Brampton and Bill: Our Meeting with Former Premier Davis

On a mission to meet with every living Premier of Ontario, the Interns had the pleasure of meeting with the Honourable Bill Davis, Premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985. We were able to chat with Mr. Davis in his hometown of Brampton, Ontario and learned not only about him and his life but also about the importance of Brampton to Mr. Davis himself, as well as the rest of Ontario.

We all appreciated hearing Mr. Davis’ many stories about his time as the leader of this great province and his experience with the Education portfolio. Through talking with the former Premier, it was evident that education was something that he cared about in the 70s and something that he still cares about today. Mr. Davis talked to us about higher education and how it has changed over the years.

Considering the time in which Mr. Davis was Premier, we were able to talk about his experience being a part of a party that had lead the province for many years as the “Big Blue Machine.” It was fascinating to hear Mr. Davis’ recollections from that time in Ontario’s history and his opinions of Ontario’s future. While Mr. Davis is out of politics now, it was clear to all of us that his political knowledge has not waned in the slightest – he is still sharp as a tack and fit as a fiddle. We all learned a lot from Mr. Davis and I’m sure that we appreciated greatly the fact that he carved out time in his day to meet with us.  

Lunching & Learning about the Law Society of Upper Canada

Pursuing a legal degree after OLIP finishes is a time-honored tradition for many of our programme’s alum. Each cohort produces a certain number of aspiring lawyers, keen minds hoping to better themselves and Ontario through one of the province’s oldest and most noble professions. On the opposite end of the spectrum live the Lawyer Deniers, individuals who seem intent on avoiding the practice of law at any cost. They’ve informed their parents, colleagues, mentors, friends, partners, and pretty much anyone else who will listen that the law is the last thing that will ever be on their minds.

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Now I know what you’re thinking… Could these two seemingly uncompromising groups ever find accept each other? If so, how…and why?

You’ll be pleased to learn that the answer is a resounding yes, thanks to the generosity and hospitality of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Each year, the Society hosts the interns and OLIP’s Programme Coordinators to a delicious lunch in one of the oldest and grandest sections of their headquarters. We’d heard that we were in for a memorable experience before we arrived, and certainly weren’t disappointed. The Law Society treated us to a delicious three-course meal that would thrill any foodie, and each affiliate Member listened attentively to the stories and adventures of the interns around them.

After our main course, the Treasurer welcomed to the luncheon, and encouraged us to describe our backgrounds and career ambitions. Each intern painted a different vision for their future, and all benefitted from the Society’s words of encouragement. As each person reminded us, we did not necessarily need to choose between the world of politics and the law; both could (and would!) follow us throughout our lives.

We capped off our lunch with a wonderful tour of the building, learning about the creation and evolution of the Law Society of Upper Canada since its origins in 1797. The building is stunning, and our guide helped bring its rich history to life. Many thanks to Director of Public Relations Sheena Weir, Treasurer Janet Minor, and all our other superb hosts for their hospitality and warmth!

Leading into Spring with our Lead Sponsor OREA!

A few weeks ago, we interns traveled to the Duke of York pub for a lunch meeting with one of OLIP’s lead sponsors, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) to discuss the work of the Association and our shared experiences with OLIP. OREA has been a proud sponsor of OLIP for over twenty years and enjoying a close relationship with two members of OREA’s current government relations team having been OLIP interns, Sylvia Pena (2011-12) and Matthew Thornton (2007-08), and the third member of the team, Adam Yahn, having met many of us at past events around the Legislature.

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Founded in 1922, OREA represents over 61,500 real estate brokers and salespeople across Ontario and strives to uphold high educational and professional standards for its members through the provision of a variety of educational courses, publications, as well as managing all real estate licensing courses in our province. In its mission as an advocate for its members, OREA has consulted with MPPs at Queen’s Park regarding legislation and other policy that would impact its members along with home-buyers and sellers in Ontario. Last fall, OREA’s government relations team held a campaign against a potential expansion of municipal land transfer taxes on home sales outside of the City of Toronto. OREA considered the campaign to have been a success with the government committing not to expand the tax beyond Toronto, assuaging OREA’s concerns that such a tax would harm the real estate market in many Ontario municipalities.

In addition to discussing the work of OREA, our meeting also focused on our experiences in OLIP and our plans for after our time in OLIP concludes. Drawing on their experiences in government relations and in the Ontario Legislature, Adam, Matthew, and Sylvia spoke to us about the road ahead and how to lay the foundation to make the jump into our desired career paths following June. Our conversation gave us an opportunity to reflect on how our sponsors such as OREA not only provide us with financial support for our internship but also with advice, networking and learning opportunities that make our experience in OLIP such an amazing experience.

We would like to thank OREA for their sponsorship of our program and Sylvia, Matthew, and Adam for great meeting!

Upclose with Peter Mansbridge

As news junkies, we were all looking forward to meeting with Peter Mansbridge, CBC news anchor who hosts The National. Peter Mansbridge has been with CBC for over 40 years and we were able to sit down with him and ask questions about the media in Canada. With more media being consumed online and tighter budgets, CBC has continually adapt to the changing environment.

