Diego’s Mini Placement at the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO).

Allow me to introduce you to one of the most competent associations in our province. The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) is a voluntary membership organization serving the interests of more than 12,000 independent insurance brokers across the Province of Ontario. IBAO represents members’ interests to government ministries and regulatory bodies, as well as to insurance industry commissions and associations. The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario, a lead sponsor of OLIP, is recognized as the authoritative voice of Ontario’s independent brokers. Through membership in the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada (IBAC), IBAO also ensures that the needs of Ontario’s independent brokers are taken into account whenever governments or the insurance industry seek to introduce policy shifts that affect brokers and consumers across the country.

I was welcomed by the friendly staff at the IBAO Headquarters in mid-September and was soon put to work! My first task, just days prior to the provincial general election, was to contact members of the association throughout the province and encourage them to reach out to their local candidates to promote IBAO’s image. A few days after the election, I was busy gathering the contact information of newly elected MPPs and updating the database of incumbents who did not get re-elected. I was then approached by the CEO with a request to draft a congratulatory letter to the newly elected MPPs and a note of gratitude for the outgoing members.

I had the opportunity of meeting with the IBAO representatives at Queen’s Park, Policy Concepts, who specialize in government relations for a number of industries. I got to ask a wide range of questions about the interaction between the private sector and provincial government, and most importantly: what ‘Queen’s Park Days’ are all about. Halfway through my mini-placement, IBAO’s CEO invited me to meet their government relations and public affairs team in Ottawa. Impact Public Affairs is IBAO’s representative at Parliament Hill and they hosted me at their modern office downtown Ottawa for a couple of days. I was trusted with the opportunity of doing some work on behalf of Impact during my visit to the capital; I updated contacts of newly elected committee members and contacted MP’s offices for potential meetings. While in Ottawa, I also had a chance to meet for the first time with one of the Parliamentary Interns (OLIP’s counterpart programme at the Hill) and learned more about each other’s programs.

Finally, the last few days of my mini-placement at IBAO were spent helping-out staff during their 91st Annual Conference. This is a huge undertaking for the association as they host over 3,000 members at the Royal York Hotel for days of conferences, seminars, workshops, courses, and award presentations. I was invited to the speaker’s presentations, some of which included Jason Ryan Dorsey (‘The Gen Y Guy’) and Stuart Knight (‘The Art of Powerful Conversation’). I also attended various networking dinners as well as their famous ‘hospitality night’.

I am extremely thankful to IBAO, its members, staff, Board of Directors, and Mr. Randy Carroll – CEO, for allowing me to intrude in their work space in order for me to gain an invaluable work experience. I was able to interact with many different organizations and meet professionals with very diverse backgrounds. I have gained a much better understanding and personal appreciation for government relations from a business perspective.


Diego on his Mini Placement with Sponsor IBAO

Well, it goes without saying that this is not your regular OLIP year…it’s election year. This means from September 7th to October 6th there are technically no MPPs at Queen’s Park, as former MPPs become candidates (if they are seeking re-election). Considering this election has been heavily contested –to say the least– there is a realistic possibility for a split minority which could open the flood gates to a coalition agreement to govern. Regardless of the actual election results, Ontario is likely to wait until November to see its new government sitting in the Assembly. What does it all mean for the interns? Well, we have no MPPs to play with ’till then!

Thankfully OLIP administrators have it all figured out and they have friends in high places. We have been welcomed to work in the offices of some of the sponsors of the internship programme. I was fortunate to be placed at the headquarters of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO). The IBAO represents more than 11,500 independent insurance brokers throughout Ontario and they play an important role within the insurance industry and to government regarding a number of policy-related issues that affect consumers and brokers alike.

The staff at IBAO has been very receptive of my intrusion thus far. I was put to work in the Director of Operations’ office on my first day, and by day two I was already occupying the CEO’s corner office. I thought I was being rewarded for my outstanding 8 hours of labour, but it turned out there weren’t any other computers available at the time and the big boss was away at a conference lol.  I have since worked in cubicles, the mail office, the lunch room, the boardroom, and I am slowly making my way to the reception. All kidding aside, I’ve already had a chance to do some Government Relations work for the office –as IBAO prepares for some of the changes at Queen’s Park that may result from the election. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with the consultant firm hired by IBAO to handled Provincial relations AND there are talks about me visiting the consultant office for Federal relations in Ottawa! So I gotta say, first week at the work place: so far so good!!

Meeting Sponsor GlaxoSmithKline

Allan O'Dette - GlaxoSmithKline

As our orientation days go by, it is getting more and more difficult to keep track of all the many interesting people we’ve met. A colleague of mine even had to create a spreadsheet to log all of the contact info we’ve gathered from meeting with political officials, bureaucrats, and high profile leaders of various private sectors!

