On February 27th, 2001 I slogged through the snowy streets of my adopted hometown to the Parliament Buildings to sit in on Question Period. I am a huge proponent of treating your own city as a tourist might and I make a point of visiting as much as I can of all the splendour this city has to offer, but this time I actually had a real-live tourist with me, or at least an Ottawa expat who had long since moved out to Banff.
So in lieu of anything else to do on a Tuesday afternoon and happy to take advantage of a free attraction I put in a quick call to my local MP and got myself (+1) on the Guest List for the House Of Commons. This was before all the 9/11 craziness so I don’t think they had beefed up security in Centre Block yet. Aside from the mandatory coat check I think we were ushered straight in.
We took our seats high above the den of Honourable Members of Parliament. Sometimes I swear it’s just like looking down on a pit full of spoiled nine-year-olds.
I always find it amusing to look for the MPs that aren’t paying any attention whatsoever. And while it’s true that most of them aren’t really following the action many are surreptitiously reading a book or merely staring off into space and looking bored out of their skulls. But some of them…well, a grade school teacher would have a conniption. Grown men and women just loudly talking to one another while many sit there blatantly doing nothing but working on a crossword puzzle or leafing through the newspaper, and all this while Honourable Members of our Parliament are standing up and addressing issues vital to the country (while the other side loudly boos and makes catcalls in a childish attempt to drown out the Honourable Member who is speaking)! It’s sometimes pretty frustrating to watch, and I always wish there was a cranky old teacher down there walking among the desks rapping knuckles and keeping them all in line.
But there isn’t.
Of course nothing Earth-shaking was debated, and how could it be? And just like the (semi-)Honourable Members who gradually started getting out of their chairs and leaving mid-session (yes, even while other Members were delivering their impassioned speeches) we did the same. Eventually deciding to call it a day we set our translator earpieces back into their holders and rose to go, though we at least waited for a break in the action before heading for the door.
There’s every reason to linger inside the Parliament Buildings when you have a chance, and I’m sure we did on our way out. The arched ceilings and many faces carved in stone are fascinating, and I’m also a big fan of the hall of Prime Minister’s portraits. Overall it’s a cool building (imagine what the original edifice must have looked like!), it’s free to visit, and it’s just down the street.
If only the MP’s found the place as interesting and worthy of respect as I do.