OLIP in Ottawa: Change from within: Irene Mathyssen, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Elizabeth May and Michael Chong

After meeting with many key actors within Quebec’s National Assembly and learning more about Quebec’s distinct political culture, we set our horizons to Ottawa. Our first round of meetings were with individuals from four different political parties, each with their own unique perspective on creating positive change for Canadians.

Irene Mathyssen: After settling down in our Hotel, we made our way to meet with Irene Mathyssen, the NDP member of parliament representing the riding of London—Fanshawe within Ontario. MP Mathyssen is the Deputy Whip of the New Democratic Party and is the critic for veteran affairs.

Serving as critic, MP Mathyssen brought forward numerous private member motions and bills to bring positive change to veterans within Canada. She outlined one motion in particular, Motion-152, which calls to note permanent injuries on file so Canadian forces members or veterans do not have to repeatedly provide proof of their injuries.

After a brief introduction, MP Mathyssen was very interested in learning about the work we are doing in Queen’s Park and the issues we are passionate about. We were surprised to hear how much feedback MP Mathyssen had, either providing advice on how we could follow our individual passions further or providing a connection we could reach out to, based on her experience working at the provincial level.

Thank you to MP Mathyssen for meeting with us and answering our questions.


Nathaniel Erskiane-Smith: We were all excited to meet MP Erskine-Smith as many of us love TVO’s new show political blind date, where MP Erskine-Smith starred on the very first episode discussing marijuana legalization. MP Erskine-Smith represents Beaches-East York as a Liberal Member of Parliament.

After detailing his professional journey, MP Erskine-Smith taught us to always fight for policies we personally believe are effective in creating positive change and oppose the ones that we believe will be ineffective. MP Erskine-Smith has a voting record which certainly follows this philosophy as into the first six months of the 42nd Parliament, he voted against his governing Liberal party 11 times out of 90 votes.

Thank you to MP Erskiane-Smith for meeting with us and answering our questions.

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Elizabeth May: We had the opportunity to meet Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, and Member of Provincial Parliament for the Saanich-Gulf Islands. We discussed the basic tenants of democracy in Canada, and the strength of the party line in Canada.

MP May has a long record as a committed and dedicated advocate for social justice, for the environment, and human rights. As such, MP May advocates for access to justice, and pragmatic environmental policies.

MP May also spoke on Canada’s role internationally. More specifically, she celebrated Canada’s commitment to rejoin the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. However, MP May commented on the hypocrisy in foreign affairs. More specifically, that MPs positions on foreign issues, often lack an understanding of culture, etc. Thus, would negatively affect that region.

Thank you for meeting with us.


Michael Chong: MP Chong introduced himself by detailing his journey to federal politics. Mr. Chong came from the small rural town of Fergus in Southern Ontario. He explained how his interest in politics and creating change naturally led to career of public service.

MP Chong taught us how it is important to be true to your beliefs and to always to push for the change you want to see. He provided the example from his campaign for conservative leadership where he included a carbon tax policy as part of his platform. As the discussion continued, we probed MP Chong what he believed should be changed about federal politics. MP Chong advocated more should be given to individual members as opposed to concentrated within the party centre. He provided the example of the Reform Act, which he spearled to increase the power of party caucuses. In particular, MP Chong noted how the increasing concentration of power within the Prime Minister’s Office can be problematic for democracy.

Thank you to MP Michael Chong for taking the time to meet with us and answering our questions.


A Discussion with Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of Canada


Just after our meeting with Minister Chagger, we had the privilege to meet the Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Katie Telford.

Katie Telford needs no introduction. As the Prime Minister’s key political strategy coordinator and driver behind the Liberal’s push for general equality, she advises him on just about everything ­­­­– from the economy to Ivanka Trump. Not to mention, she is clearly determined to level the playing field for women in Canada.

Taking time out of her very busy schedule, Telford discussed the Prime Minister’s long term vision for Canada and the importance of gender equality. As a former Page, Legislative Assistant, and Chief of Staff to a Minister in the Ontario Legislature, Ms. Telford stressed the importance of having strong federal-provincial relations between Ontario and Canada. We also discussed differences between provincial and federal politics as Ms. Telford has professional experience which spans both levels of government.

We thank Ms. Telford for taking the time to meet with us. We were more than thrilled to meet one of the most influential women in Canadian politics.