Brent Lamothe, Ottawa ON,
With a heavy heart, the Parliamentary session has ended, and therefore so has my internship in the office of Isabelle Morin. I can say without hesitation that I have learned as much, if not more, in my brief stint on the Hill as I have to this point in my university career. The first day on Parliament is somewhat daunting, as relatively simple tasks like finding the cafeteria or maneuvering through security while waiting for the permanent security pass provide unnecessary stresses. I was told early into my internship that there is a steep learning curve when it comes to Parliamentary operations. I am not convinced this is entirely true if you are willing to learn and are passionate about the work in front of you. The promise that was made to me on my first day reigned true as the work that I did was far less that of an intern and more like that of a junior legislative assistant. While I could not possibly write an exhaustive list of all of the exciting things that I was able to do during my internship, the highlights would certainly include writing a question for question period, helping to organize an event with the UN independent expert on the Human Rights crisis in Sudan, writing a speech for the House of Commons, attending committee meetings, and much more.
For many students, the academic environment can give some insight into events in politics, be they formal events, bills that are being debated, or what the characteristics of our politicians are. Before starting on the Hill, I believed I had a fairly good grasp of these concepts, though my knowledge of the work behind them was limited. Because of my time at NCCAR, I had the chance to see how these things came to be. I came away from my internship with a renewed appreciation for the work that goes on out of the media spotlight, which is not given the attention it deserves, nor the credit it demands. An example of this was the schedule that Isabelle works every week. On Monday morning, she drives from her riding outside of Montreal to Ottawa to begin a lengthy week of debates votes in the House of Commons. Seemingly every morning, she would arrive on the Hill around 8:30 and work until votes were completed. This could run anywhere from 5 pm in the afternoon to 11 pm at night, Monday through Thursday. On Thursday nights, she would drive back to Montreal to take part in community events and meet with constituents. I understand that her schedule on weekends is equally demanding, often working 16 hour days on weekends in order to meet with as many constituents as possible. The work that she does was truly inspiring and shows the level of dedication and drive that politicians across the country work to display in order to best represent the voices of their constituents in Ottawa.
While I had understood that politicians worked lengthy hours, I was somewhat surprised to see how the hours of a legislative assistant mirror those of the elected officials. On a typical day, Wassim would arrive to the office around 9, running around the Hill to make sure that every task was completed to the best of his ability to alleviate some of the pressures of Isabelle’s schedule. Often, he would work until 9 or 10 pm in order to keep on top of his work in an environment where priorities and focuses can change in an instant. During my time working with Wassim, I was able to learn a significant amount about how Parliament operates behind the scenes, as well as having been given the chance to see what sort of skills I should work on if I decide that the work of a legislative assistant is something worth pursuing upon graduation. I am extremely grateful to have had him as a sort of mentor throughout this experience, as he was willing to share advice, give tips, and always took the time to explain his positions and his actions.
In all, my experience on Parliament Hill was extraordinary and gave me a new perspective on the work that takes place on Wellington Street. Before applying to the internship with NCCAR, I was somewhat resigned to the fact that seeing politics happen on the Hill would require experience in the public galleries of the House of Commons, rather than in the office of an MP. As a result of this internship, I have had the chance to try this work first hand and have decided without doubt that work on the Hill is unequivocally ideal for me, and worth pursuing post graduation. For any students seeking to better understand life in politics firsthand, I would highly recommend applying to this internship.
Thank you to all of those at NCCAR and those in the office of Isabelle Morin for making this possible.