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Julian Hasleby – Oh Canada | Week 12

Julian Hasleby, 27 February 2017

On Sunday Mannkal interns from across Canada came together in the nation’s capital of Ottawa to participate in the Ottawa Enrichment Program and the Manning Centre Conference.

The scholars met with Mannkal Director Andrew Pickford to discuss our experiences at the various think tanks where we were based and to consider the challenges faced of implementing policy in both countries.

The discussion on policy implementation and how Australia and Canada could further cooperate in the future continued at the Australian High Commission with a senior policy officer and the Deputy High-Commissioner.

Australian Government departments communicate regularly with their Canadian counterparts, and we heard that the role of the High Commission is reduced as diplomats would usually facilitate these types of interactions in other countries.

We were lucky enough to have lunch with Tom Kmiec (Member of Parliament for Calgary Shepard) who had an extremely impressive knowledge of defence policy not only in Canada but also Australia. We were told that Canada surprisingly has attempted to model and implement some Australian policies including the deregulation of our agricultural industry (which still has a long way to progress) and the 457 skilled immigration policy.

This included sending teams of experts to our country to study the programs.

The Canadian Department of Finance hosted a roundtable discussion on Tuesday afternoon where the guest speaker was Andrew Pickford. The topic of discussion was “China’s Grand Strategy and Energy: Markets, Infrastructure and Global Ambitions” which provided a lively debate.

Apart from government employees, there were experts from think tanks in Canada and the United States and financial analysts. Andrew’s knowledge was very impressive as was the ease in which he was able to apply detailed energy policy and economic concepts to the Western Australian and Canadian contexts.

Attending question period at the Canadian Parliament has been a highlight of the time spent in Ottawa for myself and the other interns. Because of bilingualism sitting in the public gallery required the use of a small speaker which provided translations of parliamentarians who chose to speak in French.

It was interesting to see that Canadian politicians were even worse than Australian MPs at completely failing to answer any questions they were asked and was surprising to see that after answering four opposition questions, Justin Trudeau played on his phone for the remaining portion of question period.

The Atlas Network provided exceptional media training which also had practical advice for everyday debates and how small changes can improve your image in the press, but also in the workplace. Following the Atlas training, the Manning Centre hosted a variety of different speakers who were experts in running political campaigns not only in Canada but also the United States and Australia.

I found the continuing importance of mail surprising, when combined with online targeting and emails the development of how election campaigns are run has changed rapidly in the last few years.

I’m most looking forward to the Canadian Conservative Party Leadership debate hosted at the Conference on Saturday. Fourteen different candidates will discuss various topics from reducing the deficit to the carbon tax to vie for new party members who are crucial in the vote which will take place later this year in the build up to the 2019 federal election.

The candidate I find most interesting is Kevin O’Leary who many people will know as ‘Mr Wonderful’ from the American television series Shark Tank. O’Leary is labelled as Donald Trump light, although he’s currently leading in polling prepared by national newspapers, so it will be interesting to see if Canada will be captivated by the sweeping change that saw Trump elected south of the border.

As the interns rapidly approach their last week of our internships, there is a mix of emotions as we say goodbye to colleagues, new friends and a country that has been our home for the past three months. I’m sincerely thankful to Ron Manners and Mannkal for the opportunity to gain skills that will benefit my final studies, future career and the independence, resilience and confidence I’ve gained as a person during this experience.

We’ve had our beliefs challenged and have been able to challenge others. I thoroughly look forward to being able to put our new skills to use on our return to Australia, especially as our generation seeks to reduce government debt, red tape and interference in our personal lives.

Julian Hasleby – The Last Week | Week 11

Julian Hasleby, 21 February 2017

I spent the weekend in Vancouver with fellow intern Gavin. On Friday night one of his colleagues from the Fraser Institute was playing in a grunge rock band, which we went to see. I was impressed at the level of musical talent for someone who also works day to day at a think tank.

We woke early on Saturday morning to take the ferry across to Vancouver Island, on the way meeting up with another Australian (Michael) who would travel with us. Victoria is the largest city on Vancouver Island and is also the capital of British Columbia. We visited the Royal BC Museum, the gardens of the provincial legislature and an obligatory pub or two.

The highlight of the trip for me was during a much-needed visit to a café on Sunday morning; I was approached by a woman who had overheard me talking and wanted to compliment me on my ‘beautiful Scottish accent’.  That was certainly a first!

Preston Manning generously gave me tickets to the Western Hockey League match between the Calgary Hitmen and the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday night, which will certainly end my time in Calgary with an authentic Canadian experience.

