Last Wednesday the OLIP interns were invited by the British Consulate-General’s office to attend a breakfast meeting, the guest speaker of which was Mark Mackinnon. Mark is the Globe and Mail’s Senior International Correspondent, and is currently based in London, England. Upon arriving at the consulate we were greeted by our hosts Fern Horine and Mathieu Blandford, the Deputy Consul General and the consulate’s Political and Public Affairs Officer. We were then treated to a delicious breakfast, one that consisted of an assortment of fruits, pastries, and tea.
After breakfast Mathieu informed us that the meeting would take place via video conference, and that members from the British High Commission in Ottawa would also be joining the call. While we waited to establish a connection across the pond, Fern shared some information regarding Chevening Scholarships, the British government’s global scholarship programme. The programme provides awards to scholars from around the world to study postgraduate courses at universities in the United Kingdom. Two recipients of a Chevening Scholarship were in attendance at the meeting, and they spoke very highly of the programme.
Once the video call was connected Mark introduced himself, speaking briefly about his role at the Globe and Mail and previous postings in Beijing, the Middle East, and Moscow. Since being posted in London, Mark has reported on the rise of the Islamic State, the war in eastern Ukraine, and Scotland’s recent independence referendum. The topic for our meeting, though, was the upcoming general election in the U.K. Mark answered an eclectic mix of questions related to the election, ranging from Britain’s role in the European Union and immigration issues, to the different policy approaches espoused by David Cameron’s Conservatives and Ed Miliband’s Labour Party. The interns were impressed by Mark’s detailed and insightful responses, information that will be quite helpful during our comparative study trip to London in June.
Ultimately it was an excellent and informative meeting, one that was certainly unique. The three-way video conference call between London, Ottawa and Toronto made for an interesting dynamic between the participants, and it was a privilege to discuss U.K. politics with such an accomplished journalist. We want to thank the British Consulate-General’s office for inviting us to speak with Mark, and for their continued support of the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme.