Today was a great day. I had planned to take a sightseeing tour of Ottawa, but I found out that the two bus tour companies had both closed for the season yesterday! So, after signing in for my conference, I went to watch parliament for the afternoon. When I arrived, I had to go through two different security checks to get into the visitor's gallery.
It was strange to watch a debate on the Nis'ga treaty with only 2 members of the Liberal Party in attendance. At one point, it was so ridiculous that a Reform MP got up to complain about the empty seats across from him. Within 4 seconds, 25 or so Liberals flooded into the House... but they didn't last long!
The highlight was Question Period, a 45 minute free-for-all that's the best theatre you'll ever see. My MP's office gave me a special pass to sit in the side gallery for VIP's. Imagine me, a special guest of the Reform Party! I was able to look straight at Preston Manning and Chuck Strahl (my MP), and watch them throw shots against Paul Martin and Herb Grey. The shots were well-aimed, but the Government didn't seem to sweat it. (The heckling was hilarious: one guy screamed out "...because you're so stupid!!!!!" and didn't get thrown out!) Sorry I don't have any pictures of this; they don't allow any recording devices or cameras into the HOC.
Tonight I took a tour of the Centre Block of the Parliament, and had my first working dinner of the conference. Here are some pictures.
Our tour guide, Sean, started us out in a room where all the members of past Parliaments are listed.
We stepped into the Senate Chamber. It's decorated with giant paintings depicting the First World War. Two female teachers snuck out to the Speaker's chair, but got into trouble with the guards. I was embarrassed... teachers can be so rowdy.
We went up to the observation deck of the Peace Tower. What a view!!! Ottawa is a truly beautiful city. Here is shot upwards of the tower clock. I know, I know, this is a strange shot.
The central hall of the Centre Block is a series of beautiful gothic vaults. The stone is, I believe, Manitoba granite. On Wednesday night we had our M.P.'s dinner here.
This is in the Memorial Room. All of Canada's and Newfoundland's dead soldiers, airmen and sailors are listed here, from the Nile Campaign to the Korean War (about 115,000 in total). This is the book for WW1. At 11:00 am every morning, they turn it to the next page.
The dinner in the West Block begins!!!
Here is the focus group that I will be working with for much of the week. They are teachers from all across Canada. They're a very sharp and dedicated bunch of people; it will be fun to work with them and learn from them.
Good night, everybody!