My journey from Detroit to fancy Ottawa – a city of English gothic architecture, lovely French bakeries, and a vibrant urban life reminiscent of Ann Arbor – was unglamorous to say the least. I was on a Greyhound bus for thirteen hours, uncomfortable and unable to sleep yet constantly afraid that someone would steal my luggage if I did sleep (fortunately that did not happen).
That was why entering Ottawa after so long was such a pleasant experience. Everyone is so nice here (it’s Canada after all, eh?) and the city is beautiful – just look at this photo of the canal leading up to Parliament Hill!
But I didn’t come to Canada just for the people or the scenery. It’s what allows these kind folks to live in relative economic security through robust social welfare programs or prudential use of taxes to fund urban revitalization schemes – yes, my favorite topic of all time, politics.
Americans always wonder why our neighbor to the North does SO much better than us – why, it’s our favorite destination to threaten to move to if the wrong person is elected president every four years! Surely there must be some secret ingredient that enables Canada to have a strong democratic tradition, social programs that don’t bankrupt the nation, and that irresistible cutie of a prime minister.
Most people never bother to find out the recipe for Canada’s success, which is why I decided to actually go there through the Ottawa Internship and gain an intimate view of how politics work there. As a political science major who fell in love with comparative politics over the past year, what better opportunity is there to learn in depth about the government of a foreign country?
Throughout this internship I will strive to be an avid student on the strengths – and also the weaknesses – of Canadian government. Yes the research and emailing constituents and attending meetings is exciting too, but first and foremost I want to satisfy my academic curiosity and then transfer this knowledge into the United States in the future when I have a career.
In the first week I’ve already found out so much about Canadian politics and what makes it so competent, effective, and intriguing. But that’s for the second week. I have to rest tonight so I can wake up early in the morning – something I’ve religiously avoided as a lazy college student!