OLIP’s guide to a few of Ontario’s Independent Legislative Officers

Before joining OLIP, many of us weren’t familiar with the nine Ontario Independent Legislative Officers. They include the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Auditor General of Ontario, the Information and Privacy Commissioner, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, the Ontario Ombudsman, French Language Services Commissioner, Integrity Commissioner, and the Financial Accountability Officer. Lucky for us, we were able to sit down with several of the officers to hear about their important role in this province. Here is what we learned!

Bonnie Lysyk, Auditor General of OntarioProcessed with VSCO with c1 preset

Ms. Lysyk and her team shared the ins and outs of the auditing process in Ontario. The Auditor General plays an important role as an independent office of the Legislative Assembly. They conduct value-for-money and financial audits of the provincial government, its ministries and agencies. Moreover, they audit organizations in the broader public sector that receive provincial funding, such as universities and colleges, hospitals, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and school boards.

Paul Dube, Ombudsman
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Ombudsman Paul Dube and the deputy Ombudsman, Barb Finlay provided a refreshingly positive perspective how the Ombudsman fulfills their mandate to provide constructive recommendations to government agencies. Although governments and government agencies receive these recommendations, they are under no obligation to follow through on their suggestions although they are usually enforced. However, the Ombudsman is traditionally r the last resort for a complaint and they have their own discretion not to investigate. Mr. Dube and Ms. Finlay encompass a collaborative and supportive environment which manifests in their workplace culture and their proactive communication to Ontarians.

Francois Boileau, French Language Services CommissionerProcessed with VSCO with c1 preset

Francois Boileau is the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario. He is passionate about fulfilling the office’s mandate to ensure French language services are available to francophones across the province. He is genuinely passionate about expanding that mandate further to help more Ontarians gain access to necessary French goods and services. For example, he is expanding the definition of francophones to include people from diverse ethnic backgrounds who speak French at home. Mr. Boileau also took us through examples of why French language services are important to thousands of Ontarians navigating a government and social systems designed for English speaking people.

Brian Beamish, Information and Privacy Commissioner

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetThe Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is tasked with resolving thousands of access to information appeals and privacy complaints every year. To do this, they research, review and approve information practices and provide their recommendations on tabled legislation, policies and programs relating to issues of privacy. The commissioner talked about his offices’ his role in overseeing compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA); which allows the public to request government documents, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA); which analyses city corporations and school boards and Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA); which supervises the healthcare sector.

We look forward to meeting the remaining Independent Officers in the coming weeks. Be sure to check out the Independent Officers – they are here to support all Ontarians and ensure transparent, accountable governments!


Providing a Voice – Ryan Clarke, Advocacy Solutions

As young leaders, we are constantly encouraged to find our passion and look for opportunities to galvanize others to drive change with us. Mr. Ryan Clarke, President of Advocacy Solutions, aspires to give everyone the tools to become an advocate for their own passion. His team provides necessary resources to organizations and individuals to become the most impactful proponents of change in their communities. OLIP is proud to be sponsored by such an inspiring organization and have the opportunity to learn from Mr. Clarke’s expertise.

In a condensed module, we learned about the power of storytelling as a key ingredient to changemaking. Mr. Clarke shared lessons of perseverance through his own journey starting as a family lawyer, moving into politics and eventually becoming President of his own company with speaking initiatives across the country. One of the most fascinating parts of his discussion was his distinction between advocacy and activism. He described advocacy, as a fact driven, sustained pursuit towards change and activism as an emotionally driven means for  reform. With this difference in mind, he suggested that the key to achieving your advocacy goal, is to ensure a succinct “one ask” that clearly identifies to your audience your overall need.

The most powerful advocates are those that have a personal connection and story to tell. Thank you so much, Mr. Clarke for sharing yours, we will be sure to keep our “one ask” in mind as we start our own journeys at the Legislature this year. We sincerely appreciate all of your support to the OLIP programme and taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet with us.


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The Interns are BACK with our first sponsorship meeting

The interns are back! The 2018/2019 OLIP year has begun, and we are so incredibly grateful and excited to have this opportunity. We hit the ground running on September 5, and we have been in (what seems to be) nonstop meetings ever since. So far, we love it! Come follow along on our journey to see how this year unfolds.

