Security, Diplomacy, Municipality: A Flurry of February Fun

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After returning from our amazing trip to Yellowknife, the interns hit the ground running in our first week back. Apart from starting in our second MPP placements, the interns also had the opportunity to meet with several exciting professionals on our first Friday back in Ontario.

Our first meeting of the day, with British Consul General Kevin McGurgan, was particularly special for us since the British Consulate has generously supported the interns’ U.K. trip for many years. Getting to meet Mr. McGurgan was a real honour for the interns. As the consul general in Toronto, he is responsible for prosperity policy and encouraging trade relations between Canada and the U.K. He stressed the importance of collaboration in science, innovation and trade internationally, which the interns can agree with wholeheartedly.

Our next meeting had just as much experience in public service, though his newest position is only about a month old. Ray Boisvert is the newly appointed Ontario Public Security Advisor. The Public Security Advisor is a public servant responsible for intelligence and security on the provincial level. Mr. Boisvert brings over 30 years of experience with the RCMP and CSIS to his new role, and we were grateful to chat with him about his wealth of knowledge regarding national security.

The day ended on a high note, with a meeting at the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO). We spoke with OLIP alumni Monika Turner, Director of Policy, and Jason Hagan, Program Manager for the Local Authority Services program. We had a lively discussion about the 444 Ontario municipalities represented by AMO, and the diverse needs of municipalities which range from large cities to “teeny-tinies” (municipalities with a population of under 1000).

Thanks to Mr. McGurgan, Mr. Boisvert, Ms. Turner and Mr. Hagan for a great day! Stay tuned for more as we delve into our second term placements.


Visiting the Institute for Canadian Citizenship

Leith Bishop Institute for Canadian Citizenship

Earlier this year we headed over to Toronto’s Old Chinatown to meet with Leith Bishop and her colleagues at the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), a non-profit organization co-founded by the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul.

The ICC is focused on connecting new Canadians through opportunities such as Building Citizenship Community Ceremonies and the 6 Degrees Forum. Every year, the Building Citizenship program hosts over 60 special citizenship ceremonies across the country – each with a roundtable and reception – all to celebrate belonging and to welcome new Canadians to our northern family.

The 6 Degrees Forum is another opportunity for Canadians to get engaged. With events in Toronto, Vancouver and in Europe, this citizen space promotes connectivity and encourages participants to recognize the contributions of migrants to our communities, and to think critically about what it means to be inclusive in an increasingly divisive global environment.  

The ICC also promotes active citizenship amongst newcomers through its Cultural Access Pass Program, which provides new citizens with a free pass to 1300+ cultural attractions across the country during their first year as Canadians. Another important project championed by the non-profit is the ICC Insights program. ICC Insights seeks to be a leading voice on research related to inclusion and the newcomer experience in Canada.

Visiting the ICC served as a powerful reminder of our province’s diversity and the importance of working towards greater inclusivity and multiculturalism in Canada. Thank you to Leith Bishop, Yasmine Mohamed, Alykhan Haji, Heather Steel and Alain Pescador for hosting the OLIP interns at the ICC!

The Ace in the Accord: Parsing Politics with the Honourable David Peterson

David Peterson_20th Premier of Ontario

The Honourable David Peterson with the 2016-2017 OLIP Interns

Building on our ever-growing knowledge of Ontario’s political history, we recently had the pleasure of sitting down with former Premier, David Peterson, to learn about his experience running the province. As the first Liberal to lead Ontario after 42 years of Conservative governments, Mr. Peterson has a fascinating background. He shared stories of his many experiences which included a number of events that took place between the fall of the Big Blue Machine all the way to the snap election that saw the NDP take power under Bob Rae.

Walking into our meeting with an easy smile and quick wit, the charisma that propelled Mr. Peterson to leadership was clear to see. As one of the driving forces behind the Meech Lake Accord, Mr. Peterson had plenty of insights to share with us regarding party dynamics and complex intergovernmental relations. We also enjoyed hearing Mr. Peterson reminisce about the combination of events that allowed the Liberals and NDP to bring down the Miller government in 1985 and the negotiations that lead to the Liberal-NDP Accord.

Thank you to Mr. Peterson for hosting us and for sharing your experiences and advice! Make sure to check out OLIP Unplugged again soon to see who we meet with next!

A Wynne-ing Discussion for the Interns

Kathleen Wynne - Steph's DSLR Camera Pic

Premier Kathleen Wynne with the 2016-2017 OLIP Interns

Minutes before our meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne, a tense silence hung in the air. It was a silence of nerves, of anticipation. One of my fellow interns turned to me and asked, ‘Why am I nervous?’

I wasn’t sure. After having actually met with our Premier and taking some time to reflect, I believe that I can posit a hypothesis, at least: our nerves were raw excitement, misplaced. After all, who wouldn’t be excited to meet a Premier whose enviable rhetoric and argumentation style elevates debate in Question Period to an art? A Premier who, as a gay woman, capably leads a province which still hadn’t legalized same-sex marriage at the beginning of this century?

And finally: a Premier who was able to put the interns’ nerves to rest within a minute of sitting down to speak with us? Given how excited we were, that really is an enviable accomplishment.

Premier Wynne told us matter-of-factly that unfortunately, she didn’t have a lot of time to spend with us, so she wanted to get started with our questions right away. She anticipated rightly that we had a lot of them.

We spoke about the issues of the day, but also about how the Premier handles her job more generally. The answer? Passion.

“To be a successful politician, you have to love people,” she told us. Fortunately, that is something that comes naturally to Ms. Wynne. “I don’t have to pretend to be an extrovert,” she said, “I just am.”

“I enjoy being a politician,” she said frankly.

On the topic of politics and the Legislature more generally, the Premier upheld the idea that, in her words, a parliament “exists to be an exchange of ideas.” The interns can certainly attest to that; we have been privy to so many interesting ideas since the beginning of our internship, and many have indeed come from Premier Wynne.

Just before our time with the Premier was up, we couldn’t resist asking one self-serving question: did Ms. Wynne have any advice for us?

She advised us to listen to and value the advice we are given, but to remember that “[a]t some point, you just have to make a decision to go for it.”

We will, Ms. Wynne. Thank you.