The Environmental Commissioner


Although our previous meetings have helped us best understand the inner workings of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, meeting Dianne Saxe, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), provided the opportunity to truly think outside the walls of Queens Park. Beyond providing assistance to Ontario about the Environmental Bill of Rights 1993 (EBR), the ECO reports on the implementation and compliance of the provincial government with respect to climate, energy, conservation and overall environmental responsibilities. We were provided with executive summaries of the three main annual reports on Environmental Protection, Climate Change and Energy Conservation and special reports prepared by the ECO that touch on other regulations under the EBR including  water, wildlife and fisheries, mining, contaminated site remediation, forestry and waste.

Interestingly, the ECO has no parallel agency or group, not only among the other provinces of Canada, but internationally as well (except for New-Zealand!). We were able to ask many questions about the difficulty of developing and implementing environmental policy due to the multi-jurisdictional ambiguity of many environmental topics, the lack of awareness and communication surrounding the EBR to Ontarians as well as the intrinsic economic and educational considerations inherent to environmental work. We discussed the necessity for individuals to decrease their carbon footprint and also the opportunity the ECO holds to ensure that the government is creating and upholding legislation and policy around the multitude of topics under the ECO.

It is evident that Dianne Saxe is extremely competent and eloquent in her role; she was able to draw connections and summarize several system level challenges of her work in a comprehensible manner. She noted that this was a personal goal she created upon beginning her role in December of 2015. She is personally motivated to make the ECO’s work more accessible by creating concise and digestible reports to inform and communicate the public. We appreciated the honesty and humility of Ms. Saxe and the effort and commitment of her office in upholding the mandate of the ECO.

Thank you to the Commissioner for taking the time to meet with us, and for sharing your expertise. We left with many more (important) questions and considerations to explore throughout the rest of our internship!


The Interns Meet the Hon. Dave Levac, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly

Our first week in the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme was filled with a flurry of meetings with interesting conversations and learning about all aspects of the legislature. One meeting that stood out was meeting the Speaker of the House – Dave Levac.

Levac has been considered, “one of the most effective Speakers in recent memory.” When asked what characteristics an effective Speaker must have, Levac identified different traits: impartiality; the recognition that all members have obligations; and a positive attitude. These qualities were reflected during our meeting, where Levac discussed his work on Sabrina’s Law. As a former educator and principal in Brant, Levac explained that a student suffered from antaphlatic shock. He recognized that Ontario did not have a uniform process to address this, and that students deserved better. As such, Levac was a proponent for Sabrina’s Law, which was implemented in the United States. As such, Levac’s advocacy has cross-jurisdictional effect. It must be noted that this was not simple, and Levac advocated for five-years. Thus, Levac identified that navigating politics was similar to, “waltzing gracefully on a moving carpet.” The interns have reached a consensus that Levac has mastered the art of “waltzing gracefully,” and look forward to future interactions with Levac.

Levac also emphasized the necessity of truth, which can be interpreted in the context of Canadian history. In other words, speaking truth to power. This was fundamental for establishing a positive relationship with the indigenous population. Levac argued that relationship building is predicated on the truth– this establishes trust amongst people.

Levac began by introducing the role of the Speaker, stressing the principle of impartiality and going through some of the challenges and responsibilities of his role. Throughout the meeting, the speaker created a friendly atmosphere, allowing us to have more of a conversation rather than a question period. During our conversation, Levac strongly emphasized the power of relationship-building and community building. We left the Speaker’s office with laughs, new knowledge and most importantly a strong understanding of the role and duties of the Speaker.

The Interns Meet the Auditor General


To say that Bonnie Lysyk has a tough job is an understatement. Ms. Lysyk’s office, which is  an independent office of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, conducts financial audits of the provincial government, organizations, agencies, and programs that are provincially funded. As interns, we’re still getting used to running our nine committees! Before her appointment as the Auditor General of Ontario, Ms. Lysyk served in senior positions in the public and private sectors in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan for over 25 years.