Our first sponsor meeting was with Tim Smitheman, Senior Government Affairs Advisor of Enbridge. We met Tim at the Union Gas, Enbridge office in downtown Toronto and were blown away by his candidness and energy. As a former political staffer, Tim had a wealth of knowledge to share with us about government relations as well as the energy sector. He was so patient with us as we asked several questions about the energy sector, and he was able to communicate some of its complexities in a more accessible way. Throughout the meeting, there was much laughter and sharing. One piece of advice that stuck with us is to use this internship as an opportunity to foster relationships and friendships. The business of government relations (GR) only works when there is a network of trust amongst colleagues, and this, perhaps, includes making connections across party lines. Even if one isn’t working in GR, Queen’s Park is an exceptional place to meet new friends and mentors. 

We want to thank Enbridge for welcoming us to your office and, of course, for being an invaluable sponsor to OLIP.


A Meeting with Landslide Ernie (The Honourable Ernie Eves)


We were all excited to meet Ernie Eves, the last premier we needed to meet to have met all the living premiers in Ontario. Reflecting on all of our past meetings with premiers, we noticed that each premier had a distinct leadership style and often contrasted their leadership styles with other premiers which added interesting insight to understanding Ontario’s overall political history.

Eves was born in Windsor, to a working class family. A lawyer by training, he first got elected to Parry Sound in 1981 by a margin of only six votes, giving him the name of “landslide Ernie”. Eves stressed politics often has more close victories than one would think and every voter counts.

Under Miller, Eves held multiple portfolios from Provincial Secretary for Resources Development to Minister of Skills Development and even Minister of Community and Social Services. When we asked, Eves was very proud of his work on the Native Affairs file, especially his work on the historic move in Ontario to recognize native self-government.

Under Harris, Eves was Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier. As all the interns are very interested in the Harris years, we spent a great deal of time discussing them and Mr. Eves very candidly explained the rationale and fallout of major decisions of the Harris government. Since energy policy was and continues to be a hot button file in Ontario’s political discourse, we had a discussion on the themes in energy policy and where Mr. Eves sees the file going in the future.

Naturally, since the Ontario 2018 budget was revealed, we asked Eves his opinions on it. We discussed balanced budgets and budgets in deficit. More importantly, we also discussed the public perception of the provincial budget and government spending. Throughout our meeting, Eves’ passion for his opinions stood out and we found it fascinating.

Thank you Mr. Eves for the great discussion and taking the time to meet with us!


Ontario’s Chief Digital Officer: Hillary Hartley

The interns and Hillary Hartley have something in common: we’re all newcomers to the scene of provincial politics. Deputy Minister Hartley worked in the U.S. federal service before she was invited to take on the role of Ontario’s chief digital services official just over a year ago.
Within the Ontario Public Service (OPS), she serves as the Deputy Minister of the Ontario Digital Service (ODS) and subsequently, as Ontario’s first Chief Digital Officer. Ms. Hartley was joined by Tanya Coyle, Head of Engagement for the ODS.
In California, Deputy Minister Hartley was the executive director and co-founder of 18F, a government agency that builds digital services focused on the interactions of individuals and businesses with government. Ms. Hartley told our group that she co-founded 18F with colleagues she met during her year as a Presidential Innovation Fellow. The US Presidential Innovation Fellow program brings tech innovation talent to government agencies to create transformation change.
Throughout our internship, we’ve had substantial experience navigating online government services to help constituents in M.P.P. offices and conduct research. They’re not always the most intuitive to use or designed with the user experience in mind. The ODS is the government department tasked with improving that. Think of the new and easy to use OSAP calculator. With only a few clicks, you can get a rough estimate of how much you qualify for. The calculator is so accessible that it has led to a rise in the number of students who apply for provincial aid and as a result, overcome the sticker shock of post-secondary education costs.
The OSAP Calculator is just one of many examples of the “simpler, faster, better” mentality that Hartley imparts on her team and the rest of the OPS. By design, government bureaucracy is a complex world, preoccupied with rules and mostly averse to risk. After all, if things go wrong, it’s all on the taxpayers’ dime. The ODS is contending with a sector that needs to become more agile and accessible, and better at adapting to the fast-changing nature of today’s society. To aid the current and future teams of the Digital Service in their mission, the ODS has developed the Digital Service Standard. Beyond user experience, the Standard speaks to creating common platforms, being mindful of accessibility, privacy, and security, and ensuring user success at every stage of the design.
While the Standard focuses on good design, the key priorities of the ODS extend beyond the user experience. We spoke about government procurement methods and how to attract tech talent in the public sector. Deputy Minister Hartley and Tanya also shared with us their vision of the future of digital government in Ontario.
From now on, every time we use the new and improved online services, we’ll be thinking of the ODS team. Thank you to both DM Hartley and Tanya for taking the time to meet with us!

