Meeting “Ontario’s Watch Dog,” Mr. Dube

 

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This past month, we had the opportunity to meet “Ontario’s Watchdog,” the Ombudsman of Ontario, Mr. Paul Dubé.  As an officer of the Provincial Legislature, the Ombudsman of Ontario’s power and authority are defined in the Ombudsman Act.

Mr. Dubé spoke to the interns about several topics, ranging from the Ombudsman Act to the Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT). It was interesting to learn about how the Office of the Ombudsman handles more than 20,000 complaints a year related to Ontario government services, as well as municipalities, universities and school boards. While the complaints process is an important part of the office, they also recommend improvements for governance and resolve individual issues.

We also had the pleasure of meeting members of the Communications team, Director of Communications Linda Williamson and Communications Manager Ashley Bursey. With more than 38.8K followers on Twitter, and an extremely active presence on Facebook, the Communications team uses social media as a tool to raise awareness of their work and foster public discussion. Mr. Dubé emphasized in our meeting that communication and building relationships are key to the position – this is definitely reflected in their outreach efforts and online presence.

Thank you Mr.Dubé and staff for taking the time to meet with us, and for sharing your expertise.

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Talking Transit and Infrastructure: A Meeting with Mr. Natarelli

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As young adults and a few of us being seasoned commuters, we have had plenty of discussions on the future of transit in Ontario since OLIP began. With our passion for transit, we were excited to meet Fausto Natarelli. Mr. Natarelli has 30 years of public service experience leading infrastructure and transit projects across Ontario.

As Mr. Natarelli went through his professional journey, one project that caught our attention was the Detroit River International Crossing Initiative, a project that was vital because it sustains 25% of trade which crosses the border between Canada and the United States. As Mr. Natarelli went through the complicated planning and intricate details, we came to understand the complexity of implementing a large scale multi-billion dollar transportation project. Since some of us were interested in public-private partnerships, we began to have a conversation on the viability of the model to deliver public infrastructure.

Mr. Natarelli also went through the communications aspect of delivering these massive infrastructure projects. As you can imagine, transit is a fiercely debated topic in Ontario and with every new highway, or light rail transit, or a GO station, public opinion fixates on the project. Mr. Natarelli spoke to the importance of being able to accommodate and engage different groups when delivering any public project.

Before leaving us, Mr. Natarelli mentioned that there will be a time in our careers where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Based on a story he told us, Mr. Natarelli stressed the importance of having poise under incredible stress or difficult situations because it will allow you to best handle the situation.

Thank you to Mr. Natarelli for meeting with us and having a conversation about all things transit within Ontario!

A “Chili” Day in October

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We finished the 5-week orientation period at Rick and Lorraine’s “Chili Party.” Hosted by Rick Sage (OLIP coordinator) and Lorraine Luski (former OLIP intern and coordinator). The “Chili Party” marked the end of a hectic orientation period, where we reflected on meetings and/or getting to know one another. We routinely commented that we would miss one another, and looked forward to our weekly-Friday meetings.

We learned that Rick and Lorraine are avid “cavers,” and have traveled throughout North America. While “caving” is great fun, this activity is not for the faint of heart—especially for those who are claustrophobic!  We also played the, “intern game.” While we have been informed that we cannot describe the nature of the game (for future cohort’s) we can disclose that interns require good acting skills. Furthermore, interns should be able to identify historic landscapes, and former Premier’s addresses. While we had fun, we know to watch Daryl in future games .

 Not only did Rick and Lorraine have chill simmering on the stove top- they had three types of chili. This included the classic Texan chili, green chicken chili, and vegetarian chili. The classic Texan chili, coupled with white rice, was a crowd pleaser. We also learned that Texan chili does not have beans. We did not know that, did you?

 We want to extend many thanks to Rick and Lorraine for their hospitality, and look forward to seeing them at the reception.

The Interns Meet Francois Boileau

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Le 14 septembre, les stagiaires du programme de stage de L’Assemblé législative de l’Ontario ont passé un rendez-vous très agréable avec Me. François Boileau, le Commissaire aux services en français de l’Ontario, à son bureau dans un tour qui a une belle vue sur le coin de College et Bay. Me. Boileau nous a immédiatement fait sentir comme chez nous. D’ailleurs, il a préparé plusieurs questions pour chacun de nous sur nos expériences avant de commencer le programme, un geste qui nous a touché beaucoup. Nous voudrions le remercier chaleureusement de cette bienvenue, aussi que tout son personnel.