Preston told me that this match would be rougher than his grandson’s game I attended with him. It will be interesting to watch hockey at a provincial level, especially since it’s so different to many of the sports we would usually see back in Australia.

In the office, we’re on the final drive for recruiting attendees for the Manning Centre Conference next week. Using different software including Nation Builder provides us with a wealth of information about people who’ve attended conferences or events in the past and allows us to contact them with special promotions.

On Tuesday, we had the final planning meeting for the conference, and I’m thoroughly impressed at how much has been achieved since I’ve been in the office, especially when any obstacles were placed in the way.

Friday will be the last day at the Manning Centre and with some sadness concludes my time in Calgary. To celebrate my last day, I will plan to bring a cake to share with the office after my mother’s insistence.

Finishing Work at the Manning Centre

I’m incredibly grateful to Mannkal for sending me to Calgary and to the Manning Centre for hosting me. On Sunday, all Manning interns based in Canada will travel to Ottawa for the Manning Conference and for an enrichment seminar organised by Mannkal for which I’m extremely excited.

Julian Hasleby – Protests and Niagra Falls | Week 10

Julian Hasleby, 13 February 2017

I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Toronto staying with a friend from high school who has resided in Ontario for seven years now. While in Toronto it was suggested that I attend the Generation Screwed Conference where a colleague was speaking.

Generation Screwed is a university campus advocacy group which unites college students who are concerned about Canada’s reckless government spending and how this will impact their future.

The conference provided an opportunity to meet James (a Mannkal intern based in Ottawa) who is interning at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the group who support Generation Screwed.

I also managed to fit in a trip to Niagra Falls and Lake Ontario, one of The Great Lakes, which could easily be mistaken for an ocean!

Niagra Cityscape

Niagra Falls

Julian at the Falls

Lake Ontario

For those who are unaware of who Jordan Petersen is, he is a distinguished professor of psychology at Toronto University and has previously lectured at Harvard University. He came to prominence due to his opposition to political correctness.

This has caused Petersen to become a target of left-wing students and activists. His criticism of  Bill C-16 has caused considerable controversy. C-16 seeks to add gender identity or expression as a prohibited ground of discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Charter and to make some amendments to the Criminal Code.

Professor Peterson argues that these proposed legislative changes with effectively make it a criminal offence to misgender someone who identifies as trans. There are compelling arguments which claim that this will not be the case; however, I believe any legislation which could threaten freedom of speech should be considered very carefully.

Jordan Petersen at The University of Toronto

One of Jordan Peterson’s remarks stood out for me: “when people say that there’s been no real Marxist or Communist country what they mean is that if they were in power, everything would be good.” For me, this very accurately summarised the logic of the modern far-left.

I arrived just before 9 am for the conference and was surprised by the strong police presence. As the end of the day approached some protesters who had been standing outside the United State Consulate to demonstrate their displeasure with Donald Trump had arrived outside our lecture theatre to protest the conference.

I’m unsure how a group which advocates prudent government spending on behalf of our generation can be labelled as fascist, but we were. The police assembled managed to hold the protesters back for some time; unfortunately, they were outnumbered. The auditorium was locked, and the conference continued until a left-wing activists pulled the fire alarm. Police reinforcements were called in and formed a wall so that the attendees could safely leave.

A disappointing end to an otherwise fantastic day. I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony that a group of people chanting ‘down with fascism’ were the very same individuals who prevented the final conference session of the day and restricted our access to free speech.

In the office, I continued work on a project based on the upcoming municipal election and on another that focuses on reviewing the methodology used for research. The highlight of the week was presenting a research project I’d been working to Preston, the founder of the Manning Centre.

The project focused the changes to the Alberta electoral financing laws and the roll that PACs would play in the next provincial election and how similar laws had affected elections in other provinces.

Julian Hasleby – Shooting Through Regulation | Week 9

Julian Hasleby, 6 February 2017

The week began with a sharp drop in temperature, which also coincided with a palpable increase in the ferocity of provincial politics. As it reaches the stage where the merger between the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose political parties appears to be a foregone conclusion the Alberta government and others on the left are increasing their attacks as their polling plummets and the second term in government they envisaged grows more unlikely by the day.

I continued research into the policy implications of the changes to the electoral laws in Alberta and the effects this will have on public policy development. This province now has some of the strictest legislation in the country, with a maximum of 60c per constituent allowed to be spent after the electoral writs are issued during an election year.

