OLIP in Ottawa: Canada in the World

As part of the OLIP in Ottawa and OLIP in Quebec City series, we have divided our meetings into specific categories. These include, and not limit: The Three Branches of Government, Change from Within and Different Models of Opposition.

Zachary Archambault and Martin Thornell, Global Affairs Canada 

Global Affairs.JPG

In our meeting with Zachary Archambault and Martin Thornell from Global Affairs Canada, we learned a great deal about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rules of origin preference criteria. Although NAFTA negotiations are currently stalled, and the future of the three-country accord ratified by the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States remains unclear, we left our meeting feeling much more informed about the contentious debate surrounding trade policy.

Michael Kergin, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States

Michael Kergin.JPG

Following our meeting with the Advisors from Global Affairs Canada, we had the pleasure of having a candid discussion with Michael Kergin, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States, and to the Republic of Cuba. Mr. Kergin reflected on his experience representing the diverse social, economic, and political interests of Canada in both host nations. Our meeting with Mr. Kergin helped to historically contextualize the past, present, and future role of Canada in an ever-changing, and highly globalized world.

Thank you to everyone that met with us. We appreciated learning about Canada’s role in the world, from your unique perspectives.

Stay tuned for future blog posts on OLIP in Ottawa and OLIP in Quebec City.



We’re the OLIP Interns and this is… The National!

IMG_0104 (1)

On Wedneday, Oct 10, we had the distinct privilege of watching The National live at the CBC offices in Toronto. Having grown up watching the National, many of us were in awe and ecstatic to see where it all happens.

The unique opportunity was possible thanks to Mr. Mark Bulgutch, a former producer at The National. Currently, Mr. Bulgutch is a professor of Journalism at Ryerson University, but before, he worked at the CBC for almost 4 decades. We were honoured to learn from Mr. Bulgutch as he spoke to us about his career and took us on a tour of the CBC offices.

As a journalism professor, Mr. Bulgutch is aware of the type of relationship most youth have with news media, especially TV news. We spoke about the challenges that the industry faces, and the opportunities that are before it. We also discussed journalism as a career, and heard amazing stories from his time as an editor and a producer.

Mr. Bulgutch has produced some of the most seminal news events in Canadian history, such as the funeral of Pierre Trudeau, the 1994 Quebec referendum, and the Sept. 11 attack in New York. Most interestingly to us, he has produced every federal election night for the CBC from 1997 to 2011, in addition to many other provincial election nights. We were also excited to speak with him about the changing nature of election coverage.

Finally, following an educational tour of the CBC offices, we made our way to the production offices for The National. As we watched the team change between clips and problem solve audio difficulties live, we felt a sense of anxiety come over us. So we watched with amazement how calmly the production team pulled the entire show together.

During the break, we said a quick hello to Wendy Mesley, who was incredibly welcoming. We then made our ways home, thankful to Mr. Bulgutch and the production team for showing us how The National comes alive.



Meeting with the Doctor Serving all Ontarians: Dr. David Williams


On Friday November 17th , we had the pleasure of meeting Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH). Dr. Williams was appointed as the CMOH in 2016 by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on address of the Legislative Assembly. Prior to his appointment as CMOH, Dr. Williams served as the Medical Officer of Health for the Thunder Bay District Board of Health, and he also practiced hospital-based clinical practice as a GP and GP Anaesthetist at the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital.

During our meeting, we learned a great deal about the role that the CMOH plays in safeguarding the health of Ontarians. In addition to overseeing the public health system so that it fulfills its primary purposes of health promotion and protection, Dr. Williams produces annual reports on the state of public health within the province, as well as reports addressing special topics like health disparities, mental health, and care improvement.

We learned that Dr. Williams was appointed as the Provincial Overdose Coordinator due to the greater availability of illicit drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil in the black market, and the recent surge in opioid overdoses and deaths within Ontario. In order to prevent and manage opioid addiction and misuse, the CMOH has prioritized the development of an interactive opioid tool, new resuscitation guidelines, and an early warning framework.   

We would like to sincerely thank Dr. Williams for meeting with us. Our meeting was deeply insightful and we are thankful to know that the CMOH is working towards building a stronger health system to ultimately improve the health of all Ontarians.


From Human Rights to City Hall: OLIP Meets Barbara Hall

1. Barbara Hall.jpg

How do you make more inclusive cities? When should there be limits on free speech? How does lasting change happen?

These were all questions and themes that came out of our meeting with the Barbara Hall, a former mayor of the city of Toronto and past Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

She has a long history of social activism. As a young professional, she dedicated herself to community work, eventually returning to school (Osgoode Hall) and becoming a lawyer at age 34.

She went on to serve as the Mayor of Toronto from 1994-1997, becoming the last person to lead the city before amalgamation. In our meeting, Hall described how the mayors of the Metro Torotono area mobilized in an attempt to preserve local governance within the context of a chohesive city-region.

