As far as comparisons go, the National Assembly and Queen’s Park are perfect case studies. At Queen’s Park, we have grown accustomed to a legislative culture firmly grounded in tradition. Everything from the building itself, to the clothes that the Speaker, the Clerks and the Sergeant-at-Arms wear in the Legislature, have not changed much since parliament’s first days. When you walk around Queen’s Park, it’s hard to forget the history of those that have come before you.
While the National Assembly also stands as a beautiful testament to Quebec’s history, we encountered there a spirit of modernization. We had the privilege of sitting down with three key individuals at the National Assembly who embodied this feeling.
Michel Bonsaint and Alexandre Regimbal
The House Clerk Michel Bonsaint and Parliamentary Counsel Alexandre Regimbal both sit at the Clerks’ table during assembly proceedings. Along with the Speaker, they do not wear traditional clothing, but show up in their professional suits. Mr. Bonsaint often enters the Assembly wearing a characteristic bowtie.
Mr. Regimbal led us on a tour of the Chamber and the Clerks’ Table, which is equipped with computers and other technology. It’s clear that the National Assembly’s staff don’t shy away from innovation.
Mr. Bonsaint described the National Assembly as the House of the People, and spoke passionately about several initiatives they have taken to open up the building — and what it represents — to the people of Quebec. Under his supervision, a vegetable and fruit garden was built in front of the Assembly. Most recently, the Assembly’s entrance is being reconstructed to feature a modern visitor’s pavilion, and a new high-security entrance. The public will be able to watch Committees of the National Assembly through the see-through glass built around the committee rooms.
Mr. Cedric Drouin, a public relations professional at the National Assembly, gave us with a detailed preview of the new space and architecture. Although the new project will be a significant change for the National Assembly’s physical space, the vision behind it — of a modern space interacting with a historic institution — falls in line with their vision of a legislature that changes with Quebec’s society and culture.
We can’t wait to see what the final visitor’s space will look like, and maybe even visit it ourselves one day!