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Edge of the Ledge: Two interns’ experiences in the British Columbia Legislature

April 12, 2011

Elise Palmer (@elisepalmer) and Geordon Omand (@gwomand) from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, are currently interning with the BC Legislative Internship Program.

Elise Palmer and Geordon Omand

Elise and Geordon

It was an odd experience being handed a degree in political science and realizing that we were still relatively unaware of how our system of governance actually operates on the ground. Because of the theoretical nature of our university education, we found our post-graduate selves keen to supplement our academic pursuits with more hands-on, experiential learning. The British Columbia Legislative Internship Program (BCLIP) provided just such an opportunity.

Celebrating its 35th year, the BCLIP gives 10 recent graduates the chance to experience British Columbia politics for six paid months from an insider’s perspective. As interns, we are placed in a ministry (akin to a state agency), work with a caucus, travel with legislators to their home districts and enjoy a host of educational opportunities, including a cross-border visit to the Washington State Legislature.

BC Legislature, 1921

The Legislature in session, circa 1921.

Describing a “standard” program day, let alone a year, is challenging because there is no universal intern experience. Much of what we do depends not only on our particular ministerial and caucus assignments, but also on the ever-changing political climate. For instance, this year we witnessed the resignation of the leaders of both our principal political parties and the election of their successors, the fallout from the province’s first successful initiative petition, a Canadian federal election, and the selection of a new Premier (comparable to a state governor).

Generally speaking, we as interns are divided into either research or communications. The former group contributes to caucus work, which may include long or short-term projects, question period preparation, and assistance with the estimates process (vetting the budget). The latter group works with Government (the majority party), preparing speaking notes, writing press releases, and handling media inquiries. Regardless of where we are assigned, the program is an all-around unparalleled educational opportunity.

As politically-engaged young people, the BCLIP offers us the chance to observe the on-the-ground operations of parliamentary governance in British Columbia – outside of the classroom, in a way a textbook could never emulate. We are afforded a front-row, participatory view, and unrivalled access to many incredible British Columbians, both within the legislature and without.

The BCLIP has given us a foundation that will prepare us for whatever life holds in store.

British Columbia Legislative Internship Program

BCLIP interns stand in front of the BC Parliament Buildings in Victoria on a snow day.

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