On New Year’s Day I left the US on my flight to Ottawa, leaving behind the festivities in New York City, to a warm Canadian welcome at -18 degrees. I’m staying in Gatineau, which is just across the river from Ottawa, in Quebec. The French shops, street signs and language speakers everywhere were quite the culture shift from the USA.
With four layers, scarf and gloves in hand, I braved the -17 weather and began my walk to my first day. Such cold temperatures present unique challenges on the just under 30-minute walk. My eye watered in the wind and before I could wipe it away, it froze shut, this didn’t make dodging slippery ice spots or snow sludge any easier.
My introduction to the staff at ILS, Matt and Janet Bufton, was warm and welcoming. After a brief chat about the past month and some Australia-Canada political comparisons, we headed off to lunch. After lunch I was free to do a little city exploring, which ended rather abruptly as I had my wallet taken while using the Wi-Fi in McDonalds. I had later come to find out from some locals that this particular McDonalds was infamous across the country for having less than desirable clientele, so much so that during a fight inside the shop a patron drew his racoon as a weapon. A racoon.
My first few days were spent applying for Google’s non-profit grants program to receive $10,000USD per month in online advertising services. My other duties were taking over the social media online communications aspects of the Institute, as well as some minor website alterations.
I had been generously gifted a copy of a few of the Institute’s publications to read over in my spare time. One book on the Cretien Consensus, which was a period in the 1990s, where Canadian politics was dominated by the left-leaning Liberal Party. During this period a number of market-based reforms took place, as well as very crucial fiscal and budgetary measures to save the country and a number of provinces from bankruptcy. This appeared somewhat similar to Keating’s achievements in the early 90s, turning Australia on a market-based path into the future.
I had the opportunity to trial some of the local restaurants in Ottawa, pleasantly surprised by the low prices and variety on offer. For a city of fewer than one million people in a very cold climate, the variety of cuisines on offer was fantastic, with various barbeque, Asian and European dishes to be had within a 2-minute walk of the office.