Our Meeting with Minister Christine Elliott
The OLIP Interns were incredibly excited to meet MPP for Newmarket-Aurora and Minister of Health, the Honourable Christine Elliott. Minister Elliott was first elected to public office in 2006 and has occupied a wide range of roles including Patient Ombudsman, Deputy Leader of the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party, and Minister of Health. During our meeting, we discussed a variety of topics including life in politics, her work as the Minister of Health, and the various lessons she has learned throughout her career in public service.
Minister Elliott has a background in law, which she believes continues to play an integral role in the way she thinks about issues and how she negotiates with different stakeholders. She first became interested in public life through her work with various mental health associations, and a desire to be a supporting voice for mental health and addiction support at Queens Park. Hearing about how her background in volunteer work and law led to her pursuing a career in public life was of real interest to many of the interns, providing them with the perspective that these activities lend themselves to a political career quite easily if they choose to go down that route.
After being elected to the legislature as the Member for Newmarket-Aurora, Minister Elliott worked as the Health Critic for the PC Party. In 2015, Minister Elliott became the first ever Patient Ombudsman, a non-partisan role dedicated to strengthening the voices of patients in Ontario’s healthcare system. She said that this role taught her what patient-centered care practically involves. The interns found it incredibly interesting to see how taking on this non-partisan role enhanced her work in partisan politics.
When the PC Party was elected to government in 2018, Minister Elliott stepped into the role of Minister of Health. When asked about being the leader of such a large portfolio, Minister Elliott says that she tries to listen as much as she can, read as much as she can before meetings, and recognize she cannot know everything. COVID-19 management has taken up most of her ministry work and her time in the past few years. While this has come with an extremely fast-paced work environment, it has also provided an opportunity to push for health care changes that otherwise would have been decades in the making (i.e. virtual care). To the interns, this illustrated how the crisis pushed forward policy change which otherwise may have taken much longer.
Despite this heavy ministry portfolio, Minister Elliott still makes time for her role as representative for Newmarket-Aurora by attending events in the constituency—online or otherwise.
Thank you, Minister Elliott, for taking the time to speak with us!