Her tenure as mayor was notable for the construction of the ACC and neighbourhood revitalization projects in Cabbagetown and Church-Wellesley. She also broke new ground on social issues, becoming the first mayor of Toronto to march in the city’s Pride Parade. She also helped introduce violence against women as a national political issue in Canada. Supporting affordable housing initiatives was likewise a key aspect of her tenure, and it remains an issue she is passionate about. In our meeting she identified affordable housing as essential for building inclusive cities.

Hall had two terms as the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, occupying that role from 2005-2015. In her role, Hall fought to end discrimination based on mental health, advocated for greater accessibility for people with disabilities, and recommended that gender identity and gender expression be added to the Human Rights Code. Perhaps the most notable case that she oversaw during her tenure was the complaint filed against Maclean’s for allegedly running a series of articles that promoted Islamiphobia. The OHRC criticized Maclean’s for the articles, but ultimately found that they did not contravene the Human Rights Code. In our meeting, Hall spoke about the importance of protecting free speech.

With regards to making lasting change, Hall provided us with some sage advice. She described how her mayoral campaign included people from a diverse range of political and partisan backgrounds, including some she’d previously ran against at the provincial level. At the end of the day, making good policies and creating community-based change hinges on putting goals ahead of partisanship, and building coalitions that include multiple different viewpoints.

We left our meeting with Barbara Hall motivated to learn more about building inclusive communities, as well as a greater appreciation for the importance of local governance.

“Strong and Effective Municipal Government in Ontario”: Understanding the Association of Municipalities of Ontario


Inside the Association of Municipalites of Ontario’s (AMO) boardroom is a large map. It depicts the province of Ontario, from Sarnia to Cornwall and from Niagara Falls to Hudson Bay. It is a powerful reminder that municipal issues are not limited to those faced by the large city-regions in Southwestern Ontario.

It was in that boardroom that we met with Monika Turner, AMO’s Director of Legislative Policy and Leslie Munoz, a policy analyst at AMO. (Fun fact: Both are OLIP alumnae!) They explained the mission of AMO: To ensure that the collective voice of their 440 member-municipalites (an approximate number) are heard at Queen’s Park. AMO’s board of directors has 43 members, representing six regional caucuses. The City of Toronto is distinctive in that it has opted to not be a member of AMO.

Since 2001, the Ontario government has had a statutory commitment to consulting with AMO before enacting policies that impact municipalities. AMO’s history of advocacy, however, stretches into the the nineteenth century. AMO’s progenitor, the Ontario Municipal Association, was founded in 1899. In 1972, the Ontario Association of Mayors and Reeves merged with the Ontario Municipal Association to form AMO. The current form of AMO came into existence in 1982, following a merge with multiple other municipal associations (namely, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, the Association of Counties and Regions, the Organization of Small Urban Municipalities, the Association of District Municipalities, the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association).

Our meeting with Monica and Leslie was wide-ranging. An important theme was how important municipalities are in the daily life of Ontarians. For example, we learned that municipalities are responsible for 60% of Ontario’s infrastructure. An ongoing concern for AMO is that infrastructure goals are often set by provincial and level governments, rather than local needs.

We also learned about AMO’s position on cannabis. Monika and Leslie pointed out that cannabis legalization will involve large costs for municipalities—because municipalites are responsible for police services. AMO’s official position calls for a cannabis dispensary model featuring private, locally regulated businesses, as this is perceived as a way to boost local economic development.

A third issue that stood out during our meeting was Bill 160, which would increase the role of firefighters in responding to low-acuity medical emergencies. Monika argued that low-acuity calls are often the most dangerous, because they involve a degree of assessment by the first responder, and would be better handled by professional paramedics. In the opinion of AMO, a better way to increase response times would be to invest in paramedic training and dispatch.

We are grateful that Monika and Leslie took the time to meet and share AMO’s perspectives with us. It’s exciting to see all the different places where OLIP alumni work!

Meeting the Honorable Bill Davis, the 18th Premier of Ontario

Bill Davis Photo.jpg

As part of our attempt to meet every living Premier of Ontario, the Interns had the pleasure of meeting with the Honorable Bill Davis, Premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985. We discussed subjects that include, and are not limited to: his hometown of Brampton, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (to which he quizzed us on!), and the future of politics in Ontario.

We all appreciated hearing Mr. Davis’ reflections on the negotiation and/or implementation process of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter). In his own words, Mr. Davis shared that, “the Charter did what it was supposed to do- safeguard the rights of all Canadians.” Nevertheless, Mr. Davis shared that the negotiation process was difficult, and that compromises were necessary. The most significant compromise: the Notwithstanding Clause.

Throughout our discussion, Mr. Davis expressed a keen interest in education. While Premier, Mr. Davis spearheaded the establishment of three universities. More specifically, he discussed the evolution of the education system in Ontario since the 1970s.

It was very interesting to learn about Mr. Davis’ experience in politics, and his opinion on Ontario’s future. Looking to the future, Mr. Davis argued for: higher enrollment in post-secondary education, greater youth engagement in politics, and for greater trust in our democratic systems.

Of most importance, Mr. Davis encouraged us to critically challenge policies, and embrace change.

We appreciated that Mr. Davis took time to meet with us, and look forward to the future!