Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Martha!

Today Martha celebrated her 5oth Birthday and she was so excited to tell everyone about it! What a great attitude.

Happy Birthday Martha!

Time with Martha

This week was SO enjoyable. Martha was in Ottawa for the week and we got to spend some quality time together. One of the highlights of the week happened after-hours. Martha, Anne-Sophie, and I headed to Hyes Steakhouse, which is 'the' Ottawa political institution for politicians to shoot the breeze after Wednesday's Question Period. We sat on the patio and had dinner and ended up closing the place down after midnight. But more importantly, we solved the problems of the world - or at least we got to the meat of the underrepresentation of women in politics in Canada (well - we had a colourful conversation trying to get to the meat of it!!). By the end of the evening, we both felt like we have come such a far way in the development of the women and politics book. It's really coming together and we both feel great about the work we've done this summer. It will be such an amazing feeling when the book is finally done.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Interviews interviews interviews

I have been having such a fun time with these book interviews. I am talking to politicians and journalists....all really interesting Canadians. A highlight was talking to "Right Honorable" Paul Martin yesterday. He has such a laid back and fun demeanor. Very easy to talk to, and he had a lot of interesting thoughts about women and politics. This afternoon I talked with Minister Peter MacKay (Canada's Minister of Defense) - who was surprisingly soft spoken and very thoughtful about the topic. The interviews are focusing on the personal - stories and anecdotes from their years in office or on a beat - and its proving to be really fun to hear.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Let the interviews begin

The work on the women and politics book is getting really interesting. This week, both Martha and I travelled to the wild west to Alberta (my homeland - yes, I admit it!). Martha first journeyed to Edmonton to meet and speak with Liberals there (see, not all Albertans lean to the right), and then she was off to a ranch in the foothills for a few days of riding. In between, Martha and I met for a marathon working lunch (just about 4 hours worth) to talk about the progress of the book. Martha has created a list of ~20+ politicians and members of the media, both men and women, for me to interview over the next few weeks regarding their views on women and politics - why do they think we are under-represented, and what can we do as a nation to change that? We want to get to the bottom of the assumptions about women and politics, and then posit some ideas about the realities of these assumptions, as well as the barriers to women's greater political involvement. On the list are former Prime Ministers, current cabinet members, and some really well-respected journalists....Martha has been exceptionally cool about giving me free reign to just call up these people and arrange meetings or phone chats. My favorite quote of the week:

Me: "But Martha, can I really just call up Paul Martin for a chat??"
Martha: "Of course you can....this is Canada - we're like that here - oh, and he'll just call you back if he's busy."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Iggy and others

I keep meaning to post some pics from the last few weeks so stay tuned for that. This morning I took in the changing of the guards ceremony on Parliament Hill before work, but the weather was really gloomy, so I am going to return on a sunny day to snap some pics.

So, last week I went to a Liberal staff meeting in West Block along with Elizabeth (a long-term intern in the office studying at U of O) and Anne-Sophie (the wondrous woman who knows it all and is helping me with my French). Apparently the party has these meetings every month or so for Liberal Hill staff to come together as a party and exchange ideas. This meeting, unlike most, had the added bonus of Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the Liberals. Iggy, as he is affectionately referred to in Canada, was a professor at Harvard Kennedy School for years, and I actually sat in on his class in Human Rights while I was a student at Harvard Divinity School. Anyway, Dean McCarthy from the Kennedy School told me to find Iggy and pass on a message for him - and I was hoping to run into him at some point this summer.

My office and I arrived to the Liberal meeting just before the doors closed, and standing right there was Ignatieff. So, naturally I had to carpe diem, and I walked up to him and introduced myself and we had a little chat for a couple of minutes. Fewph, now I can cross that off my if I could just get started on this book for Martha!!

