Riding into the Future with VIA Rail Canada

VIA Rail Jacques Fauteux

Jacques Fauteux, Lt. – Cmdr. (retd), the Director of Government and Community Relations for VIA Rail Canada with the 2016-2017 OLIP Interns

Last week, we had the opportunity to meet Jacques Fauteux, Lt.-Cmdr. (retd), the Director of Government and Community Relations for VIA Rail Canada. During our time with Mr. Fauteux, he impressed upon us the lessons he learned as a member of the Canadian Navy as well as his years as a staffer on Parliament Hill. Breaking rank from our traditional blog posts, we’d like to share with you Mr. Fauteux’s “Guide to Succeeding in Politics (and Life).”*

Step 1. Making it hard for yourself is how you learn.

Step 2. Be loyal and be willing to give fearless advice. Can you say what your boss needs     to hear?

Step 3. Become an active listener; “if you’re talking too much, you have nothing to say.”

Step 4. The recipe for success involves imagination, guts, and a willingness to make mistakes (and learn from them, of course).

As Director of Government and Community Relations at VIA Rail, Mr. Fauteux has taken these lessons and applied them to their growing Crown Corporation. In the coming years, VIA Rail is seeking to build an integrated network of transportation. Through their high-frequency, dedicated tracks plan, they intend to make train travel quicker and easier in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City transit corridor (this would mean that a (nearly) four-hour trip between Ottawa-Toronto would be shortened to two-and-a-half hours! The transportation geeks among us view, VIA’s innovative future plans as exciting and a welcome change in Canada.

Our meeting with Mr. Fauteux also provided us with the opportunity to thank VIA Rail for coming on as one of OLIP’s newest sponsors. Their in-kind sponsorship helped to cover our travel costs during our fall 2016 study tour to Quebec City and Ottawa. Travelling by train made our trip hassle-free and saved us the stress of driving, which was appreciated during our busy week of meetings with MNAs, MPs, journalists, clerks, and Senators. Thank you VIA Rail, for your support of youth participation in Canada’s democratic institutions!

*This guide was compiled from Mr. Fauteux’s fantastic sound bites.

Meeting McGuinty: A Chat with the 24th Premier of Ontario


OLIP Interns with Dalton McGuinty, 24th Premier of Ontario

“I’m not a politician”.

A phrase we interns heard all too often in our MPP interviews earlier this fall. Whether it was a tactful way to separate themselves from the pack or a damaging defence of their current profession, it does nothing to remedy the negative public image of politicians. That image, in my mind, has consistently improved since the start of the internship. After countless hours of observation and interaction with the Members of the Ontario Legislature, I have found that they are true public servants in every sense of the term.

However, no one is more vulnerable to developing an unfavourable image than a political leader. In our meetings with former Ontario premiers, the pervasive theme of leadership and the responsibility that accompanies governance has consistently been a topic of discussion. Our meeting with former Premier Dalton McGuinty was no different.

In our meeting, Mr. McGuinty discussed major changes to today’s political landscape, such as the march of globalization and a decided descent into partisanship. While he admires the collision of ideas in the legislature, he urged politicians to not attack their own category and to remain collegial with one another. Drawing from his experience as leader of a party and of a province, Mr. McGuinty advised us to view leadership as service to others. His parting words of wisdom were for us to always value character more than our reputation, and to always act with conviction instead of doing what is convenient.

We would like to thank Mr. McGuinty for carving out time to meet with us and answer our many and varied questions. For me, the most notable element from our meeting occurred as we escorted him to and from our meeting room in the Whitney Block. As we walked the halls, Mr. McGuinty stopped on two occasions to talk with security guards. To watch the former premier enthusiastically greet the two guards and to watch them talk with such familiarity and reverence was very heartening to see. It was an exchange, Mr. McGuinty, that if I may say showed great character!

Thank you.

A Queen’s Park Pep Talk with Martin Regg Cohn


Martin Regg Cohn with the 2016-2017 OLIP interns

We recently sat down with the Toronto Star’s Martin Regg Cohn, who treated us to his annual Queen’s Park pep talk. It was a great opportunity to speak with someone who follows Ontario’s political happenings as closely as we do.

We heard an interesting perspective on the importance of Ontario’s provincial parliament from a journalist who has had the opportunity to write for the Star not only from Queen’s Park but also from Ottawa, Asia, and the Middle East. We discussed road tolls, provincial by-elections, and a transition over the years from transformational to transactional politics, both at home and abroad.

It’s no secret that three times a week the OLIP interns flip (or scroll and click) to the Martin Regg Cohn column for our dose of journalistic analysis on both the political issues of the day, and the ones that are here to stay at Queen’s Park.  

Thank you Martin for taking the time to meet with us!


A Meeting with Rob Nicol, Strategy Corp.

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Rob Nicol, Vice-President at Strategy Corp. and a well-known and well-connected member of Toronto’s government relations crowd. Mr. Nicol is no stranger to the political scene. He was the last Director of Communications to former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Mr. Nicol took us through some of the exciting and eventful experiences he had while handling official communiqués for a head of government and shared stories about his time with the Conservative party. Expectedly, he had very interesting commentary about the relationship between the PMO and the press.