Me. Boileau a dirigé le Commissariat des services en français depuis son établissement le 4 septembre 2007. Il a plaisanté qu’il est maintenant reconnu comme le meilleur Commissaire (voire, le premier!) dans l’histoire du commissariat; cependant, après nous avoir familiarisé avec son record comme Commissaire, plusieurs stagiaires, dont l’auteur, sont de l’avis qu’il mérite un tel titre! Il venait juste de célébrer son dixième anniversaire comme commissaire, mais il était très modeste de ses propres accomplissements : car il nous a loué les efforts et réussites du personnel de son bureau, ce qui, il nous a rappelé, reste assez petite, environ vingt personnes.

Me. Boileau a parlé avec passion de son mandat de préserver non seulement la langue français mais tout le patrimoine culturel autant que l’héritage francophone de la communauté franco-Ontarien pour les générations à venir. En même temps, il nous a appris aussi le concept de la définition inclusive de « francophone », qui considère comme francophone, par exemple, les allophones qui parlent français couramment comme langue seconde. Ainsi, il peut recommander la provision des services en français pour des immigrés du Sénégal, par exemple, qui puissent parler Wolof principalement à la maison, mais parle français beaucoup mieux qu’anglais. A son avis, cette définition est essentielle pour assurer et promouvoir la provision des services en français dans les régions, en particulier au sud de l’Ontario, qui reçoivent la majorité des immigrés francophones. Enfin, dit-lui, c’est essentiel de concevoir et développer des politiques et des services spécialisées pour des communautés francophones. Il ne suffit pas d’offrir une traduction en français à côté du texte anglais; pour protéger et maintenir la langue français en position minoritaire, il faut collaborer et engager directement avec les parents, les instructeurs, et les associations locales partout dans l’Ontario, afin d’inspirer les communautés francophones de promouvoir et vivre leur langue.

Bien que La Loi sur les services en français, adoptée en 1986 à l’unanimité, « confère aux citoyennes et citoyens le droit de recevoir des services en français du gouvernement provincial, » souvent la réalité de l’accès, l’utilité, ou bien la qualité des services en français reste faible, même dans les régions désignées comme priorisées pour des ressources francophones. Son travail continue, mais le Commissaire reste optimiste et déterminé. Nous sommes partis avec une nouveau appréciation pour les difficultés qui confrontent souvent des locuteurs des langues en position minoritaire, et, je crois, une nouvelle perspective sur l’importance de la langue français dans la vie et l’identité des individus ainsi que tout la province. Merci encore, Me. Boileau, pour votre bienvenue généreuse et votre enthousiasme et soutien pour ce programme.

On September 14, the OLIP interns had a very pleasant meeting with Mr. François Boileau, the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario. He welcomed us in his office, which overlooks the intersection of College and Bay, and Mr. Boileau immediately made us feel at home: in fact, he had prepared several questions for each intern on their experiences before OLIP. The interns were truly touched by his gesture, and we would like to thank him and his staff for the warm welcome.
Mr. Boileau has been at the head of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner since it was established on Sept. 4, 2007. He joked with us that he is recognized today as the best Commissioner (he’s the first!) in the history of his office: however, after having learned about his record as Commissioner, many interns, including this one, thinks that he deserves the title! Though he just celebrated his tenth anniversary in his role, Mr. Boileau remained very modest regarding his own accomplishments. Instead, he praised the hard work and successes of his relatively small staff of about twenty.
Mr. Boileau spoke with passion about his mandate to protect not only the French language but the entire cultural patrimony and heritage of the Franco-Ontarian community for future generations. At the same time, he introduced us to the concept of the inclusive definition of “Francophone,” which reaches to include allophones who nevertheless speak French fluently or as a second language. This definition allows him to recommend French-language services for immigrants from Senegal, for example, who might speak Wolof at home, but were much more comfortable in French than English. In his opinion, this expansive definition is essential to maintain and promote French-language services in those regions, mainly in Southern Ontario, which receive the majority of francophone immigrants. Finally, he said, it is necessary to develop and maintain specialized policies and services designed for francophone communities. It is not enough to provide a French translation beside English text: to protect and maintain the French language in a minority position, it is necessary to engage and work directly with parents, teachers, and local groups throughout Ontario to inspire francophone communities to promote and live in their language.
Although the French Language Services Act, adopted in 1986, gives citizens the right to receive services in French from the provincial government, often the reality of the ease of access or the quality of French language services remains weak, even in regions in which French language resources have been prioritized by the government.
The Commissioner has his work cut out for him, but he remains optimistic and determined. We left his office with a new appreciation for the difficulties often faced by speakers of minority languages, as well as what we believe is a deeper prospective on the importance of the French language in the life and identity of individuals and communities, as well as the whole province. Thank you again, Mr. Boileau, for your generous welcome and your enthusiasm and support for OLIP.

