(Editor’s Note: For a week in December, we had the wonderful opportunity to spend a full week in Ottawa, with five full days worth of meetings and visits with some of the biggest names on Parliament Hill. This trip helped fulfill an important part of OLIP that sometimes gets lost while we’re busily working away in our offices: being able to think about parliamentary democracy in a broader context, and being able to compare the functioning of the legislature at Queen’s Park with other legislatures across Canada and the world. This goes hand-in-hand with the academic component of our programme, as we find ourselves constantly learning new things about parliaments and governance. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be sharing all of our insights from Ottawa, and in the future we’ll be visiting British Columbia and London, England as well. We have to send a big shout-out and thank you to Ottawa’s Parliamentary Internship Programme (the PIPs! Check out their blog here: http://www.pip-psp.org/blog/) for graciously hosting and organizing many great meetings for us. They were excellent hosts and the week would not have been nearly so great without them! Without further ado, here’s Hibah’s recap of our first morning.)
It was a great start to our week on Parliament Hill that fateful Monday morning!
We began the day with a tour of Rideau Hall – the official residence and workplace of every governor general since 1867, including our current GG, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston. How exciting!
We saw the lavish rooms, rich artwork, and historic monuments that decorate the heritage site where the governor general resides and performs the functions of Canada’s Head of State, as the representative of the Crown in Canada.
A highlight of the tour was the Painting of Her Majesty which was officially unveiled at Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee earlier this year.
Having acquainted ourselves with Rideau Hall, we then embarked on a tour of Centre Block in the main Parliament buildings. This included a trip up the Peace Tower, granting us a beautiful view surrounding the Hill (see pictures below!). Another highlight was getting to see the Senate chambers up close for the first time, and we were all struck by how beautiful the buildings were, and the sense of history that could be felt emanating from the very walls!
This tour was followed by an extremely candid and insightful conversation with Kevin Page, Canada’s first and, so far, only Parliamentary Budget Officer. His role being to provide an independent analysis of the state of the economy and the nation’s finances, Mr. Page delivered a passionate but humble appeal for standing for accountability and integrity even in the face of adversity and unpopularity. We thank him so much for his time and graciousness in answering all of our questions.
What an exciting morning!