After having met with the government House Leader, Peter Van Loan, late Thursday night, news broke that some sort of dispute had occurred on the House floor between him and Opposition House Leader Nathan Cullen. So, Thursday morning we were privileged to meet with the Speaker of the House as well as the Opposition House Leader to get their take on what had occurred.
We first met with Speaker Andrew Scheer. Did you know he is the youngest Canadian to ever serve in the parliamentary capacity of Speaker? Full of energy and enthusiasm, Speaker Scheer walked us through what his job entails. He outlined three major roles: keeping order in the house; supporting administrative departments; and hosting international parliamentarians as well as travelling. He explained that while, politically, he has very strong beliefs on issuesl, as speaker he must serve in a non-partisan capacity. However, as speaker he has direct access to key ministers and can therefore represent his constituents as an MP effectively. When asked what his coolest meetings have been thus far (besides OLIP, of course), he answered: the Pope, the Queen, the US Speaker.
In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to meet with the Official Opposition’s House Leader, Nathan Cullen. He discussed his perspective on the previous nights’ action in the House. He also discussed the role of individual MPs in a parliamentary democracy. Many Canadians often forget that we do not elect a government, he said – we elect MPs. As such, he discussed the distinction between votes that are core to a party’s founding principles which he believes ought to be ‘whipped’ by the party in contrast to other votes where the individual rights of MPs ought to be upheld so they may represent their constituents freely.
We ended the day on a high note in the Senate where we were introduced by the Senate Speaker in the chamber, and we have to thank the Senators for giving us a warm applause! Observing the Senate was particularly interesting because, unlike the House of Commons, it is not televised. Personally, I was surprised that the Senate has their own version of Question Period where opposition Senators may ask Senators from the government side questions. Subsequently, some of the interns and I enjoyed some of the best pizza Ottawa has to offer at Gabriel’s – you truly can never go wrong with a simple cheese pizza!