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14th July
2017
written by Ryan van den Berg

Conducting research is a bit easier when you’re standing on the shoulders of giants—especially when those “giants” are the friends and alumni of your programme. As a Parliamentary Intern, I was fortunate enough to work with Samara Canada to continue the task that Mackenzie Grisdale, a former Intern, started back in 2011.

That task was to survey MPs about their views on heckling in the House of Commons. We wanted to know which MPs were most likely to heckle and be heckled; why MPs heckle one another; and whether this practice had tangible effects on their work.

This was the third time our cross-sectional survey had been conducted. Mackenzie published her results in the Parliamentary Review, and Samara took up the torch in 2015 with their Cheering or Jeering Report.

Still, collecting the data proved hard work. Together, our research team mailed and emailed each MP an anonymous survey, and followed up in-person by visiting over 300 offices across the precinct. Understandably, MPs and their staff had competing priorities, busy schedules, and concerns about sharing their views on such a contentious topic.

Nevertheless, the results were gratifying. This year’s survey had the highest response rate to date, garnering 84 submissions in total—meaning roughly one MP in four shared their thoughts with us! What’s more, we set up a research interview with House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan to get his views on the record.

Analysis is still underway. But our preliminary findings indicate that MPs, by and large, do not think favourably of heckling, although most have engaged in the practice at some time or another. Hecklers also justify their actions in a variety of ways, often contending that the practice plays a vital democratic role, that it can be used to call out perceived untruths, or that it is often just the result of passion in the moment. Still, heckling can get ugly. At its worst, it can amount to harassment or make some MPs less willing to speak in the House.

Fortunately, MPs are ultimately accountable to the people who elect them. Canadians surely have diverging views on how key actors—the Speaker, the party leaders, and the party whips—should address this. The media play an important role in bringing this issue to Canadians’ attention, but the public must write their MPs to share their thoughts.

Is heckling cheering or jeering? You decide.

Look for our full analysis this fall, when Samara issues its formal report!

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12th July
2017
written by jeanette.carney

At the end of May our intern group travelled to Iqaluit, Nunavut. For many of us it was the first time we set foot in the Arctic, and for others it was the first voyage to a Canadian territory. The 6-day world-wind study tour began as soon as our First Air plane touched down on the landing strip. That Sunday, we were greeted at the Nunavut Legislature by Alex Baldwin, a long-time friend of the Parliamentary Internship Programme and a research and policy analyst at the Legislature. Alex provided us with an overview of politics and life in Nunavut, while Pat Angnakak, MLA for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, shared some experiences about life in territorial politics.

The rest of the week flew by as we attended meetings with public servants working in both federal and territorial governmental departments, non-profit organizations, the Nunavut Status of Women and the Embrace Life Councils, First Air, and the Mayor of Iqaluit. Each meeting allowed us to increase our knowledge on the challenges faced by Nunavummiut, such as access to appropriate health care, the legacies of colonization, and infrastructure needs (airstrips, internet). Although many conversations revolved around the various needs of the territory, speakers outlined the importance of looking towards the future.

As a northerner, I believe that out of all the study tours, Nunavut is our most important one. With the vast majority of Canadians living in southern parts of the country and rarely venturing as far North as the territories, let alone the Arctic, it is imperative that we bridge this gap. Without travelling to Iqaluit, our intern group would never have known that politicians cannot run campaigns using picket signs (frozen ground/rock), nor would we have understood the North’s food insecurity and high cost of living. This taste of the Canadian Arctic, albeit small, has certainly influenced our views of Canada as a country and of Parliament as an institution by and for all Canadians.

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8th June
2017
written by Michael Forestell

As Parliamentary Interns, we are fortunate to partake in study tours and riding visits as part of our legislative education. Travel adds colour and substance to the questions we encounter in Parliament.

