Thursday was a day of movement and variety... and exhaustion.
We started with a continental breakfast in the front hall of the Senate. We had a tour of the Senate Speaker's very impressive personal chambers and then we settled into the Senate for a discussion with Gildas Molgat, the Speaker of the Senate. He attempted to defend the Senate, and was particularly angry with Claire Hoy's new book on the upper chamber. Many teachers seemed sympathetic with the efforts of the Senators in their committees; I was (and will always be) less than convinced! The fact that they are unelected hacks of the P.M. seemed nothing more than a "problem" to those who defended the Senate. In my mind it's nothing less than an effrontery to the basic ideals of democracy and accountability. It's much more than a mere "problem"! I recognize that many senators do a lot of work in Senate committees, but this influence on the legislative process can only be legitimate when we have faith in the people - and not Jean, Brian or Pierre - to select all legislators. So there, I've got that off my chest...
Unfortunately I was not able to meet with an elected M.P., so I instead went to the committee reviewing the Nisga'a treaty. Then, by chance, some fellow teachers invited me to a special tour of Preston Manning's office. This was also Mackenzie King's office when he was Prime Minister. It was wonderful to actually see this historic place, and fun to sit in Preston's office seat! Other teachers were envious of our good fortune.
We had a working lunch with lobbyists, and I sat with the chief lobbyist for the Canadian Cancer Society. I learned a lot from this and it was clear that there are some real differences between American and Canadian lobbying. Wining and dining each M.P. doesn't make much sense when all of the power is in cabinet.
In the afternoon, we had a very entertaining look at the media and politics. The presenter, Barry McLoughlin, is a professional media consultant for the government (and a former member of Air Farce). It was very funny indeed. After that, we had a feisty and entertaining panel discussion on the nature of representation by various Parliamentarians, including Chuck Strahl.
This evening I had a very quick tour of the National Gallery of Art and the Museum of Civilization. Time was short (1 hour each) but it was time well spent - and they were also free. The former was quite spectacular. The variety of art was impressive, except for its predilection for art that looks like flags! The latter was somewhat disappointing. The Museum was beautiful, but much of it was unfinished. Moreover, many of the displays looked suspiciously familiar to those of us who are regular visitors to the B.C. Provincial Museum. At least B.C. was well represented in the displays. Also, I can now say I've been to Quebec!
Mr. Molgat's office.
In the Senate chamber.
The main office of the Shadow cabinet and yours truly in Preston Manning's office. Is this legal? Who cares!
The entrance to the National Art Gallery. The building is itself a work of art.
Two famous Canadian paintings by Harris and Colville.
1) An art installation of teddy bears in pickle jars. Funny? Yes! Sick? You bet!!
2) A painting of Alert Bay, B.C.
Paintings by Matisse and Leduc.
The Voice of Fire, or "The burning ring of fire..." Preparation H, anyone?
The breathtaking Great Hall of the Museum of Civilization.