Talking Telecommunications with Jodi Parps of Rogers

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During the April constituency week, while our MPPs were visiting their ridings, our cohort had the chance to sit down with Jodi Parps from Rogers Communications to talk a about the telecommunications industry in Ontario.

As Jodi explained to us, Rogers has expanded over the years into a diversified market, including ownership of the Toronto Blue Jays, our favourite baseball team! But it’s not all fun and games at Rogers. Being such a massive media magnate means that the company has vested interests in many sectors, even in transit, as it supports a network of Rogers camera vans heading to events across the province.

We decided to buck the trend at this point in the meeting and spent the rest of our time having a refreshing and open conversation about politics in Ontario, how we were enjoying being interns at Queen’s Park, and of course, where we were headed after with our program expiry date rapidly approaching.

Thanks for coming by to speak with us, Ms. Parps and thank you to Rogers Communications for your sponsorship of OLIP! Hit that refresh button regularly to continue seeing the news as we enter our last few days in the Pink Palace. Go Jays!

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Jodi Parps of Rogers Communications with the 2016-2017 OLIP interns

MARCHing Along: A Month in Review

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7 months down, 3 to go!

March came in like a lion and out like a lion for the interns, with few moments of calm as we continued with our second placements and exciting meetings with sponsors, alumni, political influencers, and interns from other legislatures!

March was a month of interviews… interns continued interviewing MPPs, Legislative Staff, Independent Officers, and others to write our academic papers for the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) conference at the end of May. We also interviewed OLIP candidates… and picked next year’s incredible interns!

These future interns will be joining an incredible network of alumni, many of whom we met this month, including Lisa Clements (Chief, Public Affairs and Communications at the Art Gallery of Ontario), Chris Morley (Former McGuinty Chief of Staff and current OMERS Government Relations VP), Aaron Denhartong (Public Affairs Advisor at the Law Society of Upper Canada). We also met alumni Sydney Oakes, Senior Policy Advisor at Chiefs of Ontario, who visited with Ontario Regional Chief Day and Chiefs of Ontario Chief Operating Officer Nathan Wright.

They will also be joining a network of legislative interns across Canada, and in March we had the pleasure of hosting Manitoba’s Legislative Interns. Their whirlwind tour brought them throughout the Leg, to City Hall for a visit with 6ix Dad Norm Kelly, and to George Stroumboulopoulos’ house, which also serves as the HQ for The Strombo Show.  

This month we wrapped up our meetings with party leaders by spending some time with Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown who previously served as an MP in Ottawa. We also met with former MP Jean Augustine — the first African-Canadian female to serve in Parliament— and a former PC Chief of Staff, Senator, and Basic Income Champion Hugh Segal.

We learned more about Human Rights with Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane, discussed identities and race with journalist Denise Balkissoon, and talked with Jennifer Richardson about her work as Ontario’s new Anti-Human Trafficking Director Jennifer Richardson.

We rounded out the month at Maple Leaf Gardens for a tour with Alain Brandon and Jesse Dhaliwal (from our sponsor Loblaws), a visit to the BellLightbox Theatre to chat with Garrett Rodman (TIFF’s Manager of Government Relations), and a trip to the Mexican Consulate to meet with Consul General Thierry Muñoz Ledo and Deputy Consul General Dolores Repetto.

After a long 31-day March, the interns have no plans of slowing down in April! Be sure to follow us on our social media pages (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) to keep up with our journey.

Food for Thought: Behind-the-Scenes at Loblaws

Julia_Loblaws logoIf you have the opportunity to take a stroll into the Loblaws at the corner of Church and Carlton in downtown Toronto, make sure to pay special attention to the strategically placed sporting paraphernalia that subtly adorn the store’s aisles and pillars. When you find yourself sandwiched between the ketchup bottles and tuna cans, cast your eyes downward to the floor tiles where you’ll find a small red circle. It is easy to miss so make sure you’re looking closely! That red circle marks centre ice of Maple Leaf Gardens, the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs (or less formally known to most fans as “The Buds”) long before shoppers came to browse the fresh produce or feast their eyes on the renowned “wall of cheese”. From 1931-1999 Maple Leaf legends such as Dave Keon and Frank Mahovlich dodged, weaved and stick handled on skates where Loblaws now stands, battling the Original Six for the puck and, ultimately, the Stanley Cup.

As we toured the store, we noticed how simple touches that pay homage to the store’s former life as Maple Leaf Gardens was just one of the tangible examples of how Loblaws transforms grocery shopping from a regular routine into a unique and memorable experience. During our tour, we peppered front-line staff with questions about the grocery industry and learned about the vast supply networks that Loblaws accesses in order to acquire the highest quality products. While exploring the produce section we even had the opportunity to sample these products in the form of delicious juice made fresh in-store!

 

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After our tour, we moved upstairs to a long dining-style table within the cooking school, a fitting spot for our chat with Alain Brandon, Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Government Relations as well as Jesse Dhaliwal, Senior Government Relations Analyst at Loblaw Companies Limited. During our meeting we discussed how Loblaws has evolved and grown to become one of the largest private sector employers in the country and how the company has expanded far beyond food and into the clothing and pharmaceutical industries via Joe Fresh and Shoppers Drug Mart. We were surprised to learn about the sheer number of policy interests of the company from health to energy while getting a glimpse of the company’s thoughts on the future of food in Canada.