Canadian institutions take deep interest in this link between travel and learning. In 2014, Universities Canada found that over 80% of surveyed employers agreed that graduates with cross-cultural insight strengthened their firm. Fully 90 per cent of students who took part in an international opportunity reported that it benefited their careers. Yet each year, only 3 per cent of undergraduate students pursue the international experiences their universities offer, largely due to the prohibitive expense. Two thirds of managers said that a lack of global understanding could damage Canada’s global competitiveness.

Travel is costly—in dollars and in environmental impact. If all we leave with are questions, and all we bring back is knowledge, why not just read about faraway countries and arrange Skype calls with experts abroad? What is so unique about the way that travel teaches us that justifies the effort?

To see how travel educates us, we should reflect on what stays with us when we return. So often, it is not the vaunted destinations but the incidental discoveries that make our most compelling memories. We could not plan for them because we did not know they existed.

The first page of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrates the educative power of surprise. The title character rests beside a pond in languid boredom. Suddenly, a white rabbit jolts by. Although this initially seems unremarkable,

when the Rabbit actually actually took a watch out of its waistcoat pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it—and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

The sheer novelty pulls Alice forward with an almost physical power, starting a journey that challenges all of her assumptions.

Our study tours have given us plenty of White Rabbit moments to set our curiosity alight. Before we went to Europe this winter there were pressing questions that we researched and planned to discuss. But there were also incidental revelations when we arrived that set off questions like dominoes falling in our minds.

For example, we noticed that commercial signage in Belgium was a linguistic free-for all, sometimes only in Dutch, French or an uneven mix of the two. Some signs were wholly in English. We inquired and learned that Belgium has no signage laws for businesses, an approach that promotes linguistic peace. Why is this so different from the Canadian experience?

As we toured the European Parliament, one of us noted it had the feel of a university campus. Amid its colourful corridors were posters advertising dozens of parliamentary associations and caucuses. In Canada, this kind of membership would be arranged internally. What makes the Europeans take the campus-club approach?

When we met with two Labour MPs at Westminster, we were startled at their divergent assessments of their party’s leadership and potential paths forward for the party. These viewpoints varied far more than those Canadians see within federal caucuses. Why is party discipline so different in Britain?

Belfast surprised us with its unlikely points of reconciliation. A former jail that once housed Nationalist and Unionist paramilitary fighters now hosts nostalgic reunions for erstwhile enemies. Locals have developed a dark, lively humour to address their city’s past. And yet for all its recent progress, Belfast’s citizens often welcome the construction of new “peace walls” to contain sectarian tensions and gangs. Why might they see barriers as an acceptable price for safety?

These White Rabbit moments fed our curiosity and informed our research papers, and they would not have occurred if we stayed home. Should we therefore value physical travel over the disembodied knowledge in books and journals? Surely the answer is that the one form of learning enriches the other. As the book-mad wanderer Don Quixote proclaimed, “He who reads much and journeys much, sees much and knows much” (Bk. 2, Ch. 25).

This post was produced in collaboration with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, a longstanding sponsor of PIP.

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9th March
2017
written by Skeena Lawson

It’s hard to believe that we have already been on the hill for six months; the first few weeks were a whirlwind of finding our place in the office, learning to navigate the remarkably confusing hallways of Centre Block, and nerding out every time we passed a minister in the hallway.

In the office it seems like we’ve had the opportunity to work on anything and everything under the sun, from writing op-eds, briefing notes, and speeches, to prepping MPs for committee, to conducting research for Private Member’s Bills, to refining the art of crafting the perfect question for Question Period. The learning curve has been steep, but we’ve loved every second of it.

The second week in the office was a constituency week, and many interns had the opportunity to travel with their MPs to the riding. MPs and staffers alike joke that weeks in Ottawa are a “break” from these riding weeks, something I had trouble believing until I experienced it. In the three days I visited the riding I made about 200 grilled cheese sandwiches at 6:00 am for a school hot breakfast program, sat in on meetings with constituents, shadowed my MP to media interviews and open houses, helped facilitate an inaugural meeting of a youth council, visited high school political science classes, attended a citizenship ceremony, did research for immigration files and other casework, and participated in a pre-budget consultation town hall.