Speaking of the book, I am working on gathering research and putting together a template for a book that Martha is planning on writing on women and politics in Canada. It`s so perfectly suited to the Oval Office program that it`s a really exciting undertaking. Basically, Martha wants to draw attention to the lack of women in Parliament, as well as deconstruct many of the widely held assumptions on why there are`t enough women in Canadian politics. I think what will make this book different and interesting is the personal perspective that Martha brings, along with the anecdotes and tales of her experience running and winning and working as a Member of Parliament. Better get back to that!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Toronto, amazing Toronto

I spent the last week working in Martha`s constituency office in Willowdale, north of Toronto. What a totally different vibe compared to her Ottawa office - the office was abuzz dealing with constituent calls or drop-in visitors; trying to help people navigate the challenges of Canadian immigration; planning for upcoming fundraising events...the work seemingly never stops! And I was fortunate enough to be at the center of it all, working from Martha`s desk, generally trying to help out and not be in anyone`s way. There were also a crew of volunteers at the office, most of whom were University students out for the summer looking to get involved with Martha`s work.

A big shout out to Michele, Carole, and Lily - the heart of the office - who were all so helpful in answering my endless questions and in keeping me laughing the entire time. And of course to Martha herself for allowing me to get in the middle of it all.

My favorite part of the week was planning for a large fundraising event, planned for August, which will spotlight Michael Ignatieff. As my friends know, I love event planning, and I soon realized that fundraisers are basically big parties - right up my alley. Carole, Puneet, and I toured a number of venues around Toronto looking for the perfect vibe...we think we settled on one, but a few details still need to be ironed out. Then the biggest trick is marketing and attracting the target audience to come and shell out the big bucks! Hopefully with both Martha and Iggy in the room, the event will attract Liberal supporters quite easily. I wish I had more connections in Toronto - I realized that I really don`t know too many people there...but anyone out there reading this that is interested in getting some face time with Iggy and Martha, let me know!

I also think I would love to work on a campaign. I saw pics of the Willowdale crew campaigning and partying (ummm, working diligently I mean) at the Liberal convention in Vancouver and it looked amazing. Carole was telling me about campaigning and her eyes would light up...sounds like completely hectic work, but utterly satisfying too.

Overall, the week at the constituency office provided me am neat glimpse into another side of political life in Canada. Now I`m back in Ottawa working on some Treasury Board related work for Martha, which is pretty well aligned with my finance background. Have also started on researching for a book Martha would like to write about women in Canadian politics. WHoo hoo!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More on Women and Politics in Canada

I'm not sure why there is a fair bit on the airways right now about women in Canadian politics - but it's great there's a growing dialogue happening.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oh Canada!

It's been a rather hectic last few weeks - finishing up my Fellowship at Harvard and preparing, and then coming to Ottawa to begin my summer working with Member of Parliament, Martha Hall Findlay. But alas, I am here and am thrilled to be so!

My first memorable moment was walking up the rather daunting steps of the Confederation Building on Parliament Hill, which houses Martha's office. I remember doing a tour of Parliament Hill the first time I visited Ottawa, in 1991, as a representative of Alberta Safety Patrollers (ha!), during which I clearly remember standing on the steps of "Center Block" (the main building on the Hill), thinking how amazing it would be to work inside these hallowed walls. So, it was really a thrill for me as I approached the building last week to start my internship.

I will be working with a great team of other young and politically-interested Canadians. Anne-Sophie is the office manager and has an impressive resume of working in Quebec and Ottawa as a policy advisor. Puneet is a lawyer from Toronto who gave up his legal ways to try out policy making for Martha. Then there is Elizabeth , a political science student at the University of Ottawa, and of course, Martha - a lawyer, turned business woman, turned national leader.

The office is as I had imagined it would be - an impressive view onto the Hill, rather scrunched staffers with desks covered with too many things to do, CBC (the national public news station) on the TV around the clock, and a regular ring of telephones keeping everyone rather busy.

I am working on a few of projects for Martha and the team - will fill in the details here once I get into the meat of things. After an exciting start, I am now off to Toronto to spend a week in Martha's constituency office in Willowdale! Very excited. The team thought it was important to give me the experience to work with both the constituent-side of things in Toronto, as well as the more policy-related side of things in Ottawa. Can't wait - am leaving tonight for a 5-hour drive to the big T.O.!