Maria Ovcharenko Internship Report – November 2023
As the days and weeks go by, I am glad to take this opportunity to reflect on the first few months of my time as the current UCC Parliamentary Intern. Being an intern in the office of MP Shuvaloy Majumdar (Calgary Heritage) is a particularly unique placement because he is one of the newest MPs in the House, being elected only in July during the by-election. Thus, I have the privilege of seeing and being part of the development of a new MP’s office, which is a challenging yet exciting experience. This includes everything from designing the actual office space and building the MP’s website to learning Parliamentary procedure and developing relationships with other MPs and their staff. And, as we are a new office and still in the process of defining hard-set roles, I have been able to help with a little bit of everything. I am also enjoying experiencing Canada’s capital city and everything it has to offer, another great part of the internship experience.
Being in Ottawa and working on Parliament Hill is a dream—and something that I thought may be out of reach for somebody all the way from Edmonton and with little political experience. That is why I am so grateful to the Internship Program, and its many donors through the UCC Charitable and Educational Trust. . The experiences I have had so far have been incredible. In just two short months so far, I have attended a Member of Parliament’s swearing-in ceremony, taken notes during meetings between the Member and different stakeholders representing a variety of interests and industries, heard Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bob Rae speak strongly in support of Ukraine at a support-Ukraine event, witnessed Canada’s immediate and ongoing response to the Israel-Hamas war, and sat in the House of Commons during President Zelenskyy’s address. These are all truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and I can hardly believe their reality.
My work on the Hill consists of writing daily short briefings for the Member on the legislation being debated in the House, which gives me an opportunity to learn for myself in more detail the current topics of debate, and I sometimes do committee research. I manage the
MP inbox and schedule, and for an MP who is as well-connected and experienced as my Member is, this itself could be a full-time job. As part of this I often coordinate arrange for Leader’s Gallery Question Period passes for the MP’s guests, which has allowed me to meet some very interesting people. The job of the Official Opposition is to hold the Government to account. Part of that role is to look critically at government bills, motions, and general media releases to ensure that every perspective is being considered and every voice is heard and represented in the House. This makes for a thought-provoking perspective when conducting research on government matters, a transferable skill that I am already implementing into my everyday life.
I am sincerely enjoying learning about Canada’s democracy in practice, including reading and responding to constituent concerns. This is arguably the most important part of a democracy, other than an actual vote: the citizen’s participation in it. On this, I would like to emphasize that it’s important to remember that your Member of Parliament is in the best position to represent your concerns, a personalized email with a specific question will get you a response quicker than a form letter (although these do serve their function in their own way), and please include your postal code in your correspondence.
I have always had an appreciation and respect for the institution of government, and it is a gratifying, eye-opening, and altogether grounding experience to see it all happen in real time. The first few months of the UCC Internship Program have given me a renewed confidence in the system, namely the way in which we govern ourselves, and the roles that we all play in that system. I am also gaining confidence in myself in ways that I did not expect as part of this internship, including skills and knowledge that I will be able to use throughout the rest of my career and personal life. To think that it has only been a few months leaves me tired but excited and ready for the months to come.