Other interns had similar experiences, assisting with casework, meeting with constituents, attending funding announcements, and generally getting to know the ridings they are working with for several months. The riding during our first allocations visits gave us the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with our MPs and learn about how local issues are represented on a federal level. It quickly became clear the pride each MP takes in representing the people of their riding, and the love they have for the area itself. During our interview period, we frequently had MPs tell us that their riding was the most beautiful and diverse in the country. The riding visits allowed us time to share this with our MPs in a unique way; below are some of our highlights.

Ryan Vandenberg travelled with MP Arif Virani to his Parkdale-High Park constituency where he was able to visit a local school on student council election day, attend a town hall on electoral reform, and spend time learning the ins and outs of casework in the constituency office.

Anna Rotman visited Louis-Hébert with Joël Lightbound where she attended a highway unveiling, participated in consultations on housing and electoral reform, and spent time learning from, and bonding with, the constituency staff.

Jeanette Carney journeyed with MP Luc Berthold to Mégantic-L’Érable in rural Quebec where she toured the constituency, visiting five different communities in total. She also had the opportunity to participate in a presentation to a grade 5-6 class, in one of these towns, on Canada’s political system.

One of the highlights of the week for Astrid Krizus was a citizenship ceremony she attended with Ali Ehsassi, MP for Willowdale; she also spent time in the constituency office drafting remarks for events attended by Mr. Ehsassi, and writing letters of support for immigration cases.

Josh Regnier spent time in the rural Quebec riding of Lac-Saint-Jean- the blueberry capital of Canada-with the Honourable Denis Lebel. Josh attended meetings with a wide range of constituent groups from businesses, to indigenous advocacy groups, to municipalities, to NGOs. He also had some of the more unique experiences: attending the grand opening of a bowling alley in one of the riding’s communities, and touring of the construction site for one of Quebec’s largest greenhouses which, when completed, will nearly double the province’s production of cucumbers.

Claire Sieffert spent her week  touring the Eastern Quebec riding of Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques with MP Guy Caron. While enroute she was fortunate enough to visit the municipality of Saint- Louis-du-Ha! Ha! a town with one of the most unusual names in Canada.

Working with Greg Fergus, MP for Hull-Alymer, Matt Blackshaw typically crosses the river once a week to attend events and meetings in the constituency. This puts him in a unique position, with the opportunity to see an MP’s hill life so closely integrated with the work they do in the riding- the boundary between local and federal issues is sometimes blurred when one represents Hull-Alymer.

The final intern did not travel to the riding during the first constituency week.  With a riding visit planned for later in the placement, Mike Forrestall instead spent his week in Ottawa becoming familiar with an unanticipated element of parliamentary business: the great wave of correspondence constantly sloshing back and forth between MPs’ offices and various ministries. When Members receive complaints or questions from a constituent, they will often send a letter to a Minister’s office on their constituent’s behalf. If the Minister’s response is not satisfactory or the case is quite difficult, several more exchanges of letters may take place, in which an MP might respectfully suggest a slight policy change to redress their constituent’s complaint. All the while, MPs will send the relevant citizen copies of the correspondence going both ways.  Mike says he has been heartened by the fact that this system includes the constituent in the process—they can see exactly how MPs are working on their behalf. This method of correspondence makes the act of representation manifest to the citizens a Member represents.

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27th September
2016
written by Ryan van den Berg

Quelle semaine mouvementée! Nous sommes toujours en train de prendre nos marques!

So far, it’s been a whirlwind orientation: luncheons, training sessions from various professionals on the hill, receptions, meetings with lobbying and advocacy agencies… the list goes on! But, like the Carpenters, we’ve only just begun.

Au cours des neuf moins à venir, nous aiderons les députés du gouvernment et de l’opposition dans leur quotidien, entreprendrons cinq voyages d’études comparatives à travers l’Amérique du nord et l’Europe, côtoyerons les grandes personnalités du monde politique, et détruirons l’Anneau unique dans les flammes de la Montagne du Destin, tout en effectuant des projets de recherche originaux à l’aide des ressources parlementaires.

