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!

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!

 

A Mammoth Gift

While we were more and more excited about our trip to Yellowknife as our departure date approached, many of us grew increasingly anxious about one aspect of our trip : The Great Northern Cold.

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As proud Canadians, of course, we’ve been taught to embrace winter in (most of) its glory, but we also recognize the difference between an Ontarian winter and a Northern Winter. The More Winter Experienced among our group (our Huron-Bruce/Ottawa-Valley residents) exchanged tips with our South-Western Ontarian counterparts about how to stay warm in the Great White North. Indeed, I’ve rarely heard ten people talk so enthusiastically about the Art of Layering and the pros and cons of wool versus cotton socks.

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However, you can imagine our relief when we learnt that Mammoth Outerwear had generously agreed to donate ten coats to the interns! For our less familiar readers, Mammoth Outwear is a Toronto-based company committed to producing coats free of animal products. Their coats are designed to weather the world’s most frigid temperatures thanks to their extreme weather performance fabrics. As an added bonus, we looked great in them.

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From our twenty kilometer treks around Yellowknife, to our midnight cross-country ski adventures, to our excursions dog-sledding and watching the Northern Lights, these coats kept the interns warm, happy, and exploring all week long. We were mildly amazed and VERY impressed at how warm and cozy the jacket’s light materials kept us throughout our outdoor adventures – particularly during the colder, windier, and darker moments of the trip. We’d like to thank everyone at Mammoth Outwear – and especially Anthony and Mammoth founder James –  for helping make our trip so incredible!

 

Hot off the press: OLIP visits Metroland media

We hear a lot these days about the demise of print journalism, but the interns recently had the chance to see a place where it’s still alive and thriving.

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One Friday afternoon we headed to the home of Metroland Media, Ontario’s largest community newspaper publisher. Our visit was possible because of our partnership with the Ontario Community Newspapers Association, who we are lucky to have as a sponsor. OCNA represents more than 300 newspapers across Ontario, with a mission to help local news prosper. We were delighted to have the company of OCNA’s Executive Director, Caroline Medwell, for our visit.

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The lovely staff at Metroland took us on a tour through their newsroom, the home base for papers that cover local news across the GTA. If you’ve ever received the Scarborough Mirror or the Etobicoke Guardian, for example, at your door once a week, it’s these folks who made it happen.

It was especially interesting to hear their take on the importance of community news. As larger papers cut staff and cover less of what happens locally, these smaller, specialized papers are able to highlight the things that matter to each neighbourhood.

This isn’t to say it’s not a competitive world; each paper still has to be good at what it does for people to pick it up. We learned about some of the changes that have been made with this in mind, to modernize and refresh. The latest example is the Parkdale Villager, a paper that was recently completely redesigned. (If you’re in the area, you should grab a copy!)

Beyond that, we also got to see the process of flyers being packaged. Because it serves such a populous area, the Metroland facility deals with a mind-boggling number of flyers, organized right down to each city block. We got just a glimpse of how much work goes into this, and how big a role advertising plays in keeping community newspapers going.

Perhaps most exciting to the interns was watching a newspaper get made right before our eyes. We climbed right up to the top of a six-storey high press to watch the paper whiz by and print fresh news. Surrounded by a forest of paper rolls and walls covered in ink really put into perspective the volume of distribution and how much we take this process for granted.

Thanks so much to the staff who welcomed us: to Sonny for being our host and guide, Georgia and the newsroom team for their insights, Braden and Jeff for teaching us about the advertising process, and Nathan for taking us through the printing process. We’ll certainly be reading these papers with a newfound appreciation for what happens behind the scenes.

Talking GR with TD

Gary Clement is not your typical bank employee. He won’t help you with your investment portfolio or advise you on a mortgage. Instead, Gary has been able to use his many years of experience in the political world as TD Bank’s Senior Manager of Government Relations.

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We were ecstatic to meet with Gary to learn more about this role and of TD Bank’s influence in the financial sector. Gary began with sharing many stories from his political experiences. He had no shortage of hilarious anecdotes. For those of us interested in pursuing government relations as a career, Gary gave us some insightful advice. It was fascinating to learn how important the connections Gary made during his time as a political staffer were throughout his career.

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As one of Canada’s leading financial institutions, TD Bank is directly impacted by many government policies. Having a politically-saavy government relations team is a key factor in ensuring government and TD Bank have a coordinated dialogue.
TD is a generous sponsor of OLIP and we were grateful to be able to sit down with Gary and learn more about it!

You Can Bank On It, With CIBC

For the most part, our interactions with the bank are limited to a series of mouse clicks, a few taps on an app, and the occasional trip to the ATM. It’s certainly not everyday that one is invited to visit the head office of one of Canada’s and North America’s leading financial institutions, but on a brisk Friday afternoon, the OLIP interns got to do just that!

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In early February, we were graciously invited to join Michel Liboiron, the Director of Government Relations at CIBC’s head office. From a boardroom perched 50 stories above the streets of downtown Toronto and overlooking Lake Ontario and the city’s east end, we got the chance to learn more about how CIBC does business, how it supports programmes like our own and initiatives like the 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am games, and how Canada’s financial institutions participate in provincial and federal policy and regulatory development processes.

While it is easy to underestimate how important financial institutions are when doing some quick banking from behind a computer or cellphone screen, we certainly left with a great appreciation for the role that institutions like CIBC play in our public life in Toronto, Ontario, and Canada!

Promoting Public Education with the OSSTF

As citizens, we are all invested in Ontario’s public education system in one way or another. Most of us have studied or worked in Ontario’s public schools, and we all know someone – be it a friend, family member, or neighbor – who is a student or works in an elementary or secondary school in Ontario. Our schools are an important part of the public sphere and are much more than a classroom or workplace.

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A few weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to meet with one of our proud sponsors, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. We had a lovely chat with Mr. Paul Kossta,a gentleman who undoubtedly has one of the coolest job titles around: Legislative Observer. We learned how the OSSTF promotes the cause of public education while also defending the rights of students, educators and educational workers. We discussed teacher hiring practices in Ontario, the collective bargaining process, and the OSSTF’s political efforts to strengthen the public education system.

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We are thrilled to have the support of the OSSTF and would like to thank the organization’s 60,000 members, which include teachers, educational assistants, continuing education teachers and instructors, secretaries, and many other education professionals!

CPA: More Than Just Numbers

We are extremely fortunate to have the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario as proud sponsors of our program. We are also lucky to have had the chance to engage directly with the extremely welcoming and enthusiastic CPA team when we visited their office. Before spending the morning with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario, few of us interns had considered entering into the accounting world. However, after learning about the CPA’s Professional Education Program and hearing about some of the CPA’s star members most, if not all of us, started actively considering what role a license in public accounting and a CPA membership could play in our careers down the road!

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In addition to learning about the professional development opportunities offered by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, we learned about the process of engaging with the provincial legislature in order to bring Chartered Accountants, Certified General Accountants and Certified Management Accountants all together under the Chartered Professional Accountant designation. We also learned how the CPA ensures high professional and ethical standards among its membership as a regulatory body. Most importantly, we learned about the important skills and knowledge that CPAs bring to organizations across the public and private sectors. Even if we don’t all become accountants down the road, we will certainly know the value that CPAs can bring to a team.

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