Last week we had a fascinating chat with Allan O’Dette. You know when you tell your friends you had really busy day?….check this out: Allan is the Director of External Relations (Ontario), and National Private Markets for GlaxoSmithKline Canada Inc. He is a former President and Chair of the Board of the Canadian Club of Toronto. Currently, he is the Vice Chair of the Board of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and active on the boards of Life Sciences Ontario (LSO), the Ontario Medical Association Student Bursary Foundation Fundraising Committee, Theatre 20, and the Civic Action Steering Committee. With over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, my colleagues and I had prepared for a ‘big pharma’ presentation. It turned out Allan was more interested in finding out more about the interns and wasted no time to open the floor for us to ask all sort of questions. The conversation focused mainly on how young creative innovation will be the driving economic force of Canada and indeed Ontario.

Meeting in Allan’s office, conveniently located at the heart of innovation in the MaRS building in Toronto, was a phenomenal experience. Our arrival interrupted a meeting in the board room tabling the final adjustments of the launching of a revolutionary devise designed to improve the quality of life of patients that suffer from Type 2 Diabetes – no biggie!

Meeting Tonia Grannum, Clerk of Committees

On our second week, we had the pleasure of meeting Tonia Grannum, a very energetic and knowledgeable Clerk of Committees at the Legislature who has a great history with the programme as an OLIP coordinator. Tonia shared a great deal of Committees’ insights that will not be revealed in this blog (you’ll have to apply for the programme to get the inside scoop!). Tonia was very thorough in explaining to my colleagues and I her crucial task at Queen’s Park. As Clerk of Committees, she is responsible for everything and anything that may impact the proceedings of the many different Committees. That includes things such as the proper use of protocol and procedure as well as any logistical considerations that will allow the Committees to carry out their duties – whether at the Legislature or throughout the province. Tonia invited us into the Legislature’s main Committee room for our welcome meeting. She gave us a real life sense of Committee proceedings when, with the help of Queen’s Park broadcasting team, turned on the TV cameras in the room and put all of us interns in the spotlight!

Meeting the Environmental Commissioner

On the fifth day of our orientation, we were welcomed into the office of Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. This was our first meeting with a Parliamentary Officer and it really opened my eyes to the Legislature’s ‘checks and balances’ system carried out by independent Commissioners. Mr. Miller elaborated on the non-partisan nature of his office as he explained some of the duties and responsibilities of his job. He conveyed the importance of impartiality and neutrality in the development of recommendations and report publications on issues pertaining to the environment.

A key characteristic of the Environmental Commissioner is that, even though the Legislative Assembly appoints the Commissioner, he or she acts independently in assuring that the government of the day is in compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights. Any findings in the Commissioner’s reports are strictly based on independent research and fieldwork. Our meeting with Mr. Miller was highly beneficial in understanding some of the oversight in place at the Legislature – an important concept to capture as we prepare to assist MPPs in both government and opposition.

Diego’s First Week

The first week of my OLIP experience felt like one of the longest of my life, but for all the right reasons. Though the work week itself was only three days in length, my efforts to get to the first day of the internship had begun many days before. I had just moved in to my new residency in the provincial capital on Labour Day weekend and was immensely great fully to the programme coordinators for allowing us an extra day to settle in the city before the long awaited first day at Queen’s Park.

Finally, Wednesday morning arrived and with it my fellow internship colleagues from around the province. On the very first day we had a full schedule ahead of us, and as interns, we only had tidy outfits and briefcases filled with questions and expectations. The remainder of the first week was equally high pace and energetic for the most part, attending basic orientation briefings and meeting OLIP Alumni and staff. We had the great pleasure of meeting the Honourable Steve Peters, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, whom welcomed us into his beautiful corner office and opened the floor to us. This was truly an enjoyable experience. He even let us sit on the Speaker’s chair for photographs!

Overall, my OLIP expectations had begun to be filled on the initial week of the internship – I can hardly wait to find out what the rest of my time in the programme will bring.

Introducing the 2011-2012 Interns

Evan Akriotis is originally from Toronto, but has spent the last four years in Montreal, completing a Joint Honours degree in Political Science and Canadian Studies. His research interests include the nature of representation, the interaction between media (particularly entertainment media) and politics, and the politics of the north. In 2010, Evan explored his latter interest in greater depth by attending summer school in Pangnirtung, Nunavut with the University of Manitoba. Outside of politics, Evan enjoys squash, skiing, running, and having his heart broken by Toronto sports teams. Evan is thrilled to be spending this year at Queen’s Park with his nine fellow interns.