Still, I think it’s safe to say we’re all more than prepared to handle whatever comes our way! In this way, you might think we’re similar to the sturdy Canadian beaver or the hardy Red Fife variety of wheat.

But unlike the beaver or Red Fife, our team has the advantage of being led by the fearless Anne Dance! Dr. Dance deserves a Historica Canadian Heritage Minute for all the work she’s done to get us on our way.

 

Voici notre équipe formidable:

 

Dr. Anne Dance

Most recently from: St. John’s, NL

Education: SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Memorial University of Newfoundland; PhD, University of Stirling (Écosse); 2008-09 Stagiaire parlementaire; MA, University of Victoria (Colombie-Britannique); BA, St. Thomas University (Nouveau-Brunswick)

Intérêts: Legislatures and public space; histories of environmental reclamation and remediation; rivers; theatre; skating; baking

Proudest accomplishment: La possibilité de travailler avec les merveilleux 2016-17 stagiaires parlementaires.

Première impression du Parlement: Alarm! (Canada Geese attack by the Ottawa River Hill pathway)

 

Matthew Blackshaw

Hometown: Owen Sound, Ont.

Education: B.A. Sc., Interdisciplinary Studies, McMaster University

Intérêts: Electoral systems, evidence-based policy, making connections between disciplines, making space for nuance, wandering through the woods, mathematics, world journalism

Proudest accomplishment: Each time I’ve been on stage and performances have worked out better than expected.

Première impression du Parlement: “You mean we’re allowed to go in?” (the House of Commons, the Senate, and most committee meetings are open to the public!)

 

Alec Boudreau

Hometown: Hampton, N.B. (home of John Peters Humphrey, first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights!)

Education: B.A., Interdisciplinary Leadership, University of New Brunswick

Intérêts: The intersections of ethnic and cultural identity among Canadian youth, learning to pick and sing sad folk songs, and playing board games with family

Proudest accomplishment: Ayant été choisi pour participer à la delegation canadienne au Sommet de la francophonie à Dakar, Sénégal en 2014. J’avais l’honneur de représenter la jeunesse d’expression française du Canada.

Première impression du Parlement: Boy, do I ever have a lot to learn…

 

Jeanette Carney

Hometown: Whitehorse, Yukon

Education: M.A., Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland; B.A., Geography and Sociology, Mount Allison University

Intérêts: Le développement de ressources naturelles dans le nord; northern waste management; Indigenous social issues; equal gender representation in Parliament and executive positions; making moccasins and mittens; faire du canot; chasser

Proudest accomplishment: Completing my Master’s degree—my most difficult and rewarding achievement

Première impression du Parlement: Je suis tellement chanceuse d’être ici!

 

Michael Forestell

Hometown: Quispamsis, N.B.

Education: B.A., Political Science and Great Books, Saint Thomas University

Intérêts: The challenges of federalism, classic Simpsons episodes, and listening to YouTube controversialists and raconteurs.

Proudest accomplishment: Talking my way into the press box to see a deposed President of Honduras addressing a roaring stadium of supporters.

Première impression du Parlement: J’ai été frappe par la richesse de son histoire, de son architecture,  et de sa beauté naturelle, et surtout par la gentillesse de son personnel!

 

Astrid Krizus

Hometown: Born in Montreal and raised in Toronto

Education: M.A., Political Science, University of Toronto; B.A., Political Science, Queen’s University

Intérêts: Mechanisms of effective political representation of non-dominant groups, l’application des théories des relations internationales aux conflits ethniques, et la photographie sur pellicules

Proudest accomplishment: Being a Volunteer Coordinator on a provincial election campaign, and being admitted to the University of Toronto with a SSHRC Master’s Scholarship

Première impression du Parlement: It’s even more exciting than I’d imagined!

 

Skeena Lawson

Hometown: Smithers, B.C.