Sitting Down with the Right Honourable Paul Martin

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On May 17, the interns were honoured to meet with the Right Honourable Paul Martin over coffee and chocolate tarts in a quiet room off the Legislative Assembly’s Great Hall. For many of us, Mr. Martin’s tenure as prime minister aligned with the moment we began paying attention to politics, and so this meeting held extra excitement – and we were not disappointed! Mr. Martin was warm and open, taking time to respond to each question in detail over the course of an hour. Our discussion ranged from pipeline dispute on the West Coast to the best way to manage Cabinet, but the constant theme was the importance of a responsible, honest, and open communication between the provinces and the federal government.

Mr. Martin described his time as a finance minister, and the difficult process of negotiating health care payments with the provinces. Although no province wanted to accept cuts, the eventual agreement only worked because each province felt they could trust the government to follow through on funding commitments once the government had succeeded in balancing the budget. The most important part of this equation, Mr. Martin reminded us, was to fulfil your promises; otherwise, that trust could be gone forever.

We moved on to discussing the dynamics of party leadership, and the surprisingly complex series of events that led to Mr. Martin’s succession to Mr. Chrétien. For us political junkies, this was the most exciting part, as we learned about how a new leader builds his or her team and focuses on the priorities that they see as most important. Mr. Martin concluded by asking us for our perspectives on the #metoo movement, and what changes we saw as necessary within political culture, admitting that harassment and violence in politics was a problem to which no single person had an answer. The solution, however, he posited, would come from our generation, as we sought systemic change within politics and society.

We are grateful to Mr. Martin for taking the time to meet with us, and hope that he may find time in his schedule for interns in years to come, as this meeting was extremely rewarding.

Robert Fisher: An Honourary Intern we were Honoured to Meet


“I am a strong proponent of institutional memory,” Robert Fisher began, sitting at the head of the table in the OLIP office. In order to understand the Queen’s Park of today, it is necessary to understand the Queen’s Park of decades past: a world of political giants like John Robarts and Bill Davis, a time when increasing numbers of trailbreaking women were breaking into what was very much an old boys’ club, an era in which the public knew provincial politics mattered and the press gallery was consistently full.

And who better to talk to us about the complex histories of Queen’s Park than veteran broadcaster and reporter Robert Fisher? His career spanned 49 years, including a long stint at Queen’s Park. In the 1970s he was working in Quebec and was the first to announce the kidnapping and later death of the province’s Labour Minister, Pierre Laporte, at the hands of the FLQ. From 2000 until his retirement in 2015, Fisher provided political analysis for CBC, anchoring that network’s Ontario election coverage in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2014. Enigmatically non-partisan, Fisher has received invitations to run under the banner of political parties from across the spectrum—which he declined.

Fisher shared with us a number of vignettes from his career covering politics in Ontario, many of which were humourous. For example, in the pre-Internet era, journalists covering political campaigns in remote corners of the province had to go to some pretty extreme lengths to file their stories on time. This process often involved: recording your story in a bathroom, storing it in a grapefruit bag, and bribing a pilot to take it back with him to Toronto. Other anecdotes were specific to former parliamentarians: Frank Miller liked to tease Fisher about his yellow socks; enthusiastic voters occasionally asked David Peterson to sign their loafers; once at an official event Pierre Trudeau changed into a teensy-tiny speedo and dove into the hotel pool, stunning reporters.

Some of Fisher’s recollections were more serious. He wrote his master’s thesis on the experiences of female MPPs at Queen’s Park, ultimately reaching the conclusion that the presence of women makes a real difference in political decision-making—for the better. While Queen’s Park may have become less of an old boys club over the years, female politicians still experience unique challenges because of their gender. According to Fisher, the nastiness of online vitriol now directed towards female political leaders is unprecedented in the Ontario political context.

We were the 32nd OLIP cohort to have the pleasure of meeting Robert Fisher. His dedication to the program resulted in him being named a “Honourary Intern,” and we can say that—without a doubt—it was an honour to meet him.