On Tuesday afternoon, we were lucky enough to continue the day with a tour of one part of Centre Block not seen during our official tour on Monday – the office of the Leader of the Official Opposition. As we were initially seated in the boardroom, awaiting a very busy Thomas Mulcair, we noted pristine writing scrawled above the two doorways – one reading ‘Honour Thy King’ while the other suggesting we be sure to ‘Fear God’. When Mr. Mulcair met with us, we were struck by how knowledgeable he was about the history of the office, explaining the history behind the inscriptions and even leading us in a tour of his own office (complete with mention of the secret passageway as well!). We greatly appreciated the fact that the Opposition Leader took the time to squeeze us into his schedule, and his thoughtful answer to our question about the future of the federal NDP was a highlight.
Afterwards, we got to immerse ourselves in some of the legislative and parliamentary proceedings that happen daily on Parliament Hill. This began as we sat in on a meeting of the Natural Resources committee, and we were able to gain an understanding of the functioning of committees on Parliament Hill, as they take on a very similar role to committees here at Queen’s Park. Once we were done analyzing the committee proceedings, we just had to take in a staple of parliamentary life – Question Period. Here it was interesting to note how the dynamic of a Question Period can change with a much larger chamber – both in actual size and in member size. With more members in play, it was sometimes a bit more difficult to make out the jests being shouted across the aisles, and it was definitely interesting to compare the kinds of questions being asked to the Question Period at Queen’s Park, which we interns have had plenty of experience attending. It was a terrific afternoon, filled with some staples of Parliament – Question Period and committees – that really gave us a sense of the work being done every day in the legislature. It was democracy in action, and it promised to continue making the rest of our week most interesting!