September 26th to 30th marked the first week of my OLIP mini-placement at the Government Relations division of Labatt Breweries Canada. In all honesty, I considered myself to be in a peculiar situation, having spent the last two years studying international affairs before coming to Toronto with the expectation that I would be working as a staffer for an MPP at Queen’s Park, only to find myself working for a company that brews, markets and distributes beer. From that perspective, life seemed to have tossed me a curve ball and thrown me into a situation that I couldn’t possibly have predicted. However, after being here for a week, I’ve come to view this turn of events as one of serendipity and opportunity.
Arriving at Labatt’s waterfront office for my first day of work, I had no idea how engaged, sophisticated, and connected the company was in its relations with the Ontario government, not to mention the federal government and other provincial governments across Canada. However, one hour-long sit-down with my supervisor, Director of Corporate Affairs Jeff Ryan, was all it took to make me realize the complex interests that Labatt has in Ontario politics, policy, and legislation. Dr. Jacek had mentioned to me a few weeks ago that Labatt was a very politically-astute organization, and I can now begin to understand how and why. Working in the GR shop here for the next few weeks offers a unique opportunity for me to learn how a business navigates the complex government framework for regulating the production, sale, distribution, and marketing of alcohol. It also makes me realize the enormous importance of maintaining collegial lines of communication between the private sector and government and operating a GR department that knows and understands politics and government on a personal and esoteric level. There is a whole lot more to Labatt Breweries than selling bottles of Blue!