Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
So you’re going to the Fellowship Conference: An op-ed by Fellow Alum Brendan Steven

So you’re going to the CJPAC Fellows Conference…

Wow. You’re a rockstar. Give yourself a pat on the back.

You just won a gold medal at the political Olympics and you don’t even realize it.

Remember that scene in Willy Wonka where the kid finds the golden ticket? He literally starts singing. Are you singing right now? Because you’re that kid.

Seriously, why aren’t you singing?

You are about to attend the CJPAC Fellows Conference. You are about to live through one of the most transformative experiences of your lives.

I know – I was sitting where you are right now. I too was a bright-eyed student activist with a pocket full of dreams and more concentrated energy than a Red Bull factory.

But it’s time to get serious. It’s time for Fellows Conference boot camp. You’re going to need it.

“But Brendan,” you’re thinking, “it’s only five days. How hard could it be?”

Aren’t. You. Adorable.

Lesson 1: You aren’t going to sleep.

Pro: you aren’t sleeping because you are making friends that will last a lifetime. One night at 1 am I had a rap battle with a senior fellow over which city was better: Toronto or Montreal?

Con: you are going to be exhausted by day three. You may start seeing colours and wondering, “did Eleanor put peyote in the lunch meat?”

And let’s be honest… you are going to have a couple of drinks. You will probably feel it in the morning. So for all those new friends you will make your closest friends will still be water, coffee, and aspirin.

Lesson 2: Take notes.

This is a master class. You are about to hear from some of the country’s top political practitioners – campaign managers, cabinet ministers, consultants, the cream of the crop. You will never again hear from so many people at the top of their field in so little time.

Not only that, you get to meet with some of Canada’s most powerful people… in Parliament. Let your inner political nerd fly free. How amazing is that? This the home of our democracy where the people’s business is conducted – where you are never more than 5 steps from a place where Sir John A. MacDonald puked.

And those notes you are taking? You better guard those with your life. When I walked into the office for my first day as a political staffer, guess what was in my bag? All my notes from CJPAC. And yes, I actually used them.

Final lesson:

Don’t be afraid to make friends with people from other parties.

Hey conservatives! You are about to meet a bunch of tax-and-spend, hug-a-thug, commie-loving lefties who worship at the altar of Big Government and her favourite cousin Tyranny.

Hey progressives! You are about to meet a bunch of corporate-shilling, union-busting, redneck CON-servatives who would love nothing more than to arm every man, woman, and child with a grenade launcher and “These Colours Don’t Run” bumper stickers.

You are going to have a few debates. But you will never have a better opportunity to reach out to the other side of the aisle and make lifelong friends. I myself am a Conservative and I met many of my favourite Liberals in CJPAC (threats to liberty though they are).

So let me finish where I began – congratulations. You’re a rockstar. This is going to be one of the most memorable experiences of your university career. Sponge in every moment and every lesson… and worry about sleep later.



A graduate of McGill University, Brendan was formerly a speechwriter for the Harper government and a CJPAC Fellow from 2010 to 2012.