A refreshing break from the GTA

This week the interns travelled to Quebec City and Ottawa, which I must say was a refreshing break from life in the GTA. I think we would agree that one week in two of Canada’s most intriguing cities is far from enough but we were nevertheless ecstatic at the opportunity to explore legislative politics in a different context. Thanks to the Quebec Legislative Interns, we met with several prominent professionals who worked within the National Assembly as well as the bureaucratic offices connected to the Legislature. The Parliamentary Interns in Ottawa certainly did not falter in their efforts to make our stay exciting, as we were given the opportunity to meet people with equally impressive dossiers. I find it very hard to pick one distinctive moment during this trip so I will simply describe a few interesting experiences during our stay in Quebec City. We had conversations with Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) from the two main parties (Liberal and PQ), which had a profound impact on how I view the sovereignty issue. Prior to these discussions, I had formed an opinion solely on my exposure to local media as well as my (Ontario) education about French-Canadian identity and Quebec’s desire for cultural preservation and distinction. Subsequent to this trip, I still feel quite strongly about maintaining the Canadian federation including a province as unique and dynamic as Quebec, however, my understanding of the historical, political, cultural and socio-economic factors underlying the sovereignty debate has vastly improved. The MNAs may have disagreed on the appropriate approach for preserving French culture in a predominantly Anglo-federation, however, they all shared a distinct passion for Quebec which indicates the growing relevance of reigniting this discussion amongst tomorrow’s leaders. The Quebec interns were kind enough to arrange a tour of the city from the Observatory, providing a panoramic view of one of Canada’s oldest historic districts. As an Urban Planning graduate with a particular interest in heritage preservation, I found it fascinating how Quebec City has towed the line between protecting the cultural and heritage value of its design, form and structures and modernizing the infrastructure and urban operations of its downtown core. Adaptive reuse seems to play a vital role in advancing the urbanization agenda without compromising the collective identity so clearly entrenched in the city’s physical layout and architecture. The urban landscape manages to tell the story of Quebec while still integrating elements of contemporary planning in its housing, transit and natural systems.

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