Education: B.A., History, Mount Allison University

Intérêts: Rural Canadian issues (environment, economy, and transportation), First Nations governance, hiking, skiing, ukelele

Proudest accomplishment: Writing a short book on the environmental and economic history of Indigenous and Settler peoples along the Pugwash River Estuary in Nova Scotia

Première impression du Parlement: I’m going to get lost many, many times.

 

Joshua Regnier

Hometown: Dawson Creek, B.C.

Education: B.A., History and Dialogue, Simon Fraser University

Intérêts: Canada’s north (Arctic sovereignty, indigenous sovereignty/self-government, rural community development; healthy masculinity and addressing gender-based violence; faire du vélo et du canot; et jouer de la musique

Proudest accomplishment: The beautiful relationship I have built with my little brother through the Big Brother program—thirteen years and counting!

Première impression du Parlement: Grateful for the incredible learning experience to come.

 

Anna Rotman

Hometown: Montreal, QC

Education: B.A., History, Brown University

Intérêts: History of capitalism/how to make economies more just; radio; biking in cities; and cities!

Proudest accomplishment: Every market day at the local food co-op I helped run in university, anddd the time I led my sister down her first cliff run!

Première impression du Parlement: Where’s the quidditch pitch?

 

Claire Sieffert

Hometown: Victoria, BC

Education: B.A., International Studies, Simon Fraser University

Intérêts: I suspect that I did an interdisciplinary degree for a reason… Everything is interesting given the right frame of mind!

Proudest accomplishment: When my friends and I spent the afternoon on a ladder putting up pictures for the UnmaskED Project, which was a public art exhibition that I organized to challenge eating disorder stereotypes.

Première impression du Parlement: I had heard that the Hill is a world where English and French are interchangeable, but I didn’t expect everyone here to also speak a third language: Parliamentish. In this language, Private Member’s Business becomes “PMB,” and when a motion doesn’t pass it is “negatived.” I hope that in the weeks ahead I can learn the lingo and acronyms of Canadian politics.

 

Ryan van den Berg

Hometown: Ottawa

Education: M.A., Educational Studies, University of British Columbia; B.A., Canadian Studies, Mount Allison University

Intérêts: L’éducation civique, les théories de la démocratie, la masculinité, le voyage, le lait au chocolat

Proudest accomplishment: Publishing an article in a real scholarly journal! 

Première impression du Parlement: I bet this place has some fantastic ghost stories.

 

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22nd June
2016
written by Yves Dushimimana

Iqaluit, from the moment you land, sneaks into your conscience and doesn’t leave. The city seems to be somewhat at odds with the surrounding pristine environment. The expanses of snow you see when approaching suggest a certain tranquility – though Iqaluit is anything but tranquil. From the moment you land, you’re confronted with deep social and economic issues.
The capital of Nunavut is largely isolated from the rest of Canada. It can be accessed by airplane year round – winter snowstorms are a challenge - and by ship for a couple of months in the summer. Given the climate of the North, this means that supplies have to be transported by cargo planes and by ship from the South. The markup on the prices is very high.
The community has undergone profound changes in the last century. There are families in which the grandparents lived on the land, the parents went to residential schools and the children spend a great deal of time on Facebook. While this could be a great opportunity for intergenerational learning, and I’m sure it is, what makes the situation stand out is that these three generations could be living in the same housing unit - which is not meant to accommodate so many people. The problem of housing in Iqaluit is such that these situations, and the social challenges they pose, are rather frequent.
While it is easy to notice the challenges facing Iqaluit – inadequate housing, very high costs of living, lack of social services, to name a few; the optimism you encounter is also remarkable. Faced with such challenges, one is necessarily moved to think of how they could be addressed. Some of the people you’ll meet will not only speak of the challenges the community faces, but also convey a sense of optimism, that these problems are not insurmountable.
Iqaluit is definitely a place that forces you to pause and reflect. An encounter with such a place, which contrasts so sharply with the image of Canada as a country with an abundance of wealth, makes you take a few minutes to think before you go to bed. For people interested in public policy, in leaving the world a bit better than they found it, this study tour is a reminder there is still a lot to be done in addressing the problems facing our societies. Perhaps then, it is fitting that it be the interns’ last study tour.