This development means that PACs are now vital to elections and alongside unions will provide the NDP with a fierce and well-resourced infrastructure to promote their leftist agenda. Ontario has similar restrictions on political donations and has for some time. During their 2014 provincial elections unions spent $18 million, which was more than every political party combined. It would be naïve to assume as many do that the supporters of free markets and reduced red-tape will always be the best resourced. Convincing the public that less government is in their best interest is the most challenging aspect of campaigns.

The founder of the Manning Centre kindly took me to watch his grandson’s hockey game on Tuesday evening. The speed at which one can move on ice with skates is very impressive and is almost overwhelmingly so when I compare it to the days when I used to play field hockey. I endeavor to visit a Calgary Flames game while I’m still in Alberta. A junior game had plenty of excitement, but seeing it at the professional level will be a real treat.

The Hockey Game at WinSports Calgary

Over the weekend I was taken shooting by a colleague at a private range west of the city. This was a new experience for me and was thoroughly enjoyable. Being the first time I’d shot a gun, it gave me a more informed perspective in the debate back in Australia around gun ownership laws and whether they need to be strengthened, maintained or relaxed.

I’m now confident that guns are as safe as any other weapon or tool if used correctly and that the current process for obtaining one is unnecessarily onerous. If a person is of suitable mental health, has an unblemished criminal record and is assessed on appropriate safety techniques, there isn’t a reason to continue the culture of fear many Australians have regarding firearms.

We frequently hear that Australia has turned into a ‘nanny state’, yet when countries such as Canada (which are widely regarded as more progressive than Australia) have less regulation and restriction on guns, tobacco, alcohol and medicinal marijuana, our country has more progress to make in reducing restrictions and allowing people to make more decisions for themselves.

From My Cold, Dead Hands

The Shooting Range and It's Surroundings

Julian Hasleby – A Wildrose in Edmonton | Week 8

Julian Hasleby, 30 January 2017

Edmonton is the Provincial capital of Alberta which sits 3 hours north of Calgary. As part of a continuation of the Manning Centre’s political engagement events, I travelled there on Tuesday afternoon to assist my colleagues in advising Millennials on the different ways in which they can become involved politically. This province never ceases to amaze me. Only a few hours from Calgary and political opinions vary significantly.

As the regional capital, Edmonton houses a large public sector workforce, along with many blue collar workers involved in oil extraction farther north of the city. Politically Edmontonians are more progressive than their southern counterparts, in fact, every seat from Edmonton in the provincial legislature is held by far left New Democratic Party (NDP). At the Manning Centre’s event, there was no interest in reducing taxes or government debt, which are both areas of keen interest at the three evenings hosted in Calgary.

Manning Centre Event

Before the event, I had time to take a tour of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Constructed in 1909, the fourth floor of the building houses 20 Australian palm trees, which was a pleasant surprise so close to Australia Day. It was particularly interesting to discover that all Canadian provincial legislatures are unicameral. When a political party wins a majority, this is significant compared to Western Australia where we have a Legislative Council.

State Legislature Building

Legislative Assembly

Many of my colleagues joined me in the spirit of Australia Day, with one bringing Tim Tams and a boomerang. Another co-worker photoshopped my face onto Crocodile Dundee. I hung the flag in the office for the day, which received a lot of compliments; however, nobody was game enough to try the Vegemite I brought with me! I was treated to teppanyaki at lunch, which was close enough to a barbeque to celebrate our national day.

Julian Dundee

Australia Day at The Manning Centre

On Thursday evening, I attended an event at the Petroleum Club hosted by MLA Derek Filderbrandt ‘Alberta’s Conservative Future’. Filderbrandt represents the Wildrose Party, who are currently in negotiations to merge with another provincial Conservative party (The Progressive Conservatives).

Polling done by the Manning Centre demonstrates that the majority of both parties’ membership supports the merger and in the state legislature both vote together 90% of the time. Due to the first past the post voting system, two Conservative parties competing hands votes to the NDP. Currently, 100,000 people in Calgary are out of work, and strong opposition to the far left government’s policies of increased tax and regulation are essential now more than ever.

Julian Hasleby – Melting Ice & Strategic Planning | Week 7

Julian Hasleby, 23 January 2017

Ensuring that our generation is actively involved in politics is a challenge faced in Western countries around the world. This is especially in the face of an apathetic attitude that no matter who one votes for, we never seen any change. This week the Manning Centre hosted a series of evening workshops where young professionals who haven’t previously been involved in politics or policy work could attend and learn about how they could become involved. Everything from the simple step of having conversations with their friends all the way to running as a candidate in an election was discussed. The most impressive aspect of attending these events is how well they’re kept apolitical. Many of the attendees would be more likely to identify as Conservative, yet it was acknowledged that being actively engaged in politics on any level or any party is better than leaving the decisions to the baby boomer generation. For all the faults of Justin Trudeau, one of the event’s speakers acknowledged the significance that Trudeau is Canada’s youngest Prime Minister, while the United States has just elected their oldest president.

