Internship in Ottawa

Sheryar Nasir PhotoOttawa is a beautiful city that is steeped in history and tradition. I have enjoyed living in our nation’s capital for the last couple of months. I am also very pleased to have the opportunity to complete my executive internship at a prestigious firm like the Earnscliffe Strategy Group.

Let me give you some background on Earnscliffe and the work that we do here. Earnscliffe is a government relations firm that offers strategic advice and works with clients from across the spectrum on a number of different issues. Earnscliffe is also Canada’s oldest independent public affairs firm and was founded in 1989.

Most recently, the firm celebrated its 25th anniversary and I was glad to be a part of the event that marked this special occasion. The celebration of the firm’s anniversary allowed me to learn more about the firm’s history and I was also able to meet many interesting people – including past and present clients – that work in a number of interesting organizations in Ottawa and across Canada.

My experience with Earnscliffe has been a very interesting and valuable one so far. I have been able to work on a number of different projects during my time here. The projects that I have worked on have ranged in scope and scale and have included writing briefing notes on a range of topics, compiling biographies, background research on issues that are relevant to clients and tracking Parliamentary proceedings, including committee meetings.

Let me give you an example of a recent project: Each year, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance holds its pre-budget consultation process, inviting interested individuals and organizations to participate. This year, the Committee received 421 submissions. I was tasked with closely following the pre-budget submission process in order to assist in keeping our clients informed. This involved compiling an inventory of the submissions and gaining a greater understanding of the scope of the requests – many of which will impact the next federal budget. This was a very interesting and insightful exercise.

The leadership team here at Earnscliffe includes former government policymakers, business leaders, academics, award-winning journalists and opinion-researchers. I have been fortunate to interact with Earnscliffe Principals on regular basis. All of them have a lot of valuable experience and incredible knowledge regarding the inner workings of government. To be able to regularly tap in to this knowledge is simply amazing!

I have enjoyed being part of the team at Earnscliffe and am very appreciative of being able to work with these very dedicated and talented people. I have learned a lot from the team already and look forward to continuing to expand my knowledge in my remaining time here in Ottawa.

Before I leave you I briefly wanted to highlight the resilient response by the people of Ottawa, and Canada in general, to the sad events of October 20th and 22nd. The response of the community in Ottawa has been very inspiring.

Sheryar Nasir is a JSGS student from the University of Saskatchewan campus, and an intern at Earnscliffe Strategy Group.

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Lean Tour at the Ministry of the Economy

Anna PictureI am responsible for the coordination of the Growth Plan piece at ECON, and we use Lean management in order to implement the plan. We have the Ministry’s Visibility wall that demonstrates 2020 outcomes stated in the Growth Plan and related to SK economy, 4 year strategic improvements and operational actions. Since this Wall is pretty unique (it is quite big with nearly 70 pieces), other ministries became interested in how we implement that.

Last week we had a tour with the Honorable Minister Don McMorris,  Dan Florizone, Deputy Minister, Education, and Don Wincherauk, Special Advisor, Education, accompanying. As well, Doug Moen, Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary, joined the tour. Laurie Pushor, Acting Deputy Minister to the Economy (my current mentor), was doing the Wall Walk.

Anna Krutova is a JSGS student from the University of Saskatchewan campus, and a Provincial Intern at the Ministry of the Economy.

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Where were you on March 19th, 2014?

35c001fBefore I tell you where I was, allow me to set the stage. Let’s go back to last year – March 20th, 2013. I emerged from my graduate student office, grabbed a coffee, and sat in the lobby of the Diefenbaker Centre in Saskatoon to watch provincial Finance Minister Ken Krawetz deliver the 2013-14 Budget speech with some faculty and fellow students. Like any good policy nerds, we discussed and then went on our way, happy to digest multiple news articles and radio interviews to hear what the who’s-who of political commentators had to say.

Fast forward a year. It’s March 19th, 2014, and I’ve spent nearly seven months as an intern in the Treasury Board Branch of the Ministry of Finance.  Before, a new provincial budget meant a few weeks of excited speculation, concerns over tuition, health care, and other costs relevant to a graduate student, and lots of questions (and sometimes, even answers!).

This year, however, was different – as the acting Treasury Board analyst for Executive Council, I’d been going through the budget process with a portfolio of my very own. As an executive intern, I’d sat in high-level meetings about the budget weeks and months before any words would be spoken in the Chamber. Now, Budget Day wasn’t just a day to make sure I had extra coffee on hand and a well-charged phone to field the inevitable texts from my political-geek father. It was an end point, the culmination of something that many, many people worked very, very hard on. Of course, the work is not over, but there is a sense of relief that is palpable.

