It started with a whirlwind. My journey from Sackville, a town of five thousand, to the (relatively speaking) big city was nothing if not the beginning of one incredible, hectic, once-in-a-lifetime journey. I left on a Monday and, foolishly, had agreed to start work on Wednesday. Suffice it to say that things were a bit overwhelming for the first week or so.
I started working for Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley in northwestern British Columbia and House Leader for the Official Opposition and soon discovered the sheer volume of work that takes place behind the scenes in Ottawa. Having spent the past five years as a big fish in a very small pond in New Brunswick, the opportunity to become a part of such a dedicated, hardworking group of people on the Hill has been truly humbling.
Most inspiringly, the opportunity to intern in Nathan’s office has so clearly disproven the fallacy of disengagement that seems to get perpetuated among young people. All too often as a twenty-something and a student politician, I would hear from my peers about how politicians are all the same and nothing ever changes. But when I open my inbox each day and witness hundreds of emails from constituents from Skeena-Bulkley Valley thanking Nathan for helping them with a local issue, commending him for his work in the House of Commons, or sharing their opinion through an email or a petition, I get to truly see politics in action. It continues to astound me that Nathan can put in all the hours he does here in Ottawa, regularly travel back to his riding, continue to travel from community to community while there, and seemingly never run out of energy.
Not only is Nathan somewhat of an endurance machine, he is truly a visionary leader. He speaks with passion on every issue and commits himself wholly to improving his community and country. I’ve had the pleasure to work on his project to improve decorum in the House of Commons, assist with communications with his constituents, research and provide briefs on local and national issues, and take on a diversity of projects all the time – truly, no two days are the same. The amount of learning I’ve been able to do is astounding: from House procedure and Question Period preparation to local resource development and First Nations issues, the role offers exposure to a breadth of opportunities to learn about our diverse country and its people.
Likely the greatest appreciation I’ve gained is for the unsung heroes of Canada’s political arena: the political staffers. These people work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure our representatives can perform to the best of their ability in order to do the work they need to improve the lives of Canadians. While they may go unseen, every bill before the House and every question in Question Period is the result of hours of research and vetting by party and Hill staff. Their dedication to their parties and to Canada as a whole is worthy of so much appreciation; they truly, if you’ll forgive the geographically and astronomically incorrect analogy, make this country go round.
As I enter the latter half of the summer, I know that the skills I’ve gained or honed in this role – community outreach, research, political communications, and the list goes on – will help me in any future endeavors. While I will soon be carrying these skills and the knowledge I’ve gained to a new chapter in my journey, I am glad that I still have two months to look forward to in this exciting, dynamic, and (relatively speaking) much larger pond.