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Peter is an excellent storyteller and shared his experiences with us such as getting an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his first day on the job. We were also interested to learn about Peter’s start in media in Churchill, Manitoba when he was “discovered” over an airport intercom. As part of the meeting we got a tour of the CBC headquarters on Front Street. It was a great opportunity meet Peter Mansbridge and to see where some of our favourite television comes to life.

A Premier of Many Firsts- Our Meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne

Our final meeting with a party leader was with our current Premier, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne. As Ontario’s first female and openly gay Premier, she has taken the Legislature by storm bringing a new tone to both her Party and to Queen’s Park.

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Immediately upon entering the room we were taken by the commanding energy and vibrancy of the Premier. Proving true to her belief in justice and equality, Premier Wynne encouraged each of us to ask a question and divided her time equally amongst all of us. Each of us had a particular question of personal interest and in the short time we had together we managed to cover topics ranging from women in politics, to aboriginal affairs, Ontario’s health care system, and rural issues. Our Manitoban counterparts joined us for the meeting and brought forward important concerns about interprovincial relations, bringing a unique perspective to our thinking about Ontario.

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Time whisked by, and before we knew it was time for the Premier to go to Question Period, where she’d have to guard against a completely different type of questioning. We want to thank the Premier once again for taking the time to meet with us and answering each question thoughtfully and thoroughly.

Heading South to Ohio: Part 2

Our education in Ohio politics continued the next day with several political meetings and observing both House and Senate sessions. Meeting with the Speaker of the House, Cliff Rosenberger, was a fantastic experience that further highlighted the uniqueness of American politics. Unlike our own Speaker at Queen’s Park, Mr. Rosenberger’s role is highly partisan and places him in the upper tier of Republican leadership. Mr. Rosenberger sets the House calendar, directs policy discussion as is even able to set the seating chart in the House. As one of the youngest legislators at only 35, our conversation with Mr. Rosenberger touched on youth engagement in politics and as elected officials.

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Complementing this meeting we also had the opportunity to meet with Democrat Representative, Fred Strahorn who is also House Minority Leader. Representative Strahorn shared with us the obstacles that he and his party faces in a House that is controlled by a Republican ‘supermajority’ and the importance of inter-party relationships. Finally we met with Republican Representative Robert Cupp. As a seasoned legislator Representative Cupp was able to offer his personal insights on the effects of term limits as well as the on-going Republican Presidential nomination.

Before heading back to frigid Toronto we met with the most instrumental contributors to our trip, our sponsor Dickinson Wright LLP. Dickinson Wright has been a mainstay in Toronto since 2008 and recently expanded in 2011. Their office is home to over 40 attorneys who practice in a range of legal areas including automotive, bankruptcy & insolvency, corporate, cross-border transactions, gaming, real estate, and more. Their attorneys are recognized as leaders in their field by Best Lawyers in Canada, Chambers USA, and Lexpert.

A special thanks goes out to Daniel Ujczo, of Counsel, without whom the trip would not have been possible. Dan is an international trade and customs lawyer who specializes in Canada-United States matters. He regularly assists businesses that are entering and navigating cross-border markets. Dan also provides public policy counsel to government officials and industry leaders on matters relating to Canada-US regulatory cooperation, border security and management, trade and investment attraction initiatives, government procurement, and public-private-partnerships. A US-trained lawyer, Dan previously served as an officer in the Canadian government where he was responsible for coordinating a network of government departments and Canada-US industry associations toward improving North America’s borders and ports-of-entry. Dan also served as a liaison between government officials in Canada and the US, as well as routinely assisted companies in dealings with Canada-US regulatory agencies.

We look forward to extending the relationship and hosting the Ohio Fellows at Queen’s Park!

Heading South to Ohio: Part 1

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Thanks to the continued support of Dickinson Wright and the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the interns were able to repeat a trip down south and visit Columbus Ohio!

In preparation for our visit, we began our introduction to American politics by meeting with U.S. Consul General Juan Alsace. A seasoned Foreign Service Officer with 29 years of service, Mr. Alsace was recently appointed to the post in Toronto and was very curious to learn about Ontario politics from our perspective. As a native Buffalonian, Mr. Alsace is no stranger to the unique Canadian-American relationship and was able to offer us his insights into what to expect from our tour.

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Packed with information and an all-American playlist we were ready to take on the US! Arriving in Columbus to 27 degree weather in April, we quickly came to realize how dramatically different things would actually be from home.

On our first day we were greeted by Mark Flanders, Director of the Ohio Legislative Service Commission (LSC) and Tynita White, LSC Fellowship Coordinator. A non-partisan agency, the LSC provides support to the Ohio General Assembly through research, bill drafting, fiscal analysis amongst many other services. The introductory session proved especially useful as we were on a steep learning curve to learn the basics of Ohio politics.