So on Budget Day this year, I was at the Legislative Building in Regina, making my rounds with boxes upon boxes of confidential budget documents, waiting until the moment that the Minister stood and the information would become public so that delivery could begin. Around 2:15, I began making my rounds, dropping off box after box at the offices of Cabinet Ministers, legislative staff, and other inhabitants of the Legislative Building. The amount of people that were crowded into the building was impressive – not just in the Chamber itself, but also in the rotunda and on the floors below and above. Although I already knew what was going to be in the budget, I found myself infected by the feeling of excited anticipation in the air. Later, celebrating with my co-workers, I was also imbued with their own excitement, relief, and sense of accomplishment of another job well done.

Being inside the Budget Analysis Division during the making of the provincial budget has been a very interesting, challenging, and rewarding experience. I had no idea what to expect when I began my internship, but the quality of the people and hard work involved in the production of the annual budget is exactly what I’d hoped it would be after years of budget-watching.

Although my internship will soon be coming to an end, I can say with confidence that I’ve learned more about government and real-world policy development in eight months here than I ever could have in a class. It’s been an invaluable experience and an excellent supplement to my academic training.

See you all on the other side!

Jaime

Jaime Leonard is a JSGS student from the University of Saskatchewan campus, and a Provincial Intern at the Ministry of Finance.

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My visit to the Prairie Regional Psychiatric Centre

Matt_2On August 14, 2013 I had the pleasure to attend the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) Prairies in Saskatoon, SK for a tour and introductory security oriented session for new employees. Despite working as a student in the Correctional Service of Canada to date, this was my first opportunity to set foot in an institution to see how they work and operate on the day to day level. Due to the nature of the work that I am engaged with currently means that the only time I hear about an institution like RPC is when an incident has taken place. So for me, it was good to get inside an institution, to see where good things are happening and learn how inmate/patients are receiving the treatment or programming that is required so that they can safely return to community one day. Further, it was an excellent opportunity to see the type of environment it is so that I can bring that perspective back to the work I complete.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff at the Regional Psychiatric Centre for making that experience possible.

Matt Dow completed his JSGS Federal Internship in October 2013 with the Incident Investigations Branch of the Corrections Services of Canada. With the completion of the Internship program, Matt completed the MPA program at the University of Saskatchewan.

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Managing Uncertainty and Complexity in the Public Sector

Matt_2During my lunch break at Correctional Services Canada – Incident Investigations Branch, I’ve regularly taken time to wander down to the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon to gather some fresh air before returning to the office for an afternoon of work. On most occasions, I’ve found myself on a south facing bench, basking in the summer heat, with my engaging book, The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This book has been an incredibly popular piece of non-fiction work since its publication in 2007, but especially following the 2008 financial collapse and subsequent economic crisis. In the book, Taleb warns continuously about the risk that was developing in the global financial sector.

The thesis of the book is that the world is defined by “Black Swans”, events that are highly improbable, highly impactful, and completely unpredictable (without the benefit of hindsight). As humans, we are blind to the Black Swans until they occur because of a variety of logical fallacies and biases that Taleb attributes to the human mind’s inability to comprehend uncertainty and randomness. In our mind’s quest to understand the world, we artificially construct our own realities that allow us to move through life, but leave us blind to Black Swan events.

The excellent example that I read about in my lunch break today was about Taleb’s trip to a Las Vegas casino to present on a conference about risk put on by the by U.S Defence Department. Casino’s deal in the realm of probability and have hedged their bets to avoid the Black Swans by managing risk, specifically on the casino floor. They’ve done this through a variety of different strategies including distributing risk among many different tables and forms of gambling, and elaborate security systems that, as he describes, rival a James Bond movie. But can you think of the single greatest loss that the Mirage Casino in Las Vegas, or any other Casino has ever suffered?

It was approximately $100 Million, but it wasn’t lost to a high roller. It was lost when their main show performer was maimed by his tiger that had been hand raised and cared for by the victim. According to Taleb, analysts had developed various scenarios that outlined the Casino’s risk, including even the Tiger jumping into the crowd, but had failed to consider the potential impact of the Tiger turning on its trainer.

Other common examples would include the fall of the Soviet Union, 9/11, and the 2008 financial crisis, as mentioned above.

This thesis applies wonderfully to a graduate course I took over the Winter with Dr. P. Gober at the University of Saskatchewan. The course, Water Policy: Decision Making under Uncertainty, deals explicitly with the problem of Black Swans in the context of water management. Water is the primary medium through which humans will feel the impacts of a changing climate and our ability to predict and manage water is being gradually eroded by increasing climatic uncertainty. The example often cited in the course was the City of Phoenix, AZ where water levels are expected to range between 120% and 60% of current levels (I forget the numbers but it is irrelevant to the point), which means that Phoenix, in an age of climatic change can either expect to flood more frequently, or suffer from prolonged periods of drought, or both. As policy makers are faced with this new reality, they will be forced to reorient their thinking towards water management. Instead of operating in a field with predictable flows that can be modeled and managed accordingly, policy makers will have to develop strategies that are robust and adaptable to a wide spectrum of possible events.

