Arriving in Ottawa fresh out of exams, I had little time to process what a profoundly exciting time it is to be working on Parliament Hill. From my first day in the office of Andrew Cash, Member of Parliament for Davenport, I got the sense that this would not be an ordinary summer in Canadian politics – if any such thing exists.
The period before any election is one of intensification as the eyes of Canadians train on Parliament. This year, however, something more is at play; with polls reporting statistical ties and unprecedented provincial election results, it has become very clear that there are three genuine contenders to form government for our 42nd Parliament. There is no room for arrogance in a race is this close, and I’ve seen firsthand that no move in the House can be made without political calculation.
I’m learning that every issue is framed above anything else as an election issue. At the closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an occasion for truth-telling, survival, and catharsis, gazes shifted from survivors to party leaders as human experiences were transformed into platform issues. In the House of Commons, strategy reigns supreme. I attended committee meetings that were an exercise in striking the elusive balance between policy and politics. Unfortunately, the latter often wins out.
Thankfully, there has been much cause for optimism. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many Members of Parliament who work incredibly hard with the common goal of improving Canada, whatever their vision for our country may be. With grueling travel schedules, they must navigate the Ottawa-Constituency divide, juggling responsibilities on the Hill and in their communities. This is particularly true in Andrew’s case; in addition to having a family with young children, he is very present in his community (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a calendar fuller than his). At the same time, he has been extraordinarily busy in Ottawa and I’ve had the good fortune of being part of the action.
Over the course of the last month, Andrew and his energetic office have jumped tirelessly between projects. When I arrived, his private member’s bill on precarious work was debated at second reading. After having helped prepare House notes, I was able to watch the debate from the gallery – a step up from CPAC on my laptop. As the Budget Implementation Act was rolled out, I took part in analyzing the protections that it included for unpaid interns, witnessed the party angle take shape as the media began to pick up the issue, sat in on consultations with stakeholders and the drafting of amendments, and attended committee meetings. Finally, I saw a barrage of media requests come in after Andrew’s successful Opposition Day motion to ban pay-to-pay fees. The issues of precarious work and pay-to-pay fees in particular were taken on by Andrew after hearing from his constituents. In this sense, his parliamentary work in these areas bridges the gap between Ottawa and his riding.
Being invited into the fast-paced world of Canadian politics at peak action time is an incredible privilege. From run-ins with our Prime Minister in the hallway on my way to Question Period to attending a taping of Power & Politics, I’ve truly been afforded an inside look into some of the major arteries of our democracy. After having met Tom Clark, Chris Hall, Rosemary Barton, Evan Solomon, and their fabulous teams, I’ve been able to appreciate that many of the friends and supporters of the Jaimie Anderson Parliamentary Internship are people who I rely on daily to make Ottawa accessible to me. I cannot overstate how exciting it is to be given a front-row seat. With three months left, I look forward to visiting Davenport to see the other side of Andrew’s duties as an MP, and to see what else the Andersons have in store for us. If the first month was any indication, we are in for a treat.