Tuesday, September 21st 2010

Today we got to meet a couple of very interesting men: business executive Lynton “Red” Wilson and Jim McCarter, the Auditor General of Ontario.

Interns with Red Wilson

Mr. Wilson has been in just about every organization and held just about every position this side of Tuesday making him a force to be reckoned with. Apparently he began his estimable career in the foreign service before moving on to teaching at McMaster planning to pursue a life of academia, but finding this unsatisfying went on to a whirlwind of positions both in and out of government the variety and distinction of which makes my head spin. It’s an interesting sensation to be asking questions of a man whose life experiences make your own seem like a drop in the ocean. Thankfully Mr. Wilson is no gloater; during our meeting he was modest and approachable. If there’s one thing I can say I took out of the experience, it’s a measure of perspective about how professions in the public and private sectors can intertwine and eclipse one another. The public and private sectors are not really so separate as they seem; rather, the barrier between them is permeable to those who would take the plunge from one to the other. Mr. Wilson is intelligent to be sure, but meeting him one gets the impression that it is his hard work and not his intelligence that has gotten him from place to place. This is a man who, having diligently worked at project after project is continually asked to take on greater and greater responsibility and now he seems to just about run the world. Well that’s my impression anyway. He says that only now at 70 is he “learning to say ‘no'”. And I’m an intern. It definitely gives some perspective.

Our meeting with Mr. Wilson also gave me some renewed perspective, albeit for decidedly different reasons. In the past, I hadn’t thought much about the job of the Auditor General. His was a title that came and went in the news every now and again when his office released an annual report, but hasn’t really stuck with me in any meaningful sense. Certainly I hadn’t given much thought to how important and…well…cool his job really is! By the end of his presentation, I thoughtlessly blurted out “Wow, your job is so great, you’re like a detective only you don’t have to tackle anyone!”. Big mistake. Embarrassing too. I suppose that as a legislative intern I should be held to a higher standard of professionalism and conduct (not to mention diction) but I stand by it because it’s exactly how I feel. Thankfully Mr. Wilson took my comment in stride. Unfortunately my fellow interns did not. Erica remarked that it was yet more ammunition for the introduction she’s writing for me in the fall issue of the magazine. But back to the point. Mr. Wilson was a thoughtful but gregarious sort of person, the kind of man you wouldn’t mind having a drink with at the end of the day. Lord knows I’d like to pick his brain some more. You can only imagine the kind of things that man gets into, you know, the kind of things he’s not allowed to tell the likes of us. He mentioned that if he could go through the hiring process again, he would hire more big-picture people and fewer accountants, since his job focuses more on ‘value for money’ audits than the more traditional financial statement audits. I wonder if he’ll be hiring at the end of the year. Now THAT would be a job!

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