Tag Archives: Parliament

Goodbye, Hello and a Sad Farewell

The Headlines say it all…

Closed for Renovations: The Home of Canada’s Democracy 

(Toronto Star Dec. 18, 2018)

Lots of unresolved issues as Centre Block closes

(Penticton Herald Dec. 24, 2018)

The iconic Centre Block is closing indefinitely 

(The Globe and Mail Dec. 14, 2018)

Parliament adjourns for 2018, ending a final sitting in Centre Block for a Decade

(CTV News Dec. 13, 2018)

Closing Centre Block: Parliament Prepares to Leave

(CPAC, Dec. 17, 2018)

An empty House of Commons, December 2018

I have only been working on Parliament Hill for three years, but Centre Block, she is a grand old lady.  There are many areas to discover and to halls to wander down. The Library is an essential visit; there is the hall of Prime Minister portraits (including the story of the ‘wall’ between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin).  Working there, the committee rooms hold amazing artwork that captures our history, the Peace Tower and the memorial Chamber housing the books of those that have died in wars past. 

So much has been written about the “good-bye” to Centre Block that I figure the words on the new home of the House of Commons will be eventually written in January when MPs return to Ottawa.  Walking into the House and watching Question Period is always a thrill, I don’t always have to like the answer but its fun to hear the questions.   The many halls that take some getting used to may not be missed, but the meeting rooms, the corner offices, the Main Rotunda and the House and Senate Lobbies will certainly be missed.  They all have history and a person can get lost in thought when pondering the footsteps of thousands of MPs, Prime Ministers, foreign leaders, Governor Generals and many many many Canadians that might be only a echo in our history – but those steps loom large when you yourself have a chance to walk in Centre Block. 

The grand ole building will be missed, but boy oh boy do we have something amazing to call home for the next 10+ years!  Say hello the new West Block Chamber and the Senate chamber in the old Ottawa Conference Centre, that before that was the Union Station for trains coming in and out of Ottawa.

The work that has been done is phenomenal, the engineering in adding a major infrastructure within a building is something to behold.  The West Block doesn’t have the beauty of 100 years, but it is a beautifully renovated building that will house two large committee rooms that will also serve as the Government and Opposition Caucus meeting rooms.  The attention to detail in the West Block is intricate, the use of what were once outside walls to be indoor, the high glass ceiling in the House chambers creates a sense of limitless opportunities for MP’s all add to the awe of what is now our House of Commons.  

It is going to take a while to know exactly where the offices of the Prime Minister, Opposition and Third Party are and what is the fastest way to get there.  I imagine the many stairs and elevators will lead me astray – I will need a few weeks before I can adequately show guests around the building efficiently. 

Luckily I had the chance to walk through the West Block in November.  It was difficult to decide if I should take photos or just look at the transformation because you didn’t want to miss anything. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10161038762890858&set=pcb.10161038769540858&type=3&theater

Bruce Addo with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2011

Finally, a goodbye to a giant of a man, Bruce Addo passed away suddenly on Christmas day.  He had just started working in the Minister of Environment, Rod Phillip’s office, in Queens Park after the election.  I knew Bruce briefly, we worked on the Larry O’Brien campaign in 2010 together in Ottawa, but the memory of him stuck with you.  He was a hard person to forget, because he broke the mould on how a political person should act.  He never had a bad word for his political opponents, but never shied away from a debate with them. 

He had a smile that never quit and time for everyone for a conversation.   I don’t need to say more about him, the tributes on Facebook have flowed non-stop since the news of his death.  I mentioned to someone that if we all did politics the way Bruce did, Canadians would have a better opinion of politicians.  Bruce had a great future in the governing of Ontario and eventually Canada with a Conservative government.  He would have gone far, now he is gone far away but his smile will always be near.  

We will miss you Bruce.

Advertisements

“On the House” by Rob Walsh

In a year of living politically, it challenges me to read more so I know and understand more. The first challenge was to learn about what my political reality really is. As a ‘staffer’ on Parliament Hill I had knowledge of the happening of the activities of how Parliament Hill “works. What I needed was an understanding of why it works the way it does and the historical and constitutional contexts that Canada is governed by.

It could be a book for dreamers, those that dream of becoming an elected Member ofOn the House Parliament. At least by reading the book before making the decision to run, it could weed out a few who might be considering a ‘run’ when the weight of the position is understood.

On the House is written by Rob Walsh, who had a 20-year career as a Law Clerk working with Members of Parliament and their staff on Parliamentary procedure and regulations. On the House introduces the players that support MP’s and staff and also reveals a few secrets that take the mystery out of the daily procedures that rule all that are allowed to be in the House of Commons.

The book arrived at a time when there were ethical questions raised by members on the activities of the government. On the House covers the everyday activities of from the moment a newly elected MP arrives in Ottawa to set up an office, attending Member “school” and to be sworn in, all this to be done before setting one foot into the House of Commons.

Beyond the first steps following an election, On the House, takes the reader (and the new MP) through an exercise of understanding how our constitution was developed going back to before the Magna Carta and the development of the separation of the Crown and Parliament in the United Kingdom.   What follows through in the pages is an evolution of ‘privilege’, ‘ethics’, tradition where much of the work of governing take place. Walsh takes us into committee rooms, into the law clerks office and of course into the House of Commons as he explains how the procedures, with even the smallest alteration would have an large impact.

In light of what has been making recent headlines, the sections on ethics and parliamentary privilege are of particular interest. I should note here that skipping ahead to read these chapters should not be encouraged; having the constitutional context of privilege is needed to know that Canada is governed by history as much as it is by a changing political and social landscape.

The idea of Parliamentary privilege might seem unlawful to Canadians, protecting our elected officials from what is said in ‘the House’ and on Committee? Walsh does a good job to explain why the privilege exists and where it comes from. While privilege exists in the House and in Committee, it does not outside of these, hence the reason you’ll hear requests to have something said in privilege repeated outside the doors of the house (which are used as the cover of On the House).

Through case histories, parliamentary debates and parliamentary procedures outside of the House of Commons Walsh give the reader the experience that even though there are flaws, our form of government that was first set out in the British North America Act of 1867 works. Walsh also uses cases of law that defend the privilege that MP’s enjoy. While Walsh worked to defend many of Parliaments privileges – he does disagree with a few and puts his case forward – but history more than often not wins out and unwritten laws or traditions of privilege remain in place.

It might seem that On the House is a book for the Ottawa bubble, but the reality is that Walsh has provided Canadians with a “how to book” for comprehending how our government and the opposition how each play their roles.  There is legalese to navigate, but would you expect anything else considering the topic? Walsh’s view as Parliamentary Council on our Parliament is unique and one that should be read and shared.

On the House is available through McGill Queens University Press.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net