Each year since 1973, the American Political Science Association (APSA) Congressional Fellows and the Parliamentary Interns of the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) have hosted each other in our respective capitals for weeklong comprehensive study tours. This allows both groups, who work for one year for elected officials in Washington and Ottawa respectively, to compare the way things are done on Capitol Hill with the way they work on Parliament Hill.
The Parliamentary Interns with Representative Lipinski (Democratic - Illinois), a former Congressional Fellow, in Washington D.C.
In early April, I was one of the ten Canadian Interns, sponsored by the US Department of State, who traveled to Washington D.C. Thanks to our wonderful American counterparts, we had excellent meetings with Congressional staffers, think tanks, academics, lobbyists, party organizers, Canadian diplomats and a Congressperson. We also took in many iconic sites including the White House, the Mall, the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the blossoming Cherry trees!
This past week offered the Canadians’ a chance to reciprocate. We showed off our institutions with tours to Rideau Hall, Parliament and the Supreme Court for the Congressional Fellows. During their tour of Rideau Hall, the Governor General slipped right past – dressed in casual jeans with his dog at his side. What a surprise for the Fellows to learn the true identity of this unassuming Canadian!
With a packed schedule of meetings, the Fellows hardly had time to notice the rainy weather in Ottawa. From senior public servants to Members of Parliament, journalists to Parliamentary Clerks and analysts, the Fellows delved into some of the major themes in Canadian politics: bilingualism, federalism, aboriginal affairs, healthcare, defense and, of course, Canada-US relations! The Fellows spent part of an afternoon with senior diplomatic staff at the US Embassy in Ottawa, including former Congressional Fellow Marja Verloop, who is now responsible for the environment and energy file at the Embassy.
Parliamentary Internship alumnus and current intern in conversation with Congressional Fellows at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.
The exchange helps make Canada-US relations personal for everyone involved. We met for dinner often and enjoyed a small reception, with PIP alumni, at the US Embassy. While briefings are very important, a successful exchange must also facilitate opportunities to build personal relationships across the border. Despite our short time together, we were able to build some strong friendships in the tradition of Canada-US diplomacy. I hope our paths will cross again!
This longstanding exchange is funded by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the U.S. Department of State through the U.S. Embassy to Canada in Ottawa. The participation of the Congressional Fellows is also supported each year by an alumnus of the program: Mr. Stephen Wasby (APSA Fellow 1965-66).
As a Parliamentary Intern, who found herself without a Parliament to work in during the federal election, Jane Hilderman was welcomed into the Public Affairs section of the US Embassy as an intern for the duration her programme.