Text by: Johanna Wandel
Images by: Elaine Ho
Recently, Bill Morneau tabled Canada’s 2018 budget, which includes $1.3 Billion over five years for Canada’s conservation efforts. A lucky group of 22 University of Waterloo geography students in the course “Transforming Canadian Resource Management” saw this announcement live while camped out in the Government Leader in the House of Commons and Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger’s office.
This course is currently offered by Geography, but taught by Trevor Swerdfager, Assistant Deputy Minister (Delivery and Results), Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Mr. Swerdfager has been commuting from Ottawa on a weekly basis, and students spent the first seven weeks studying the evolution of Canada’s resource management system.
This was followed by a field trip to Ottawa to learn how conservation and resource management decisions are actually made in Ottawa. The field trip included an evening lecture in Ottawa, a visit to Question Period, and meetings with a carefully selected group of decision-makers, conservation agency representatives, and industry lobbyists including MPs Terry Beech (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans); Jonathan Wilkinson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change) Elizabeth May (Leader of the Green Party); Scott Simms (Chairman of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans), Bob Sopuck (Opposition MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa) and of course our own MP, Bardish Chagger (Minister of Small Business and Tourism and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons).
Students also had the opportunity to interact with former MP turned lobbyist Joe Jordan, Dr. Marc Fortin (VP, Strategic Partnerships, NSERC), Taki Sarantakis (Associate Secretary, Treasury Board Secretariat), Nik Lopoukhine, past President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Presidents of both the Chamber of Shipping and the Canadian Mining Association.
Courses like this give students insights into how conservation decisions are made at the federal government level, and the importance of the Memorandum to Cabinet prepared by federal departments in these decisions. At the end of the course, students will write a mock Memorandum to Cabinet on one of five very current issues.
It was an amazing opportunity to discuss, for example, Newfoundland’s cod fishery with Scott Simms, the sitting MP for Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame, Newfoundland, or the expansion of the Transmountain Pipelines with the MPs for Burnaby North-Seymour (Terry Beech) and North Vancouver (Jonathan Wilkinson).
During the few moments not devoted to meetings, the class had a chance to visit the Parliamentary Library and observe the media scrum outside the House of Commons on Budget Day. We got within a few feet of Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau as they exited!