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.