Thank you to Loblaws as well as Mr. Brandon and Ms. Dhaliwal for a such an informative discussion and tour and for their continued support of the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme!

A Chat with Political Trailblazer, Jean Augustine

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Jean Augustine with the 2016-2017 OLIP interns

During our time as OLIP interns, we’ve had the opportunity to meet with politicians from all different stripes and backgrounds, however it’s not every day that we meet a trailblazer that has paved the road into politics for so many. We had the pleasure of meeting with Jean Augustine, former Minister in Jean Chretien’s cabinet as well as Ontario’s first Fairness Commissioner.

Ms. Augustine walked into the room and made us all feel at ease with her wonderful sense of humour. As luck would have it, this meeting was scheduled just one day after the federal budget dropped, prompting inspiring comments from Ms. Augustine about examining the budget through a gender lens. Ms. Augustine spoke about the benefits derived by everyone when a budget ensures equality of both men and women and how the family and the public at large prosper from gender-conscious fiscal policies. Ms. Augustine spoke with us about how applying this gender lens to public policy is easier said than done, but added that when it is done properly, positive economic benefits are inevitable.

As one of nine women appointed by the leadership to a riding association to run, Ms. Augustine’s political journey inspired a number of women to enter into politics. In addition to her time as a Member of Parliament, Ms. Augustine has had an incredible list of additional accomplishments. Having immigrated from Grenada, Ms. Augustine brought her personal story and experience to the role of Ontario’s very first Fairness Commissioner which helps new immigrants have their prior education and training be certified here in Ontario.

Thank you, Ms. Augustine, for taking the time to meet with us and inspire us with your political insights and experiences!

A Meeting with Jennifer Richardson, Ontario’s First Anti-Human Trafficking Director

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Jennifer Richardson, Director of Provincial Human Trafficking Coordination Office of Ontario, with the 2016-2017 OLIP interns

Earlier this year, we had the chance to meet Ontario’s first Anti-Human Trafficking Director, Jennifer Richardson. As of this past January, Ms. Richardson is leading Ontario’s anti-human trafficking coordination office, which is part of the government’s anti-human trafficking strategy. Ms. Richardson brings a wealth of experience to Ontario from her work at Manitoba’s Sexual Exploitation Unit. In our meeting, we learned that most human trafficking cases in Canada are domestic, and the majority of trafficking cases in the country occur in Ontario. In response to the challenge posed by the large number of trafficked persons in Ontario, the office’s goals include increasing awareness of human trafficking in Ontario, enhancing the justice sector, and increasing access to support services. Their efforts will span ten provincial ministries, and will focus on sex trafficking and labour trafficking,  as well as strategies for the prevention of both. Thank you Ms. Richardson for taking the time to share your important work with us!

A Chat with Renu Mandhane, Ontario’s Human Rights Commissioner

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Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, Renu Mandhane with the 2016-2017 OLIP interns

Up in the sky – look! Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner!

Meeting Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane was like meeting a real-life social justice super hero. Driven by a tingling sense of justice and a condor’s eyes ever on the lookout for discrimination against our province’s most marginalized, Commissioner Mandhane has brought transformative change to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) since she took over in 2015.

Since the start of our programme, the interns have witnessed Commissioner Mandhane’s hard-hitting work in action: the breaking of the Adam Capay story, a powerful condemnation​ of sexist dress codes, the calling out of racist parents seeking to curb religious accommodations in public schools; and then, one rainy day in March, there she was at the head of a boardroom table, surrounded by OLIP interns eager to ask questions.

What I appreciated most about our time with Commissioner Mandhane was her insistence that the Commission’s time is better spent when strategically targeted at improving the life chances of the most vulnerable among us, especially those who may not be able to directly access or engage with Ontario’s human rights system.  Also inspiring was her vision for the organization: rather than favour responsive approaches to individual cases, better to engage proactively and combat systemic oppression as a thought leader with a strong, effective and grounded voice (among other diverse tactics).

Commissioner Mandhane’s insights on what it means to be responsible settlers were also insightful, and a strong reminder of the importance of recognizing Ontario’s nation-to-nation relationship with the First Nations.   

Thank you to Commissioner Mandhane for taking time out of her busy day to chat to the OLIP interns! It’s safe to say that your words were well-received by a number of young and hopeful social justice super heroes in the making.

A Chat with Denise Balkissoon from The Globe and Mail

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Denise Balkissoon of The Globe and Mail with the 2017-2017 OLIP interns

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Denise Balkissoon from The Globe and Mail. Ms. Balkissoon is both an editor in The Globe’s Life Section and a columnist in the paper’s Comment Section. She recently came on board at The Globe after many years of freelancing and working for Toronto Life. Our meeting was a great opportunity to discuss the current state of journalism in Canada and the U.S., the influence of social media on reporting, and issues of race in Canada today. Ms. Balkissoon recently co-hosted a podcast on race in Canada called Colour Code, and it was interesting to learn about the work that goes into producing a podcast, and to compare writing an episode with writing a column. We would highly recommend Colour Code! Thank you Ms. Balkissoon for coming to Queen’s Park!