As OLIP interns, we have the privilege of meeting all the independent officers of the Assembly, and were very excited to get a chance to speak with Ms. Lysyk. We were also joined by Vanessa Dupuis, Strategic and Operations Advisor to the Auditor General and a former OLIP intern, as well as Nick Stavropoulos,Assistant Auditor General and Emanuel Tsikritsis, Audit Team Director.
Ms. Lysyk spoke with us about the role of the Auditor General’s office and her staff’s work on public accounts, value-for-money audits and special audit reports. We were surprised to learn that each year the office selects a few entities to review and undertakes thorough, year-long audits. The backgrounds of the staff at the Auditor General’s office are as diverse as the types of issues the office works on, supplemented by a group of public and private sector experts.

We also discussed the Auditor General’s thoughts on expanding the office’s mandate. Ms. Lysyk spoke about the challenges that private-public partnerships and programs/services that cross provincial-municipal jurisdictions present to her office’s work. We were also happy to hear about the trends that Ms. Lysyk has seen throughout her time as an independent office of the legislature and the impact of government change on her office’s work.

Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us, Ms. Lysyk! Your perspectives on the use of public funds and efficiency of government programs will stay with us as we continue to learn more about the interplay between the legislative and executive branches.

The Interns Meet Todd Decker, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly



As part of their orientation to Queen’s Park, the OLIP interns were fortunate enough to meet with Todd Decker, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.  The interns were able to draw on Mr. Decker’s thirty-four years of experience at the legislature and enjoy a wide-ranging discussion on the nuances of his role and the changes at Queen’s Park during his tenure.

The interns learned about how Question Period, time allocation, and the work of standing committees have changed over time.  Of particular note was the change in Standing Orders and legislation such as the Executive Council Act.  Like cohorts before them, the interns were also fascinated by the now rarely used Committee of the Whole House.  Mr. Decker contrasted the role of committees in provincial legislatures across Canada as well as the federal legislature.  The Clerk’s perspective on the procedures and dynamics in Westminster-style legislatures around the world proved extremely interesting.

A recurring theme of interest throughout the orientation period is the interplay between nonpartisan and partisan actors within the legislature.  As Clerk, Mr. Decker is both the procedural expert for the legislature as well as the Secretary of the Board of Internal Economy.  Learning about the evolution, composition, and mandate of the Board allowed the interns to better understand the day-to-day functioning of the legislature. 

The interns have enjoyed all of their meetings with nonpartisan staff.  Understanding the behind-the-scenes work and processes that allow the legislature to run smoothly has proved an invaluable learning experience and will provide dividends for the interns as they begin their placements with MPPs.  Thank you, Mr. Decker for making time for us, answering our many questions, and offering your knowledge of the legislature.  




The Interns Meet the Information and Privacy Commissioner


This past Thursday, the interns gained valuable insight on the role(s) of the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, Brian Beamish and the Assistant Commissioner David Goodies. Established in 1988, the IPC oversees the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) and the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).

We learned that the Information and Privacy Commission plays a fundamental role of ensuring these Acts are effective with government and the public. FIPPA applies to provincial ministries, most provincial agencies, boards and commissions, as well as to universities and colleges, while MFIPPA covers municipal institutions such as municipalities, police, library, health and school boards, and transit commissions. We also learned that PHIPA regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information within Ontario’s health-care system.

Together, these three Acts establish the rules for how Ontario’s public institutions and health care providers may collect, use, and disclose personal information. Furthermore, the Acts provide the public with a right of access to information. How does the IPC manage to ensure all of this runs smoothly?

The role of a Commissioner is fascinating, given that the Commissioner is an Officer of the Legislature, who is appointed by and reports to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and is independent of the government of the day. Both the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner shared the significance of liaising and collaborating with the public and private sector to raise awareness about privacy-invasive communications as well as data processing technologies. They also discussed the role that information technology plays in collecting and storing data in Ontario. According to the Commissioner, “times are changing and we have to change with it”.

Thank you to the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner for taking the time to meet with us, and for sharing their expertise on privacy and information issues. We are certainly inspired by the way in which you regain Ontario’s position as the leader in Canadian privacy and information protection!




