After the Toronto Maple Leafs, it is probably safe to say that our politicians stand out as the biggest magnets for criticism in Canada. In many ways, this fact should be welcomed; criticism is an indicator of a healthy and flourishing democracy.
That said, it is also relatively easy for one to sit at home, (maybe) watch the nightly news, and fire off a few salvo’s of negativity across Twitter. For many, this is the full extent of their engagement with Canadian politics. Unfortunately, such rabid partisanship and polarization has had the additional effect of turning many of our generation away from Canadian politics altogether. While discouraging, this fact only underscores the need for young Canadians to come forward and engage with these issues head-on.
I have always found it helpful to imagine civic engagement as if it were on a spectrum. At the low end, we could place the armchair cynic – heavy on negativity and light on substance. At the other end of the spectrum, however, we could find the political internship. For a young person who is passionate about Canadian politics and wants to make a difference, it is this end of the spectrum that holds the greatest appeal. And, as far as internships goes, none can come even close to the Jaimie Anderson Parliamentary Internship.
Being a Jaimie’s Intern myself, I acknowledge that my views may be seen as somewhat biased. This point is irrelevant, I think, because the facts can speak for themselves – and they do.
My time as a Jaimie’s Intern was one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. From the very first day, I hit the ground running. Unlike other bloated and unwieldy internships, I was one of only three interns in the entire program in 2014. Moreover, I had the good fortune of being paired with an incredibly experienced Member of Parliament in Scott Brison, and from the first day, I was expected to both integrate into his team and contribute.
I came to understand that, as a Jaimie’s Intern, you are looked at differently. The honour of bearing the title comes with heightened expectations. I know I can speak for our entire cohort when I say this that this realization acted as a driving force; constantly pushing us to work harder and harder throughout the duration of the summer. And while the work was difficult, it was also unquestionably rewarding.
All of the Question Period and Committee work aside, I think it’s also important to highlight how much fun the internship is. Its inherently small size leaves you feeling less like you’re a part of a program and more like you’re a part of a family. Without question, the “impromptu dinners” – almost an institution of the JAPI – were home to some of my favorite memories. It was here, around one kitchen table or another, with the Clandersons and/or a variety of journalists, professionals, and civil servants, that the real magic of the internship can be found; where the barriers and boundaries of a conventional office meeting are broken down and real relationships are forged.
I could go on at length, but I will stop here. The Jaimie Anderson Parliamentary Internship broadened my horizons, exposed me to different perspectives, and forced me to ask myself difficult questions. Most importantly, it made me excited for both the future of our country and the role that I could play within it.
I am equally excited for the next group of interns, who will have the opportunity to continue building upon Jaimie’s inspiring legacy.