Armed with rapid-fire questions we were fascinated by the dissimilitude. Ohioans are able to propose their own bills and even introduce changes to the Ohio Constitution! One of the most recent citizen-initiated amendments included setting term limits for Senators, (two 4 year terms) and Representatives (four 2 year terms). Meeting with our intern counterparts, the Ohio LSC Fellows, we were able to continue the conversation contrasting public policy discussions occurring in Ohio and Ontario.

Our first glimpse into the Statehouse was thanks to a personal tour by the House Clerk, Brad Young. Mr. Young explained to us how Representatives are able to vote ‘electronically’ simply by pressing a yes or no button at their desks. We were also able to envision ourselves as elected officials by taking a seat at the desks of several Representatives!

A fruitful visit to Maple Leaf Gardens: learning about Loblaws

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I don’t think many of us would have predicted that any of our OLIP meetings would take place in a grocery store.

And yet, one Friday, we found ourselves wandering into Maple Leaf Gardens to meet with Loblaws, one of our sponsors.

Alain Brandon, Director of Government and Industry Relations for Loblaws, greeted us and took us on a tour of what quickly became our favourite grocery store (and what was already the go-to place for many interns). The space is impressive; it was converted from a hockey arena and as such takes up an incredibly large amount of space considering its location downtown. In case you forget its past life, it’s still possible to find the marker for centre ice in aisle 25. It offers every kind of food you could imagine, plus services like a pharmacy and a dietician who will help you shop for healthier foods.

We then got a chance to sit down and talk about some of the issues the government relations team at Loblaws works on. We talked about everything from precarious work and labour issues to the ever-controversial ketchup debate (yes, you’ll find French’s on Loblaws shelves). We discussed CEO Galen Weston’s vision for a store motivated to promote health and wellness, and how that affects the company’s day-to-day work.

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We even got to learn about energy policy. Loblaws, with its many subsidiaries, stores, and distribution centres, uses an incredible 1 percent of Ontario’s power. But that also means that through their own internal policies, they can have a huge impact on energy consumption.

It was certainly a more enlightening grocery store trip than our normal errands involve. Thanks again to Alain for his warm hospitality, and for a great chat!

 

The Life and Times of David Lindsay

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The Interns had the great pleasure of meeting with David Lindsay, the President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). COU promotes university education and research and the role of universities in preparing both undergraduate and graduate students for success in their lives and careers. There are currently twenty members of COU and one associate member, all of which represent some of Canada’s best publically assisted post-secondary institutions. As a part of COU’s work, the Council works with its members to find consensus on a wide range of issues and advances them with government and other stakeholders.

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While his current position with COU is extremely exciting, Mr. Lindsay’s career in general is nothing short of amazing. He has previously served as a Deputy Minister in a variety of different ministries and also worked in various positions on the partisan side of government, including the Chief of Staff to Premier Harris. Between his positions in the Government of Ontario, Mr. Lindsay has held senior positions with organizations such as the Forest Products Association of Canada, Colleges Ontario and the World Wildlife Fund of Canada.

Suffice it to say that the interns had an exciting discussion with Mr. Lindsay about his career history and what led him to his current position. We learned about his transition from a partisan staffer to a non-partisan public servant. Mr. Lindsay’s dedication to serving the public was definitely inspiring to all the interns, and his depth of insight on Ontario politics and policy was absolutely fascinating. We all enjoyed our conversation with Mr. Lindsay and we all would be happy if our careers end up being even half as interesting as his!

 

Celebrating Ontario’s “Rae” Days

It’s difficult to know what to expect before meeting a former Premier of Ontario. When asked, each person at Queen’s Park will weave a unique narrative of the Premier, often coloured by the commentator’s partisan affiliation, background, and political knowledge.  History is written by the victors, after all, and each government plays an important role in shaping the legacy of their predecessor.

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It is unquestionable that the 1990-1995 NDP Government remains contentious in the minds of many Ontarians.  Although we had briefly met the Honourable Robert K. Rae before at the Churchill Society Dinner, we were accordingly keen to learn more about his time in Ontario and Canadian politics.

We were unanimously impressed by the intelligence, pragmatism, and kindness Mr. Rae exhibited throughout the meeting.

Our conversation began by discussing Mr. Rae’s commitment to helping raise awareness about indigenous issues in Canada. Mr. Rae clearly brings a wealth of knowledge and thoughtfulness to the table in this respect. We then turned to discussing Mr. Rae’s role in Ontario and federal politics, from his term of leader of Ontario’s NDP, to his tenure as Premier of Ontario, to his transition to federal politics. The interns were particularly curious to hear Mr. Rae’s thoughts on the future of the NDP and Liberal parties in Canada, and his role in helping reinvigorate the federal Liberal party after the 2011 election. Mr. Rae answered our questions candidly, articulately, and in a fashion that reflected his knowledge and passion for politics in Canada.

We’d like to thank Mr. Rae for taking the time to meet with us and for the excellent conversation he created! We look forward to hearing about his future adventures and contributions to governance in Ontario and Canada.