Preparing for the Evening Political Workshops

My work this week has been focused on strategic planning for the Manning Centre’s research for 2017. The Go To Think Tank Index published by the University of Pennsylvania, rates the performance of hundreds of think tanks according to a wide variety of criteria. This report has provided inspiration for good research and methodological practices which we will use to help inform our plans for the coming year. I have also been conducting research into the influence of Political Action Committees (PACs) in Alberta. New provincial rules limit individual campaign contributions to $4000 and corporate donations are now completely banned, which has led to a new focus on the role of PACs. How this change in funding rules will affect policy development is still not yet clear. Calgary has seen warmer weather this week, and I have significantly reduced the number of layers worn whenever I venture outside. This weather has been caused by what Calgarians call a Chinook. Warm wind flows from the ocean over The Rockies and melts snow and ice. During the winter months, a Chinook is a godsend; however, it has prevented a work colleague from taking me ice skating on a nearby frozen lake for the time being.

Warmer City Views

Julian Hasleby – A Supreme Visit to Toronto| Week 6

Julian Hasleby, 16 January 2017

After arriving in Toronto mid-afternoon on Friday, we checked into our hotel and then proceeded to the beautiful Toronto University campus for the commencement of the Canadian Constitution Foundation’s Law and Freedom Conference.

The Manning Centre (in conjunction with former intern Portia Proctor) presented Court Tracker, the culmination of over a year in research on the past sixteen years of the Canadian Supreme Court. It focuses on how often justices ruled in the same way, voting blocs and under which administration that justice was appointed.

Julian & Georgina at CCF Conference

Court Tracker was the first project of its kind in Canada and understandably received an extremely positive reaction from the audience at the Conference. In the United States, the sort of analysis of data undertaken for the report is commonplace, as most people are aware appointments to the US Supreme Court are partisan and can have a significant role in shaping policy.

In Commonwealth countries, appointments to the highest court are largely seen as impartial; however, Court Tracker demonstrates that there are some distinct voting blocs within the Canadian Supreme Court. While divisions are not as clear as they are in the United States. Court Tracker provides insight into an area where information was previously only accessible if you knew where to find it and how it should be interpreted.

Georgina (Institute of Liberal Studies intern) was also in Toronto for the Conference, and we took the opportunity to do some sightseeing after the conference ended at noon on Sunday. We visited an ice skating rink downtown (although it was far too cold to tempt me to skate), The Eaton Centre (a large shopping mall) and The CN Tower, which provided a fantastic view over the city. My never-ending pursuit for the best cup of coffee continued in Toronto and I wasn’t disappointed. I found an independent coffee shop in a renovated heritage building and ensured that we took a quick detour there.

Toronto Ice Rink

CN Tower from Below

View from The CN Tower

Yonge-Dundas Square Toronto

After a few days of catching up on work at the office, on the Thursday morning I attended an Alberta Jobs Taskforce community meeting in the suburbs north of Calgary, an event hosted by Federal Conservative MP, Michelle Rempel. I heard from many Calgarians who’d come to share their stories.

One man who was days from his house being foreclosed on, a mother whose son has a daughter with cerebral palsy and has been out of work for 18 months and business owners who have just been hit by the new provincial carbon tax and increases in municipal property taxes. Alberta’s unemployment rate is at 9% (in Perth we talk of a crisis at 6.5%), it’s not the time for increased government regulation and taxation. As we’re aware in Australia, no country has ever taxed its way to prosperity.

Julian Hasleby – Who is Caesar? | Week 5

Julian Hasleby, 9 January 2017

It was a great feeling to return to the Manning Centre office this week after a brief visit to the United States.

Calgary feels like home and it was a relief to stimulate my brain through further research. In preparation for a presentation at the Law & Freedom Conference in Toronto, the policy team worked on refining the final edit of ‘Court Tracker’. This report analyses every decision of the Canadian Supreme Court over the past 60 years, with a focus on how often different justices rule in the same way and under which administration they were appointed.