The Environmental Commissioner

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Although our previous meetings have helped us best understand the inner workings of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, meeting Dianne Saxe, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), provided the opportunity to truly think outside the walls of Queens Park. Beyond providing assistance to Ontario about the Environmental Bill of Rights 1993 (EBR), the ECO reports on the implementation and compliance of the provincial government with respect to climate, energy, conservation and overall environmental responsibilities. We were provided with executive summaries of the three main annual reports on Environmental Protection, Climate Change and Energy Conservation and special reports prepared by the ECO that touch on other regulations under the EBR including  water, wildlife and fisheries, mining, contaminated site remediation, forestry and waste.

Interestingly, the ECO has no parallel agency or group, not only among the other provinces of Canada, but internationally as well (except for New-Zealand!). We were able to ask many questions about the difficulty of developing and implementing environmental policy due to the multi-jurisdictional ambiguity of many environmental topics, the lack of awareness and communication surrounding the EBR to Ontarians as well as the intrinsic economic and educational considerations inherent to environmental work. We discussed the necessity for individuals to decrease their carbon footprint and also the opportunity the ECO holds to ensure that the government is creating and upholding legislation and policy around the multitude of topics under the ECO.

It is evident that Dianne Saxe is extremely competent and eloquent in her role; she was able to draw connections and summarize several system level challenges of her work in a comprehensible manner. She noted that this was a personal goal she created upon beginning her role in December of 2015. She is personally motivated to make the ECO’s work more accessible by creating concise and digestible reports to inform and communicate the public. We appreciated the honesty and humility of Ms. Saxe and the effort and commitment of her office in upholding the mandate of the ECO.

Thank you to the Commissioner for taking the time to meet with us, and for sharing your expertise. We left with many more (important) questions and considerations to explore throughout the rest of our internship!

The Interns Meet the Hon. Dave Levac, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly

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Our first week in the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme was filled with a flurry of meetings with interesting conversations and learning about all aspects of the legislature. One meeting that stood out was meeting the Speaker of the House – Dave Levac.

Levac has been considered, “one of the most effective Speakers in recent memory.” When asked what characteristics an effective Speaker must have, Levac identified different traits: impartiality; the recognition that all members have obligations; and a positive attitude. These qualities were reflected during our meeting, where Levac discussed his work on Sabrina’s Law. As a former educator and principal in Brant, Levac explained that a student suffered from antaphlatic shock. He recognized that Ontario did not have a uniform process to address this, and that students deserved better. As such, Levac was a proponent for Sabrina’s Law, which was implemented in the United States. As such, Levac’s advocacy has cross-jurisdictional effect. It must be noted that this was not simple, and Levac advocated for five-years. Thus, Levac identified that navigating politics was similar to, “waltzing gracefully on a moving carpet.” The interns have reached a consensus that Levac has mastered the art of “waltzing gracefully,” and look forward to future interactions with Levac.

Levac also emphasized the necessity of truth, which can be interpreted in the context of Canadian history. In other words, speaking truth to power. This was fundamental for establishing a positive relationship with the indigenous population. Levac argued that relationship building is predicated on the truth– this establishes trust amongst people.

Levac began by introducing the role of the Speaker, stressing the principle of impartiality and going through some of the challenges and responsibilities of his role. Throughout the meeting, the speaker created a friendly atmosphere, allowing us to have more of a conversation rather than a question period. During our conversation, Levac strongly emphasized the power of relationship-building and community building. We left the Speaker’s office with laughs, new knowledge and most importantly a strong understanding of the role and duties of the Speaker.