Making Meaningful Policies Through Engagement

Former Legislative Assistant and current Master of Public Policy candidate, Elisa Alloul, revisited Parliament Hill as part of the November 2022 School trip to Ottawa.

In November 2022, the fourth cohort of Master of Public Policy candidates visited Parliament Hill to learn firsthand from policymakers. Organized by the Max Bell School including visiting professor Neil Bouwer and alumnus Enzo Zorigtbaatar, the inaugural trip was designed to educate and inspire. A few MPPs - Elisa, Aftab, Linda, Gianna and Raúl - reflect on the experience.

The last time I was in Ottawa, I had recently completed my time working as a Legislative Assistant on Parliament Hill. As a Legislative Assistant, I was responsible for everything from Private Members' Bills and Member's statements to Question Period and committee work. As a result, I felt completely immersed in the happenings of Parliament Hill and thought I knew everything there was to know about the political side of government. While I enjoyed the position immensely and had the chance to work on many meaningful projects, ultimately, I chose to move on to the nonprofit sector to engage with the education and advocacy side of policy. Believing that I had seen the inner workings of government, I felt disenfranchised by the hyper-partisan politics I had witnessed. I came to think that political agendas, talking points, or opportunities to make another political party look bad were being prioritised over implementing sound policies that would benefit the public. Like many Canadians, I thought the answer was to take a step back and explore other ways to engage with policy. So, in pursuit of learning about and strengthening my abilities to develop, engage with, and implement sound and equitable policies, I joined this year's Masters of Public Policy (MPP) cohort at the Max Bell School of Public Policy. And so, my pursuits led me back to Ottawa.

I was not sure what to expect after returning to Ottawa as an MPP candidate with the Max Bell School but returning to Ottawa was nostalgic, exciting, and enlightening. We partook in high-level engagements with political staffers, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers, and folks from the public service. I quickly realised there is still a lot to learn about both sides of the government. I was amazed to see all the efforts policymakers and public servants go to, to ensure Canadians are appropriately represented by those they elect and the policies they implement. It became clear that policymakers are greatly influenced by their constituents and what they are asking for. I also enjoyed learning about the extensive policy research and development that public servants establish for legislators, the comprehensive information and options they advise legislators with, and the loyal application they pursue once the legislator has chosen the policy direction. As seen with the online harms legislation, the government is currently revisiting based on feedback from experts and members of the public; when experts and constituents demand a policy change, their representatives listen and work to make those changes.

I left Ottawa feeling inspired about what policy leadership can look like in government and the public service. As a future policy leader, I look forward to participating in and contributing to this meaningful process. While hyper-partisanship on Parliament Hill still exists, significant and sound policies can be implemented when the public engages with the government rather than taking a step back and disengaging from the government.

I look forward to learning more about meaningful policy development and engagement during my time at McGill's Max Bell School of Public Policy.

Elisa Alloul is a 2022-23 MPP Student at the Max Bell School of Public Policy and an assistant editor of The Bell Newsletter, with prior experience in the non-profit field, the Ontario public service, and the Parliament of Canada. Elisa is especially interested in global and educational policy.


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