The most rewarding aspect of playing a small role in this project has been the opportunity to make information that is often complex and lengthy present in a way that is straightforward and east to access for the public.  The Manning Centre maintains an open data policy and the possible uses of this are endless. I’d honestly never considered an attempt to make the judiciary more accountable or transparent would be possible.

A Chilly Morning in Calgary

Rugged up for the walk to work!

The 5th of January was my birthday, and as a surprise my parents had a cake delivered to the office which I shared with my coworkers. I can safely say that this has gone a long way in making me a favourite intern! At the end of the day I was taken out for drinks by some of my friends from the Manning Centre, it was a special birthday. Calgary is known for a particular drink referred to as a ‘Caesar’.

In the past I’d been hesitant to try it. I thought that in fairness after making as many Albertans as I could sample Vegemite, I couldn’t refuse their equivalent. The flavour is indescribable but I wouldn’t say that it is something I’d choose over a beer. A Caesar contains ingredients such as vodka, tomato juice, clam broth and Worcestershire sauce.

Happy Birthday to Me

Julian Hasleby – A Week Away | Week 4

Julian Hasleby, 3 January 2017

The holiday period while the office is closed has provided an invaluable opportunity to travel and it was definitely something I was going to take advantage of.

I flew to Seattle to meet Gavin (an intern based in Vancouver) to begin our travels.

Seattle Amtrak Station

We boarded a coach to Portland for a pleasant 4 ½ hour trip and we were delighted to meet so many different and interesting Americans whilst being able to experience the delicacies on offer at the different Chevron rest stops.

Downtown Portland has a very alternative vibe and it wasn’t surprising to see Hillary Clinton and Bernie stickers on the backs of cars everywhere. The image outwardly projected is still that of shock at Clinton’s loss and this was a state which overwhelmingly voted for her. The most interesting part was in the conversations I had with regular people whether it was in our hostel or a bar, where they would admit to voting for Trump.

We awoke earlier than normal on Tuesday morning in preparation for a leisurely 3km hike through the forest to the Pittock Mansion which sits above Portland. Due to the recent rain the different colours were so vivid, from the green of the foliage to the pure running streams and browns of the dirt. Some of the terrain was quite slippery and I wouldn’t recommend wearing cream coloured chinos as I had! The view was impeccable, as was the relief in deciding to take an Uber back down to the base of where we started our hike.

Hiking in Portland

Pittock Mansion

Exploring Portland has provided a lot of wonderful experiences. We visited pubs where the portion sizes were bigger than our heads, a donut shop which had flavours I could have never imagined and all of it set amongst the amazing natural beauty of the city. The highlight so far has been the generosity of regular people. A bus driver who realising we only had larger denomination notes when she couldn’t give change, issued us both day tickets for free and wished us a pleasant journey in her country. This was followed by hostel staff refusing to charge me for an umbrella I borrowed which had broken in the intense wind. On the surface they were all small gestures, however it really goes a long way in making me feel welcome.

Seattle has so far provided excellent coffee, beer and more eating. As New Year’s Eve approaches, drawing in the new year in a vibrant and busy location is exciting, especially while I get to experience a completely different culture and celebrations to those in Australia.

Seattle from China Town

Julian Hasleby – A Very Calgary Christmas | Week 3

Julian Hasleby, 2 January 2017

I’d been feeling a little under the weather at the start of the week, and when visiting a medical clinic, I discovered the wonders of the Canadian health system. The staff struggled to work out how to process someone without a government health care card. It’s currently against the Canada Health Act 1984, to charge citizens for medical services. A test case is now being heard in the British Columbia Supreme Court where a doctor argues limiting private healthcare violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 7 gave Canadians the right to life, liberty and security of the person and was argued that this right is restricted by the limiting of access to rapid healthcare in for-profit clinics. The outcome of this could be significant for healthcare in this country.

Interning at a think tank isn’t purely research. The funding must come from somewhere, and it was interesting to assist my boss in drafting a donor letter which broke down how the donations are spent, from opinion polling to the presentation of the final research across Canada.

I had the privilege of meeting Rona Ambrose the interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada after she met with Preston Manning, the founder of the Manning Centre. We had a short discussion about my time in Alberta so far and the upcoming Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa, where she will be hosting a debate for the candidates contesting the leadership of the party.  The Conservative’s Constitution prevents an interim leader from running for the leadership.

Julian with Rona Ambrose

As we draw closer to Christmas, the office has become almost silent as many of the staff take leave to begin their holidays early. The temperature is rising; snow is melting, and the skies are blue. Calgary appears set for a stunning holiday season.

A Blue Sky for Christmas