With the 2018 Ontario provincial election looming on the horizon, we got his take on the governing styles of all party leaders and his insights on how the election campaign might unfold. Mr. Nicol also offered us some surprising insights into the current political trends in executive communication styles, and the relationships between political parties and the media.

Like every set of Friday meetings, too soon we were out of time. Thank you Mr. Nicol for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with us and we hope to see you at our next reception! Remember to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to keep up with all of our experiences in the Pink Palace!

Throwback Thursday: Our November and December Wrap Up

Three (and four!) down, seven (and six!) to go!

November and December continued the OLIP whirlwind for the interns, with our placements in full swing and many exciting events to fill in the rest of our days.

We began November with our Fall Reception which was a great time to meet past interns and get to know our sponsors and supporters. It was also the perfect place to debut our fall edition of the Queen’s Park Insider magazine (you can check out the digital copy here: https://issuu.com/olipinterns/docs/revised-_olip_fall_2016_mag).

On the placement side of things, the interns kept busy writing member’s statements, preparing questions for Question Period, drafting press releases, researching for Private Member’s Bills and attending meetings with stakeholders and constituents. Some interns even had the chance to visit their member’s ridings during Constituency Week, providing them with a better understanding of local issues and the chance to see the incredible places in the ridings that members proudly boast about.

Back at Queen’s Park, we were able to meet with some of our sponsors, including Enbridge, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, AstraZeneca, and the Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy.  We also met with many former interns who had great insights and incredible post-OLIP experiences to share with us, including Rob Nichol, Von Palmer, Julia Deans, and Jon Feairs.

With November flying by, we took a trip to see what happens when the flight is over, spending an afternoon learning about the customs process with the Canadian Border Services Agency at Pearson Airport.

Speaking of trips, November provided the interns with many memorable trips, including a visit to Brampton to meet with the Honourable Bill Davis, former Premier of Ontario, and as we discovered through the meeting and Steve Paikin’s latest book, Not So Bland After All.

We also had the chance to travel to Quebec City and Ottawa to visit our fellow interns in the National Assembly and on Parliament Hill, thanks to the generous sponsorship of VIA Rail. These trips were a great opportunity to learn more about how government works in other jurisdictions directly from the source – you can read more about these trips in our past blog posts in part one and part two! The trip ended with a reception for the Parliamentary Interns and the Ontario Interns to meet the Board of the Canadian Political Science Association, the fantastic organization that facilitates both the PIP and OLIP programmes.

As the New Year arrives, we look forward to seeing what 2017 has in store for us at Queen’s Park. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, FacebookInstagram and now YouTube to stay up to date on all of our OLIP adventures!

A Meeting with Brett Boadway of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario



We recently had the opportunity to head up to midtown and visit our generous sponsor, the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO). Director of Operations, Brett Boadway greeted us and happily answered all of our questions regarding insurance brokers in Ontario.

IBAO is the trade association for brokers in Ontario through which individual brokers are educated and licensed. They also engaged in advocacy work for the betterment of their industry.

As young professionals with an emerging need for insurance, it was helpful to learn about the three ways you can purchase insurance in Ontario – through an agent, a company, or a broker. There are approximately 12,000 insurance brokers in Ontario, and in small towns across the province, purchasing insurance through a broker is the preferred method.

We head lots of great things about insurance brokers and it was very clear that Ms. Boadway is a fan of the way they do their work. The meeting was so interesting, that one of the interns expressed an interest in becoming a broker herself!



Brett Boadway, Director of Operations of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario with the 2016-2017 OLIP Interns

Thank you Ms. Boadway and IBAO for the great conversation and for your continued support!

From R&D to the Shelves: Learning How Pharmaceuticals Get to the Market with Our Sponsor, AstraZeneca!


In our ongoing quest to meet with as many people as we possibly can, we caught up with distinguished OLIP alumnus, Jon Feairs, Senior Manager of External Relations at AstraZeneca.

Over the lunch Mr. Feairs kindly brought along for us all, we received some insight into an area many of us do not have expertise in – pharmaceuticals. With his wealth of knowledge of the pharma-industry, Mr. Feairs took us through the process that AstraZeneca goes through to create a drug. It starts with substantial investments in research, development and marketing a new drug for consumers. We hear a lot about “Big Pharma” in the media and our conversation with Mr. Feairs confirmed that the industry is complex and multifaceted.


Jon Feairs, Senior Manager of External Relations at AstraZeneca with the 2016-2017 OLIP interns

Creating new drugs is often an expensive, multi-year process that could result in no return on massive investments if the drug ultimately fails at any number of stages in development and regulation. A drug company may develop 40 new drugs but only have one that meets all of the criteria of a successful pharmaceutical. A successful drug will work as intended, pass the necessary certifications, and not cause any unforeseen issues. It was fascinating to hear about AstraZeneca’s ongoing projects and to look back on Mr. Feairs’ time as an OLIP intern.

Thank you Mr. Feairs and Astra Zeneca for meeting with us and for your continued support of the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme!