Historical Feature- 1st OLIP Cohort
Seven young interns took their first tentative steps into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in September of 1976. Peter Rekai, David Taras, Terry Jacques, Peter McBride, Angela Longo, Graham White, and Frank Lowery, led by Academic Director Ron Blair, didn’t realize it at the time, but those first steps would blaze a path for 44 years of OLIP interns who followed in their footsteps. The interns were smart, enthusiastic, and eager to learn. So eager, in fact, that when visiting the Ministry of Health to learn more about OHIP billing procedures early on in their internship, Ministry officials mistook them for medical interns! But the interns’ smarts and enthusiasm didn’t automatically translate into an easy path to acceptance at Queen’s Park.
As 1976-77 intern Dr. Graham White recounted, MPPs were initially skeptical, and even suspicious, of these new kids who worked for both Government and Opposition over the course of the 10-month internship. But the “kids” persevered, worked hard, and by the end of the year had earned a reputation for non-partisan professionalism and integrity, a reputation which endures 45 years later. The first year of the program culminated in a provincial election where one of their number, Frank Lowery, ran as a candidate for the NDP!
For Graham White, a political science PhD student in 1976, his internship experience working with Conservative backbench MPP Jack Johnson opened his eyes to the more human side of politics. Dr. White, I should note, is something of an OLIP legend—he went on to become an OLIP Academic Coordinator and Academic Director after his trailblazing intern year. Though much about the Legislature has changed since 1976, hearing Dr. White’s accounts of OLIP’s earliest days only increased my appreciation and gratitude for the outstanding opportunity that lies ahead for OLIP’s 45th cohort.