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9th May
2016
written by Madalina Chesoi

Spring is finally here and we just finished another month of the Parliamentary Internship Programme. April was our first month in our third placement, or our second parliamentary allocation.

As you know, every year, Parliamentary Interns are welcomed into the office of two Members of Parliament. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank, on behalf of the 2015-2016 PIP cohort, the MPs that hosted interns in their offices this year.

For our first allocation period (November 30,  2015 to April 1, 2016), we send our many thanks to:

Randy Boissonnault, MP, Edmonton Centre, AB (LPC) who hosted Christina Vietinghoff;

Sean Casey, MP, Charlottetown, PEI (LPC) who hosted Josh Grehan;

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP, Beaches-East York, ON (LPC) who hosted Madalina Chesoi;

Andy Fillmore, MP, Halifax, NS (LPC) who hosted Étienne Grandmaison;

Peter Kent, MP, Thornhill, ON (CPC) who hosted Yves Dushimimana;

Hélène Laverdière, MP, Laurier-Sainte-Marie, QC (NDP) who hosted Jordan Storozuk;

Denis Lebel, MP,  Lac-Saint-Jean, QC (CPC) who hosted Alice Trudelle;

Larry Maguire, MP, Brandon-Souris, MB (CPC) who hosted Feo Snagovsky;

Murray Rankin, MP, Victoria, BC (NDP) who hosted Bryan Heystee; and

Don Rusnak, MP, Thunder Bay-Rainy River, ON (LPC) who hosted Gabrielle de Billy Brown.

During our second allocation period (April 4 to June 30, 2016), we want to thank:

James Bezan, MP, Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, MB (CPC) – hosting Madalina Chesoi

Nathan Cullen, MP, Skeena-Bulkley Valley, BC (NDP) – hosting Josh Grehan

Greg Fergus, MP, Hull-Aylmer, QC (LPC) – hosting Alice Trudelle

Mark Holland, MP, Ajax, ON (LPC) – hosting Bryan Heystee

Michelle Rempel, MP, Calgary Nose Hill, AB (CPC) – hosting Étienne Grandmaison

Blake Richards, MP, Banff-Airdrie, AB (CPC) – hosting Gabrielle de Billy Brown

Randeep Sarai, MP, Surrey Centre, BC (LPC) – hosting Jordan Storozuk

Kennedy Stewart, MP, Burnaby South, BC (NDP) – hosting Christina Vietinghoff

Arif Virani, MP, Parkdale-High Park, ON (LPC) – hosting Feo Snagovsky

Jonathan Wilkinson, MP, North Vancouver, BC (LPC) – hosting Yves Dushimimana

A lot of people have asked me how I lived the transition between my two offices. Honestly, it was a really smooth transition. Practically speaking, I stayed in the same building, but on a different floor which was great because I kept my routine. For the first two weeks, I just had to remember to press the right floor number in the elevator. Otherwise, I had to adjust to different portfolios and schedules, but that didn’t take more than a week. I had and have the opportunity to work, through out all my PIP placements, with many great individuals who have taken the time to explain the particularities of the files and offices. Therefore, everything went smoothly and I want to thank everyone that has played a role in that process. This also includes Garth, our programme director, and the sponsors of the programme.

Spring is finally here and I, for one, will take the time to enjoy every day I have left in the programme, because it is a great experience filled with so many amazing individuals that will be dearly miss.

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25th March
2016
written by Joshua Grehan

We recently had a chance to tour Washington, DC, and study the US Congress. It was a wonderful time. Through meetings with government officials, elected representatives, journalists, lobbyists and pollsters we learned a lot about the beast that is US politics. Doing so in the middle of a presidential election provided for some added sizzle.