 “The policies we need to make decisions on should depend far more on the range of possible outcomes than on the expected final number” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The question that I’m sure you’re dying to ask is how the concept of the Black Swan applies to Correctional Services, and specifically, the Incident Investigations Branch. Well, I’m glad you asked. From my perspective, the Incident Investigations Branch is in the business of eliminating the possibility of Black Swans through the elimination of uncertainty. The Government, the Correctional Service of Canada and the Public want certainty in the management of offenders and inmates. 

Luckily, the nature of corrections lends itself to limiting uncertainty through controlled movement of inmates within the institutions and conditions imposed on offenders upon their reintegration into the community.

The Incident Investigations Branch is the investigative body for these barriers to evaluate if adequate measures are in place to avoid similar incidents into the future.

“…In order to make a decision you need to focus on the consequences (which you can know) rather than the probability (which you can’t know)…” (Taleb, 2007: 211)

By learning from previous events and incidents, CSC can ensure the highest level of safety for both inmates and the community as a whole.

Matt Dow completed his JSGS Federal Internship in October 2013 with the Incident Investigations Branch of the Corrections Services of Canada. With the completion of the Internship program, Matt completed the MPA program at the University of Saskatchewan. 

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My Federal Internship with the Incident Investigations Branch of the Correctional Service of Canada

Matt_2My name is Matthew Dow and I’m currently working through the JSGS Executive Internship Program with the Incident Investigations Branch of the Correctional Services of Canada (CSC) based in Saskatoon, SK.

The primary role of the Incident Investigations Branch is, as one might expect, to investigate incidents within the correctional system, both within institutions and in the community. These investigations are not disciplinary in nature but rather, focus on lessons learned and where the CSC can improve operations, practices or policy to avoid similar incidents in the future.

All incidents are reviewed on a regular basis, with the most serious ones receiving the most in depth examination.

This position has provided me with tremendous insight into the operations of Canada’s correctional system. Whereas some sectors within CSC operate only within a small range of policies (for instance, the health services branch is primarily concerned with health services related policy), working within the Incident Investigations Branch has exposed me to the wide spectrum of CSC policy.

In this role, I have had the opportunity to work on many different investigations at many different stages and have gained a greater understanding of the investigation process. My days are largely filled reviewing reports, entering and tracking file progress, drafting memos and contacting institutions and policy holders regarding the status of operational or policy changes that have been recommended as a direct result of an investigation.  I have also had the opportunity to attend several professional development sessions and attend investigation de-briefings.

Having focused the bulk of my graduate studies at the University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan on issues pertaining to natural resource development and environmental sustainability, it is somewhat of a peculiar fit here in Correctional Services, but the nature of the work does have many commonalities to the sectors I am more familiar with. This opportunity has certainly afforded me the ability to gain firsthand experience in the public sector and apply the skills and knowledge I have acquired into a real workplace environment. I continue to look forward to the remainder of my internship as it progresses through the summer and into the early fall.

Matt Dow completed his JSGS Federal Internship in October 2013 with the Incident Investigations Branch of the Corrections Services of Canada. With the completion of the Internship program, Matt completed the MPA program at the University of Saskatchewan.

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My great internship experience with Institutional Planning and Assessment at the University of Saskatchewan

s200_mohammad_adel.panahiI did my four month Executive Internship in Institutional Planning and Assessment (IPA) at the University of Saskatchewan during the summer and I was the first Intern that they had in the office. In the application process for internship, I had indicated that my preference was to work with IPA for two main reasons. First, I wanted to stay in Saskatoon to be with my wife who was doing her Masters degree in Pharmacy at the U of S. Second, I had been working with IPA since July 2012 as a graduate student research assistant and staying with the office helped me to continue my ongoing research projects there.

Working with IPA, as an Executive Intern, was a great opportunity for me to extend my knowledge about higher education in Canada and apply my skills that I have acquired from my MPA program at Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. During my internship, I conducted several research projects to address the needs of the office in confronting with several financial challenges that all post-secondary institutes in Canada have had after the economic recession.

U15 provincial operating grants per FTE analysis; Budget cuts and revenue generation strategies in U15; Comparative study of Budget Processes in U15 and comparative study of IPAs in U15 were some of the research projects that I conducted for IPA. My mentor helped me a lot to be an independent researcher and I learned to work independently in IPA, which I believe is my greatest achievement from my internship program.

This internship was also a wonderful opportunity for me to meet the core team of decision makers at the U of S and learn how strategies, programs and policies are developed in a higher education institution. I believe that this great experience that I have acquired in IPA, would help me to work successfully and effectively in any other public sector organizations.

I would recommend those students who wish to do their internship in Saskatoon, to think about IPA as one of their best options.

Adel Panahi

Adel participated in the JSGS Executive Internship Program in Summer 2013, and now he is working as a Research Assistant with the Institutional Planning and Assessment at the University of Saskatchewan

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