My first month in the office of Marco Mendicino, MP for Eglinton-Lawrence and Ontario Caucus Chair, has been a bit of a blur; a series of flashpoints, of new faces, new places, new ideas, and a new perspective on what it takes to meaningfully contribute to public life. By way of metaphor, I arrived on Parliament Hill as a new born. Granted, I could walk, talk, and did not need to be spoon fed (all of the time, that is). Even still, in many ways, my first days on the Hill resembled an infant’s first days in a new and exciting – albeit somewhat strange – world. To start, I was immediately shocked by the amount of foreign terminology and acronyms that were part of the Parliamentary vocabulary: PMO, PCO, FMO, PS, QP, LRB, SECU, FINA … you get the idea. In that vein, even though I am somewhat fluent in English, I found myself quickly learning an entirely new language. Fortunately, after a week or so I started to sound less like a bumbling baby while talking to my colleagues and more like a young toddler. It is the small victories that are the sweetest, right?
Armed with my newly acquired Parliamentary vocabulary, it was time to learn how to walk. To my dismay, I quickly learned that the Hill was not padded with the stuff they use on playgrounds. I also quickly learned that tourists will laugh and take pictures of you if you fall up the stairs of Centre Block more than once in a matter of seconds. Anyhow, notwithstanding a few embarrassing slips and falls, I was on my way to becoming a fairly competent toddler on the Hill. Among other things, I had the pleasure of shadowing Marco for a day, where I attended a flag-raising ceremony and got a front row seat to the action in the Government Lobby during Question Period. Beyond shadowing Marco, I also had the opportunity to attend committee meetings, legislative briefings, and learn the ins and outs of the office. Together, these experiences helped me make the transition from stumbling toddler to wide-eyed day schooler.
Life as a “big kid” on the Hill was pretty amazing. To start, I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon at the CBC, where I met one of my heroes, Rosemary Barton. Some kids are comic book nerds; this one is a Political Science nerd. What is more, I had the pleasure of going to the Travers Debates, along with a number of other wonderful events. Finally, I began training on “The Hill” Swim Team with MPs from all parties.
My visit to Toronto, where Marco’s constituency is located, marked the end of my childhood and the beginning of my teenage hood. And like any teenager who also happens to be a politics nerd, after three weeks on the job I was ready to fly the Parliamentary nest and see how politics worked at the grassroots level. The time that I spent in Toronto was stunning. Firstly, I had the opportunity to meet Finance Minister, Bill Morneau for the second time in a matter of days, as well as get to know several people from the local riding association. Next, I got to see, first hand, the local dimension of politics. This new perspective was especially valuable not only because it demonstrated to me just how deeply our politicians care about their constituents, but it also reminded me of the power that engaged citizens have in our democracy. Lastly, my visit to Marco’s constituency was special because it connected me with his first rate constituency staff – a group of people who work tirelessly to serve their communities.
All in all my childhood and early teenage hood on the Hill has been enlightening, engaging, fascinating, terrifying, humbling, and a vast slew of other adjectives. Indeed, growing up can be tough from time to time. Fortunately, the Hill was far less daunting than it otherwise could have been, in large part thanks to all of the fantastic people who I have had the pleasure to work with over the past four weeks. With that, I cannot wait to see what the lies in store for the rest of my teenage hood… here’s to hoping that I hit my growth spurt soon.