It feels like centuries ago that our cohort, the 2017-2018 OLIP interns, was standing awkwardly outside the southeast entrance of the Main Legislative Building, sharing in first introductions. Over the previous eight days, we have been extremely busy meeting government officials, administrative staff at the Legislative Assembly, and officers of the legislature. These meetings have given us an inside look into the workings of the legislature and Ontario’s political process. In the process, we have also learned about each other and the topics we’re most passionate about. Each intern has a diverse academic and personal background, which makes our conversations fascinating and puts our cohort at an advantage. The Guardian outlined these benefits of diversity as, “collaboration [results in] more rounded individuals, encouraging our pupils to see things from different perspectives and helping them to make informed decisions, acquiring transferable skills that will remain with them for life.” In other words, having the ability to consider things from different perspectives. Here is a short glimpse into the interns hopes for OLIP:


Harmeet Sandhu: “Since I began the internship, I have remained perpetually in awe of the energy at Queen’s Park, the monumental accomplishments of Legislative Assembly staff members who are critical for the administration of the provincial parliamentary process, as well as the diverse strengths of my fellow peers who I hope to develop life-long connections with.”


Josef Méthot: “I am excited to learn about parliamentary procedure and see the legislative process in action! It’s a topic I’ve always been interested in, and I have to admit I am really impressed at how the Clerks and the Speaker keep everything organized and running smoothly. I look forward to learning even more about the work they do.”


Shireen Salti: “It has been both a privilege and an honour getting to know the Ontario Legislative Assembly staff, independent officers, as well as the other 9 highly unique interns. I look forward to  enhancing my knowledge of provincial politics, developing life-long connections, and expanding my network with the upper echelons of the Ontario Legislature.”


Danielle Prapavessis: “Being curious by nature, I hope to ask all of the necessary questions to understand firstly the interplay between politicians and the public in the legislative process and secondly how Ontario’s government works to satisfy the diverse needs of Ontarians across our gorgeous, yet vast province.”


Kassandra Loewen: “My primary hope for the next ten months is that it will be an incredible learning experience. Namely, that I will be able to continually learn from my fellow Interns, from all the talented people who take the time to meet with us, from our study tours, and – last but certainly not least -from my work with MPPs on both sides of the House.”


Ana Qarri: “I hope that the next 10 months will be filled with fascinating people and challenges. I’m especially looking forward to learning more about Digital Government and the impact of new technologies and innovation on a wide range of provincial policies.”


Matthew Klassen: “I am eager to build my knowledge of the legislative process, particularly the work of standing committees and legislative staff.  I also look forward to better understanding the different geographical and socio-economic realities that impact legislation and the political landscape in Ontario.”

jas (8).JPG

Jaskiran Shoker: “It is an honor to be a part of OLIP’s 42nd cohort. I look forward to serving the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. I am also very excited to gain a comprehensive perspective of the legislative process through a comparative lens!”


Daryl Gonsalves: “My hope from OLIP is to build lifelong connections and directly learn about the political process in way which no textbook or class can allow for. I look forward to a year of learning, having interesting conversations and contributing to the combined effort of the legislature to create positive change for Ontarians.”

MT 11

Mackenzie Taylor: “I look forward to learning from my fellow interns. We are fortunate to have a diverse and supportive cohort. Furthermore, I hope to gain a greater understanding of parliamentary government, specifically pertaining the role(s) of legislative officers and convention.”

A Final Word from the 2016-2017 Cohort

olip logo

The start of September means that the time has come to pass the torch to a new group of OLIP interns. To help bolster the excitement of the new crew, here are a few last words from the 2016-2017 cohort about our experience in the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme. Here are each of our OLIP experiences wrapped up in 10 words: 

Hannah Forsyth.: Don’t make politics personal, never forget the person in politics.

Sara Gajic: Appreciating politics for and in spite of all its complexities.

Hannah Iles. Discovered ways to make Ontario a better place for everyone.

Jacob Larocque-Graham: Lived my best non-partisan life alongside great friends and colleagues.

Stephanie Lowe: Broadening knowledge, broadening horizons and most of all broadening friendships!

Leslie Muñoz: Work-integrated learning at its finest – an experience unlike any other!

Rachel Nauta: Left stuck between running for, or away from, political office.

Alex Overton: Ran out of Cards to build my House with, bye.

Kyle Sholes: Unpredictable challenges with extraordinary results.  The experience of a lifetime.

Emily Trudeau: Learned about my home, myself, and the mechanisms of government.


Farewell from the 2016-2017 OLIP interns!

We want to thank everyone who took the time to meet with us both in and outside of the Ontario Legislative Assembly and to everyone who supported us throughout our year in the Pink Palace.

Make sure to watch the hallways of Queen’s Park this week for the new group of interns. We wish them all the best in their fabulous year ahead!