This profile was part of the Faculty of Public Affairs’ 75 for the 75th series, which highlighted 75 notable alumni in FPA in honour of Carleton University’s 75th anniversary. These stories were published in 2016 and 2017.
Marketing Manager, Amalgamated Dairies Limited
Executive Director, Liberal Party, Prince Edward Island (2014-2017)
Master of Political Management (’13)
When it comes to politics, Prince Edward Island, Birthplace of Confederation, has an exceptional record: the province has had the highest voter turnout in almost every federal election since 1873.
In other words, Islanders care deeply about their politics—which made Jamie MacPhail’s job as Executive Director of the Liberal Party both rewarding and challenging.
“When you go to work and don’t look at your watch all day, it’s a good thing,” said Mr. MacPhail, who accepted the job in 2014 at the age of 26. “I deeply value the experienced veterans of the Party who are great source of advice and input, but I am proud of the initiatives I have undertaken to modernize our Party and I am pleased with where we are.”
His province’s enthusiastic political participation may be related to its size: voters are likely to run into their MLAs and MPs at the grocery store or the hockey game. That small-town feel also helped Mr. MacPhail get his foot in the door.
“I developed a keen interest in politics during the 2003 provincial Liberal leadership race when 29-year-old Robert Ghiz was elected Liberal leader,” recalled Mr. MacPhail. “I didn’t know anyone, but I sent in my resume for an internship in his office, got an interview, and that internship turned into a job, which was career-changing.”
From there, Mr. MacPhail enrolled in Carleton’s newly established Master of Political Management (MPM) program.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was for me,” he said. “Here I was, coming from a small community in PEI, and I’m sitting around a table with a like-minded cohort of people of all political stripes. It was enlightening to see that we all had the same passion for politics and for serving the Canadian public.”
Mr. MacPhail said the multi-partisan experience of the MPM program benefited him in the role, in which he managed the day-to-day operations of the ruling provincial Liberal party, as well as PEI’s four federal seats.
“You have to be willing to compromise,” said Mr. MacPhail. “You have to be willing to listen and engage with those around you to put together ideas. Far too many believe their party has all the answers. Taking the partisan glasses off and working with others on a common objective is much more satisfying.”
For students interested in politics, he says volunteering is the first step, along with understanding what the public is asking for.
“Too many politicians forget to listen to the public. They need to realize that the citizens and the voters are always right.”
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