some much-needed time to study up! This is all not to mention that the orientation period helps to get our names out there to a lot of rather important people. Surprise number two was that apparently this job involves rather a lot of hobnobbing with politicians, sponsors and other interesting folk. I certainly didn’t expect that we would be issued business cards and expected to actually use them and to amass a collection of contacts ourselves. I thought that for the most part interning would involve meekly doing someone’s photocopying. I was prepared for the kind of stature that the word ‘intern’ normally invokes (dust under someone’s boot if you will) and that suited me just fine as recompense for the rare opportunities on which I might be able to participate in matters of substance. As it turns out, it’s the other way around: days on which we are to perform more menial tasks are apparently far outnumbered by those where we’ll be doing real, interesting work. And this is all not to mention that according to Dr. Jacek, the interns are well known to the legislature’s staff, who follow our activities with interest. It’s a little daunting and very humbling to think that all of these important people are keeping an eye on us, but in its own way its very gratifying too. OLIP, Dr. Jacek has informed us, has acquired something of a reputation both for producing quality interns, and for graduating men and women who go on to bigger and better things. It’s a sobering thought that we now carry that reputation on our shoulders and that it lives or dies by our actions.
I guess we’ll just have to be that good.