This past week was constituency week and I had the opportunity to visit the constituency office as well as several businesses and organizations around the riding. The staff at the constituency office, Angela, Kathy and Dustin, have been very helpful over the past few weeks with while I have been getting oriented to working with Mr.Colle. I was able to see more of the day-to-day happenings and their work of serving constituents. I then spent time with Mr.Colle making visits around the riding to local landmarks, like Randy’s Patties and the Eglinton theatre, snapping pictures along our tour. It was interesting to see the diversity within one city riding that is only 24km (one of the smallest in the province). Another place I learned about was The Studio at Delisle Youth Services – a community space that was designed by young people for a recreation space, like arts and dance. Youth can also access the counselling services and workshops at Delisle. I’ve thoroughly been enjoying this new opportunity to learn about neighbourhoods very different from what I know and I appreciate Mr.Colle and his staff for helping me gain new knowledge.
Two weeks into my placement with MPP Mike Colle, Eglinton-Lawrence and I’ve already been to many events, taken on research and stakeholder relations for a private member’s bill and visted the constituency. At the end of February I was able to help out with a Black History Month event “The Untold Story on the History of the Panama Canal”, where Mr. Colle told the story of the workers, many who died, during the decades long construction of the canal. The event was also a celebration with great food and entertainment. I was able to meet the constituency staff who were very welcoming to my help (thank you Angela, Kathy and Dustin!) and many people from the neighbourhood. It has been a very interesting exposure for me to a range of issues affecting the city riding including light rail transit, bed bugs and immigration. At Queen’s Park Mr. Colle and Nancy have also been very welcoming and helping me get oriented to his portfolio as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Child and Youth Services. This placement promises to be exciting and present me with a whole new range of challenges to learn from!
In my last week travelling through the riding I took 8 separate flights that were at least an hour, several more driving along the highways and made it through temperatures of minus 43. It was another amazing experience. Gilles and I travelled up to Fort Albany First Nation (450 km north of Timmins) on Friday January 28th to attend a 10th anniversary celebration for the opening of their new school Peetabeck Academy. Peetabeck was built to replace the former St. Anne’s school, which had been a residential school (1903-73) for Ojibwa and Cree children in the region. While we were visiting Peetabeck I had the opportunity to talk to students and teachers and learned about the value of the new school and the increasing number of graduates. Gilles gave a speech and congratulated the community on coming together and building the new school. He spoke about his experience as a young francophone and the value retaining his language brought to his life; for students at Peetabeck learning to communicate in Cree also brings this to their lives.
Now that the House isn’t sitting things seem to have quieted down around Queen’s Park -there are not receptions or the bustle of the media, and many policians are away in the constituency. The staff however is still around, and in my case, even busier than ever preparing for when the House resumes sitting in February. I’ve had a chance now to work on larger research projects and I’ve really been enjoying the diversity of the work. In the past I’ve focussed more on people-centric portfolio areas, like health and education, but now I’ve become immersed in research on natural resources, energy and mining. Having meetings and phone calls with stakeholders in these areas has given me a much deeper understanding of issues than I gathered from the initial review from the media. For example, understanding the changes that the Ring of Fire development will bring to the north of the province goes far beyond the for the mining sector. I’ve gained perspective of the human and capital investments into extraction and export and learned more about the communities along the James Bay Coast that are entering into negotiations with companies. It’s difficult to determine all of the positive and negative benefits that the Ring of Fire; but I am certain it will bring both challenges and new opportunities for the North.
Our set of meeting in Ottawa has been much of the same we experienced during orientation week: many different perspectives, a full schedule and a lot of interest in our position as interns. We were often on the “Hill” meeting with members of every political party, legislative staff, policy staff and also a visit to the Supreme Court of Canada.
For me, the Canadian Political Science Association reception on Friday evening was a welcome return to academia. I was actually able to catch up with one of my thesis supervisors, Dr. Boychuk, of the University of Waterloo at the reception! Thinking back to this summer of working through my thesis concerning indigenous health policy, and now being involved in legislation and projects at Queen’s Park, has given me a much different perspective on how politics work. This is also what the members of the CPSA were very interested to hear about our experiences and what has surprised us about working at the Ontario Legislature. For me, after spending time during my undergrad at the Nova Scotia Legislature, I was surprised that in Ontario there does not seem to be very much collegiality among members of different parties. But maybe it’s because the election year is approaching!
The evening was also an opportunity for us to talk to our federal counterparts, from the Parliamentary Internship Program (also known as the PIPs). Aside from the group being completely bilingual, we had very similar experiences of working with our politicians. Our time in Ottawa ended too quickly, but we were all eager to return to Toronto for the last week of the House sitting at Queen’s Park before the holidays!
First of all, there are no typical days in an MPPs office, but this will give you an example of what an intern can be involved with day to day.
7:30 Prepare for morning meeting- review the news and prepare material for question period
8:00 Staff meeting with NDP caucus, where media items, outreach and the roster for question period is discussed.
Morning – Write letters to Ministers on constituency issues and make calls to these constituents and stakeholders to clarify details and build research.
Finish preparing question for question period if my MPP has one.
Turn question period on, and continue to return phone calls and e-mails. Eat an early lunch at my desk since breakfast was 6 hours ago! Or head up to the visitor’s gallery to watch member deliver the question.
Attend meetings, sometimes by phone on various issues affecting the riding
Prepare briefing notes or statement if member has house duty
Evening Attend receptions with MPPs, sponsors and stakeholders.
I had to leave Timmins to come back to work at Queen’s Park, but it turned out to be just as exciting! After my second week working with Mr. Bisson, I’m finding myself with several projects on the go at the same time. There are many new people to talk to every day and very little time to stop and think how much I’m enjoying it –except when it comes time to write my blog! There hasn’t been a typical day yet –but I’m constantly reviewing the news, job-shadowing Mr. Bisson in meetings and contacting the legislative library with research questions. I’ve come to learn a lot more about Multiple Sclerosis treatments, biomass plants and transportation issues than I would have imagined. Mr. Bisson has been an excellent resource for understanding the legislative process and Northern politics and his Queen’s Park EA, Kevin, has helped me to learn more about house proceedings and behind-the-scenes on several occasions. So far I’ve learned the importance of paying attention to every detail and writing in a style that is less academic and more for public appeal.