How'd You Get That Job? Samara talks to John Baird's former Issues Manager

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How'd You Get That Job? Thursday, August 07, 2014 View Count = 3362

How'd You Get That Job? Samara talks to John Baird's former Issues Manager

What inspired you to get involved in politics/work at Parliament?

I come from a very politically active family. Weeknight dinners were dominated by discussion of local and national issues, so I became a news junkie at a very young age. Between my mother’s devout Liberal support and my father’s “realist” approach to politics (believing there is not much difference between the parties in Canada), I ended up supporting the Progressive Conservative Party. It was clear from a young age that I wanted to be a part of whatever machinery was making our country run. 

How did you become Issues/Parliamentary Affairs Manager? What path brought you to that specific role?

An early love of politics leaves prospective university students with really only one choice: Ottawa U or Carleton. I chose Carleton. I started off volunteering in a PC MP’s office (there weren’t many, so I lucked out and was able to work for the Right Honourable Joe Clark), got involved in the campus club, got involved in local riding associations and volunteered on the 2004 campaign. The timing of the 2005/06 election was perfect. The Conservative Party was forming government just as I finished my undergrad. Ministers Offices need to staff up quickly, so I was scooped up by one. A few months later, after the staff shuffle died down, I ended up in Minister Baird’s office.

What does a day-in-the-life of an Issues/Parliamentary Affairs Manager look like?

  • Starts early – 5am: Media scan. News clippings start to roll in from the department of the morning’s news. 
  • Early morning (7am): Meet with PMO and issues managers from all ministers’ offices. They review the top issues of the day, determine how the government will respond, what further actions will be taken, etc. This can be an intimidating meeting. 
  • Stop to watch sun come up, drink 4th cup of coffee. 
  • 9am staff meeting: Update colleagues on what you’ve been doing for the past 4 hours.
  • 10am (some days): The House begins sitting and Committee meetings begin. Depending on what is scheduled for debate, this requires varying levels of support. Put finishing touches on the Minister’s Question Period (QP) binder.
  • 1pm QP Prep: All the ministers (and the Prime Minister) meet in the cabinet room to rehearse the questions that will be asked in QP, and determine  who will answer, and what the answer will be. 
  • 2pm walk down magical stairs to Foyer: Try not to fall while the camera lights are on and you’re breaking in new shoes. (Also try not to get brass polish on your freshly ironed shirt. They polish those railings far too often.)
  • 2:15pm QP: Also known as lunch time – you know where your boss is, and that he can’t leave. Safe time to scarf down a grilled cheese. 
  • 3pm QP exit through lobby: Stop to talk to reporters or walk quickly to avoid reporters. Whatever the day is like.
  • Later afternoon: Review media responses for the day, keeping in mind the time changes and print deadlines. Review any parliamentary returns that need to be tabled.
  • 6pm: Watch news.
  • 6:05pm: Parents call to tell you they saw you on the news, and that you look tired. 
  • 11pm: Last news of the day. Bed.
  • What was your favourite moment in this job?

    Those late nights at the office when you have to figure out where the master-switch for the lights are. You’re poring over speeches for an upcoming opposition day while scarfing down apples with peanut butter and cold coffee while the same 15 min loop of Newsnet drones on in the background. Sounds painful to some, but to devout political staffers, you’ve never felt more like the West Wing’s Josh Lyman or Toby Ziegler.

    What skills or expertise are required for this job?

    Patience. Hard work. Quick wit. The ability to speak in talking points and 35 second responses. Thick skin. And the ability to survive on little sleep and a diet of caffeine and cafeteria food. Experience herding cats is always an asset.

    What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a job like yours? What is a good first step for them to take?

     Get involved. Meet people. Network. Politics is about who you know. 

    Kristin Baldwin was the Issues/Parliamentary Affairs Manager for Minister John Baird (while he was Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities – during the beginning of Canada’s Economic Action Plan and the stimulus role out), currently Junior Partner (Communications) at Flagship Solutions, a Government Relations and Communications firm in Ottawa’s Byward Market.




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