Our first full day in Ottawa found us learning about politics on the Hill from three experienced voices – Charles Robert, Irene Mathyssen, and Arnold Chan. Each individual demonstrated an impressive knowledge of Canada’s Parliamentary system, and articulated how their perceptions of politics has been shaped by their time at Parliament.
We began our day by conversing with Charles Robert, the charismatic Clerk of the Senate. Charles Robert offered an exemplary overview of the Senate’s history from the origins of Canada’s parliamentary democracy to our present day. Charles’s interpretation of the Senate has been shaped by his 36 years on the Hill, including 20 years in Canada’s Red Chamber. Thanks to his impressive knowledge, Mr. Robert persuasively articulated why the Chamber of Sober Second Thought continues to occupy an important space in Canada’s political landscape.
We next met with Irene Mathyssen, an experienced and thoughtful Member of Parliament. The interns were particularly curious about Ms. Mathyssen’s role in provincial and federal politics, and her transition from one NDP caucus to another. We were keen to hear about her experiences as Chair to the House of Commons Committee on the Status of Women – an important subject to many of the interns and their MPPs.
For our final “Parliamentary” meeting of the day, we had the privilege of meeting with Arnold Chan, an equally eloquent and enthusiast Member of Parliament. Similarly to Ms. Mathyssen, Mr. Chan has significant experience in provincial and federal politics – albeit not always on the ballot list. Mr.Chan worked as Dalton McGuinty’s Chief of Staff before running as a Liberal candidate in Scarborough-Agincourt in 2014. Mr. Chan has clearly learnt a wealth of information during his tenure in and around politics. His intelligence and dedication to his job resonated throughout every element of the conversation.
The interns thoroughly enjoyed meeting with three individuals who have devoted part of their careers to improving politics in Canada. We were particularly impressed with their level of expertise, and ability to transfer their knowledge from one area of politics to another (whether from provincial to federal politics, or from one side of Parliament to the other). Thanks to these political chameleons for their interesting insights!