During our meetings, the “broken state of US federal politics” was often mentioned and reasons for the current “gridlock” were much discussed. Media polarization and the money in US politics were always noted. But one other culprit was also singled out time and time again: gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is the process of drawing electoral districts in such a fashion as to give one political party an advantage over others – and in the US it is vicious. Each state has a different process, but in many states federal electoral districts are drawn by state legislatures, and well, let’s just say the shapes these districts take are interesting. And by interesting I mean “scary.” Below are some of the most gerrymandered districts in the US according to The Washington Post:

gerry

While these district lines are laughable, the implications are less than funny. By drawing district maps in such a fashion, state politicians change the way federal elections occur – and they do that in two main ways. First, it changes how many seats one party wins over another. Clearly this seems undemocratic, and should be avoided, but it’s not the reason why we repeatedly heard, “gerrymandering causes gridlock in DC”. The second and perhaps more insidious way gerrymandering changes US politics, is how it influences who gets nominated in the first place. Gerrymandering creates “safe seats” where whoever wins a party’s nomination in one of their “safe seats,” is pretty much guaranteed to win the general election in that district. The thing is, when it comes to nomination races, often only the hardcore fringe of a political party turns out. As a result, politicians who want to get elected have no incentive to “reach across the aisle” because, for a party’s core supporters, this is just treachery. Consequently, US politicians play to the edges and not to the middle when it comes to government. The results are less than pretty.

Now Canadian politics is not perfect, but one thing we seem to have going for us is “districting.” Go and Google “most gerrymandered districts in Canada” and you get photos of the US. Why? Because our districts are drawn by Electoral Boundary Commissions supported by Elections Canada. They are explicitly independent. By taking the pencil out of the hands of politicians, and putting it into the hands of judges, professors and bureaucrats, the number of “safe seats” is reduced and politicians are forced to play to the middle to win general elections – versus running to the edges in partisan nominations. Perhaps this isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it’s pretty darn close. So today I want to send some love to Elections Canada. Keep rocking baby, you’re helping our democracy work.

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24th March
2016
written by Jordan Storozuk

Through the last few months, I have shadowed my chosen Member of Parliament in and out of the office, in the riding, during events and with the media. Although there is only a certain number of hours in a day, I have learned there are endless demands on an MP’s attention and energy. When the House is sitting, my MP regularly powers through twelve hour days fuelled by coffee and enthusiasm. One thousand and one groups, organizations and individuals vie for a few moments of her time. People stream into our office to explain the significance of their cause. She often runs from one side of the city to the other for presentations, briefings and events. Her schedules are so tightly packed that ‘eat lunch’ must be penciled in. My MP often stands in the House of Commons to ask questions or give speeches and heads to committee to study pertinent issues for hours at a time. Not a week goes by without my MP being mentioned or interviewed on matters of local and international importance.

Being a Member of Parliament is a pretty tall order for one single person. To accomplish it all, my MP has a great team – who she often refers to as ‘her brain’ – who is dedicated to helping her run the office and achieve her goals. ‘Ottawa staff’, the parliamentary assistants, are an asset in doing what MPs simply don’t have time for: like sorting through a never-ending pile of mail or figuring out what exactly is going on in conflict zone before drafting a speech for delivery in the House.

But what has really struck me is just how many more people work behind the scenes, full-time, to make sure all MPs can do their jobs. The House of Common provides an entire ecosystem of support with police and security services, eateries, post offices and bus transportation. There are movers and designers, painters, paper suppliers, not to mention the carpenters, locksmiths, librarians and IT technicians. Lawyers adise on my MP’s motions and amendments, translators and interpreters transform her work into both official languages, clerks help us navigate the dizzying rules of the House and library analysts provide my MP with top-quality research and non-partisan perspectives. Maintenance workers ensure that our office is in tip-top shape and are a point of contact into the deeper network of helpful services offered. There are no doubt hundreds of roles within this ‘invisible force’ that I am neglecting to mention. I am astonished by the abundance of expertise and aid provided to my MP in the safe and comfortable environment of Parliament Hill.

