By: George Philp
With a background in environmental policy and a keen interest in Canadian politics, I was so excited to begin the 2019-2020 GreenPAC Parliamentary Internship for the Environment. I was eager to learn more about the Canadian parliamentary system, work alongside environmental political leaders, and help raise the profile of the environment at the ballot box.
In the lead up to the 2019 federal election, the interns helped coordinate and lead GreenPAC’s 100 Debates on the Environment initiative. Thanks to the dedication of GreenPAC staff, interns, and local debate organizers, we managed to host over 100 non-partisan, local candidates debates entirely focused on the environment. More than 15,000 Canadians attended debates from coast to coast to hear from the over 300 candidates who participated. As an intern, I had the opportunity to work with local debate organizers, engage in social media promotions for the initiative, and learn first hand how to successfully organize national environmental campaigns.
Another personal highlight for me was the 5-day internship camping retreat at Gatineau Park. During the retreat, the interns met with Canadian environmental leaders, including former Canadian Environmental Commissioner Julie Gelfand, learned about what to expect from the internship, and took part in leadership and professional development exercises. I also had the opportunity to get to know my fellow interns and GreenPAC staff members while appreciating the natural beauty of the capital region.
What are we up to now? Since the election, interns have been engaged in a dynamic research project focused on understanding the opportunities for and barriers to environmental leadership within the House of Commons. To do this, we are collating every bill during the 42nd Parliament that had a major focus on the environment and examining what factors led to the passing, or lack thereof, of the environmental legislation. The project also includes interviews with past and present MPs endorsed by GreenPAC to better understand the challenges individual MPs face in bringing environmental solutions into fruition while in office. This research aligns well with GreenPAC’s mission of promoting environmental leadership within the House of Commons and with my own interests in environmental politics. What I’ve taken away from this project is a heightened understanding of parliamentary procedure and the realities of MPs’ responsibilities.
So far, the internship has offered a unique and flexible learning opportunity, and living at the nucleus of Canadian politics in Ottawa has been an exciting experience. I am looking forward to meeting with more environmental champions and advancing my knowledge of Canadian politics in 2020!