From March 20-24, 2017, Sandra Dueck had the opportunity to be the first policy intern from the Chamber network to spend a week with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce policy team. She survived. This is her story.
Driving down Highway 7 to Ottawa recently I had a solid three hours to visualize what my week as a policy intern with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) would be like. And in all honesty, it went as I envisioned it - a high energy week in the bubble of federal politics. It was a flurry of meetings, including joining my counterparts at the Sault Ste. Marie, Hamilton and Windsor chambers to support them during their presentation to the International Trade Standing Committee. I also participated with those chambers in meetings with a BC MP and the Ontario Regional Policy Advisor to the Minister Responsible for Small Business. A breakfast session presented by IPolitics called Troubled Waters: Clean Water for First Nation Communities? was an eye-opening, frank and important conversation on the politics, need and desire to find solutions. I had the opportunity to dine in the Parliamentary Dining room; tour the Ottawa office of my local MP, Maryam Monsef, Minister Status of Women; attend an event at the newly constructed Ottawa Innovation Centre; conduct one-on-one meetings with the policy team; and, during the weekly policy staff meeting inform them about the issues facing Peterborough.
However, the anchor event of the week was the federal budget on Wednesday, March 22nd. I had never been to a budget lockup before and the thought of surrendering my phone and all connection to the outside world for six hours was a bit daunting; but in the end, the six hours flew by. I learned budget reading tricks of the trade from Hendrik Brakel, Senior Director Economic, Finance & Tax Policy for the CCC and watched how he broke it down, got a feel for the overall direction and wrote the budget analysis for the CCC President & CEO Perrin Beatty and the Chamber Network. I was honoured to have written the rough draft of the skills section of the report and help find those nuggets that would interest the Chamber Network on our post-budget call later that evening. By the time it was approaching 4:00pm my copy of the budget had been thoroughly thumbed through, bent and highlighted, and we were ready to burst back into the world to get the details to the Canadian Chamber media team. But in true Ottawa fashion, politics waits for no budget and our exit from lockup was delayed by filibustering by the opposition. The masses of economists (there were two full rooms) were held off for an extra 30 minutes waiting, testing out talking points and itching to leap out the doors as soon as word came that the Finance Minister had tabled the budget in the House of Commons. I should add that an amazing amount of preparation goes into being ready for the budget by the policy team. The six other policy analysts feed Hendrik with what they anticipate seeing in the budget with regards to their area of specialty and then after the lockup it’s a highly coordinated effort to connect with the Network via conference call and the media through the President & CEO.
The week wrapped up with a debrief breakfast and the bubble of federal politics intact; though the filibustering, that continues even as I write this, added another layer of political intrigue to my experience.
The intern program was invaluable for me as the policy analyst of a local chamber of commerce. To have access to and build familiarity with the CCC policy staff only serves to help me help our members. To the policy team - thank you and don’t worry, I’ll be in touch. Thank you to Senior Vice President of Policy Warren Everson for being out of town and lending me your office for the week;) and to Brighid Meldrum and Jennifer Hagen, thank you for making the week easy to navigate.