Thousands of people work in and around the parliamentary precinct to guarantee that my MP’s attention can be focused on Parliament, Canada and the rest of the world. The team supporting my MP is much larger than the few political staff found in our office. The ‘invisible’ workforce ensures she has the time to dedicate to being the best Member of Parliament she can be. These people are the ones who run Parliament behind-the-scenes, so that my MP and her 337 colleagues can run the country.

My MP works for her constituents, her party and herself. However, what she does would not be possible without all of the people running the beast that is the Parliament of Canada. Although I have been referring to the thousands of people working here as invisible, I insist that they are very much seen and appreciated by all those who use their services (my MP and myself included)! We truly couldn’t do it without you.

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12th February
2016
written by Gabrielle de Billy Brown

Février, Nouvel an lunaire. L’année du singe de feu sera une période turbulente, selon les spécialistes, sauf pour les femmes (HA!) et le monde des technologies. De notre côté, comme vous avez pu le voir dans nos billets depuis septembre,  les rebondissements ne manquent pas et, considérant ce que nous avons sur notre agenda pour la 2e moitié de l’année, ce n’est pas près de cesser.

Personnellement, l’un des aspects les plus intéressants du programme est sans contredit les opportunités qui s’offrent à nous de rencontrer  en privé des personnalités publiques de tous les horizons pour des conversations où pratiquement tous les sujets peuvent être abordés. Au cours des cinq premiers mois du stage, nous avons autant discuté avec, pour ne position-dropper que ceux-là, un juge de la Cour Suprême, un ancien premier ministre, le gouverneur de la Banque d’Angleterre, et près de 70 députés lors de notre période d’entrevues. Et ce n’est pas terminé! Clairement, nous sommes bénis des Dieux.

Parlant de rencontres, ma super collègue Alice vous a, dans un précédent billet, proposé une réflexion critique à la suite de notre voyage d’études en Europe. Si vous ne l’avez pas encore lu, allez-y maintenant. J’attendrai patiemment ici.

Maintenant que c’est fait, passons aux choses moins sérieuses. Comme vous le savez, aujourd’hui, un blog ne peut pas exister sans au minimum une recette révolutionnaire. Pour le bénéfice de nos lecteurs, en voici donc une, concoctée à la suite de la centaine de réunions et de rencontres que nous avons faites depuis septembre:

 

POUR UNE RENCONTRE RÉUSSIE AVEC LES STAGIAIRES PARLEMENTAIRES

 groupe belgique

Avec les parlementaires belges de la Wallonie, de la Flandre et de Bruxelle ensemble : une discussion inespérée !

Ingrédients :

  • Un interlocuteur*
  • Une généreuse dose de franchise
  • Un sujet de discussion intéressant. (Minimum : doubler/tripler au besoin)
  • Des réponses qui vont au-delà des lieux communs
  • Une compréhension universellement partagée de la règle de Chatham House (qui permet l’utilisation des informations obtenues mais garantit la confidentialité des participants)
  • 10 stagiaires bien reposés
  • 11 tasses d’une boisson chaude, au choix des participants
  • Un nombre de sièges confortables correspondant au nombre de personnes dans la salle**
  • Une atmosphère propice aux échanges
  • Une pincée d’humour
  • Sens de l’écoute partagé par tous
  • Grignotines, au goût.

 * d’autres peuvent être ajoutés selon la demande à condition que ceux-ci contribuent  positivement à la discussion

** Dans le cas du groupe 2015-2016, ce nombre peut, à l’occasion, être diminué de 1. À ajuster selon les préférences personnelles.

 

Étape 1. Réunir tous ces éléments dans une pièce de grandeur moyenne, à température pièce. Ajuster le thermostat ou ouvrir une fenêtre au besoin.

Étape 2. Laisser mijoter pendant 60 minutes.

Grâce à cette recette éprouvée, votre rencontre sera un succès, garanti***!

*** L’auteure n’assume aucune responsabilité en cas d’échec

groupe SNP

 

Pictured here: satisfied interns – with Stewart Stevenson, MSP

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