Patrick DeRochie grew up in the small southern Ontarian town of Fonthill. In 2008, he completed a BA with a double major in history and political science at the University of Guelph. As an undergraduate Patrick was active in student government and university clubs. While pursuing an MA in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Patrick interned at the Rideau Institute, and monitored parliamentary committees for the Alpheus Group. Since June 2010, he has worked as an Evaluation Officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa. Patrick enjoys hockey, soccer, cycling, traveling, movies, music and
relaxing at the cottage.

Belinda Ellsworth is originally from Stratford, Prince Edward Island. Having graduated with distinction from Mount Allison University with BA (Honours) in Political Science in 2009, Belinda is currently completing her MA in Political Studies at Queen’s University. Her research interests include issue ownership in Canadian politics, intergovernmental relations, and gender politics. Belinda is most grateful to be part of the 2011-2012 internship team and is looking forward to living in Toronto. But most of all, she is excited to get started learning the ins and outs of Queen’s Park.

Lauren Hanna is from Aurora, Ontario and recently completed her BA (Honours) in Political Science at Acadia University. There, Lauren studied Canadian and comparative politics including political theory. In 2010, Lauren was one of three Canadian delegates attending the annual Carleton University Students’ Association conference on American foreign policy at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She has worked in a law office and also volunteered in fundraising for social service agencies. Lauren is eager to immerse herself in the rhythms of provincial politics to better understand how this impacts the daily lives of Ontarians. Through the internship, Lauren is seeking direction and inspiration for future graduate studies.

Humera Jabir is a recent graduate of McGill University where she completed a BA (Joint Honours) in Political Science and International Development Studies. Originally from Brampton, Ontario, Humera moved to Victoria, British Columbia in 2006 after receiving a full scholarship to attend Lester B. Pearson United World College. The close friendships she made with students from around the world inspired her to work and travel abroad. Humera is an avid beginner of everything—photographer, guitarist, trekker, and cook. As an OLIP intern, Humera is excited to be back in Ontario and learning about the issues that matter to Ontarians.

Sylvia Kim was born in Sydney, Australia but grew up in Busan, South Korea before moving to Toronto when she was ten years old. Her fascination with South Korea’s rapid economic and political transformation since the 1950s, led Sylvia to study at McGill University where she graduated with a BA (Honours) in International Development. Through the OLIP program, Sylvia is eager to see how leaders and institutions at the provincial level translate their visions into reality. Outside of politics, Sylvia is obsessed with innovative start-ups, salsa dancing, and cooking fusion dishes.

Diego Ortiz was born in Bogota, Colombia and raised in London, Ontario. He completed his BA at the University of Western Ontario and will graduate from the Political Science Honour Specialization program. Concurrently, Diego earned a minor in Global Development from the Centre for Global Studies at Huron University College. He has a particular interest in business and government relations and policy implementation. Diego is very much looking forward to sharing new experiences with his 2011/12 OLIP colleagues and is seeking a career in government relations upon completion of the internship.

Sylvia Peña was born in Regina, Saskatchewan but was raised in Hamilton, Ontario. She has just completed her BA (Honours) in Political Science with a minor in French from McMaster University. Before commencing her studies, Sylvia volunteered abroad in Ukraine with Canada World Youth and in Costa Rica. During the second summer of her undergraduate studies, Sylvia worked as a guide for the Parliamentary Guide program. This experience merged her love for languages with her interest in Canadian politics. Her outside interests include sewing, learning languages, traveling, and dining with friends. Sylvia is excited to be part of the OLIP team for 2011-2012.

Craig Ruttan was born in Kitchener, Ontario and raised in nearby Punkeydoodles Corners. He completed his BA (Honours) at the University of Toronto, specializing in Peace and Conflict Studies. As an undergraduate student, Craig was active in student government and college governance, and worked as a research assistant in mathematics education. This past year, Craig completed his MA in International Peace and Security at King’s College London in the UK. His academic interests include peacebuilding, justice issues, education policy, and the politics of identity. He also enjoys typography, theatre, travelling, ultimate frisbee, and figure skating. Craig is thrilled to be part of OLIP’s Class of 2011-12 at Queen’s Park.

Monika Wyrzykowska moved to Toronto from Berlin, Germany at age 11 and pursued her interest in public policy, albeit with a focus on Europe, during her studies. Monika holds a BA in Economics and European Studies from the University of Toronto and has recently completed her MA in European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs. After participating in a French-language immersion program in Trois-Rivières and working at the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs in Québec City, Monika developed a deeper interest in Canadian federalism and public policy. Monika is also passionate about issues of multiculturalism and national identity, mostly stemming from her strong involvement in the Polish-Canadian community.

Download the 2011 OLIP Biographies with Photos here