Another day has come and gone. This was a very long day, but it was also very exhilarating.
We spent the morning inside the House of Commons. This is a very rare privilege that is not granted to regular tours. We all took pictures shamelessly and sat in every seat we could (see below). Gilbert Parent, the Speaker of the House, gave an inspiring and sincere speech on the honourable role of teachers and politicians (he was a high school teacher for 17 years). He truly is a Parliamentarian. Apparently we will be receiving a video and pictures for this meeting.
In the afternoon we watched Question Period and we were honoured with a loud ovation from the MP's, after Mr. Parent introduced the teachers to the House. We followed that by watching a Parliamentary committee of our choice. I chose a fascinating session on electoral reform; the committee was listening to submissions from the Christian Heritage Party, the Green Party and the Canadian Marxist-Leninist Party. They were all asking for some system of proportional representation, and for changes that would give equal financial and media considerations to all ten registered federal parties. I was quite sympathetic with their ideas until the Leninists appealed to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I don't think Lenin ever considered "freedom of conscience" a bedrock principle of his party, as the Canadian leader was making it for hers.
The evening was filled with a great dinner with our local MP's in the main hallway of the Centre Block (this is used only a few times a year for dinners). I spent 2 hours debating policy with Chuck Strahl and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The teachers were then treated to a special tour of the Library of Parliament, something which again is out of bounds for most tourists.
Finally, a few of us were able to walk through the controversial new tunnel linking the Centre Block to the East Block. It is very elaborate and one can easily see why it cost so many millions to build. This is out of bounds to the public, so it was a fairly special thing to do. (I can't tell you how I managed to swing this; they would have to shoot me. Just kidding... )
Gilbert Parent addresses the teachers in the House of Commons.
Here I am sitting in the Prime Minister's seat and then in Preston Manning's seat directly across the aisle.
Take a look at the (omnipresent) interpreter's booth and the sound person up above. The House of Commons is absolutely beautiful!!
Here is the dinner in the Hall of Honour.
Here are two shots of the Library of Parliament, the heart of research for our politicians.
Well, time to go. I'm tired and it's time to head to bed. Tomorrow is the Senate tour and a personal session with an M.P. (we still don't know who it will be.)