After our visit up the Peace Tower and to the Memorial Chamber we met in a lobby to join our tour guide and the rest of the people that would be on the same tour as us. The tours are free and are very worth taking. Our guide taught us a ton!
Canada’s parliamentary system is open, democratic, and consists of three parts: the Queen, the Senate, and the House of Commons. The House of Commons is what they used to show on TV when I was a kid (and likely still do I imagine) that I thought was just about the most boring thing ever. But there is something about visiting the actual House of Commons that somehow makes it so much more fascinating and I was all ears listening to our guide.
Because Canada is a constitutional monarchy that means the Queen is recognized as the formal Head of State and all federal laws are made in the Queen’s name, however the ability to make and pass legislation resides with the elected parliament, not with the Monarch. Because the Queen can’t be in Canada all the time she is represented by the Governor General who acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
The function of the Senate is to review, amend, and either reject or approve bills passed by the House of Commons. It can also introduce its own bills so long as they don’t spend public funds or impose taxes. In order for a bill to become law it must be passed by the Senate.
The Senate holds their debates in the beautiful Senate Chamber that is full of history and artwork depicting Canada’s heritage. These works of art are to remind the Senators of the people and the country they serve. Of particular importance are eight paintings that commemorate the sacrifices made by Canadians during the First World War and of Canada’s movement to full independence within the Commonwealth.
The House of Commons
Many of the laws in Canada began their life as a bill in the House of Commons where the Members of Parliament would have debated and voted on it. The Members of Parliament (MPs) are the candidates who received the most votes in their constituency, or riding, of which there are 308 of across the country.
The seats in the House of Commons are distributed approximately in proportion to the population of each province or territory, and each province or territory must have at least as many Members in the House of Commons as it has in the Senate.
Much like the House of Commons in the British Parliament, in Canada’s Parliament the predominant color in this room is green. Unfortunately when we visited half of the room was draped in plastic so we didn’t really get a good photo of the whole room.
Library of Parliament
As a library lover this was hands down my favourite part of the tour and the only thing that would have made this tour better would have been if we could have stayed in the room longer and roamed through the stacks. I could imagine myself working there and am convinced I’d be a much more productive blogger in beautiful room like that. Or not, as I’d be looking around all the time!
Opened in 1876, the first Parliamentary Librarian, Alpheus Todd, recommended that the building be “spacious and lofty” and also, very wisely, suggested it be separated from the Centre Block by a corridor to protect it from fire. Fire was a threat to the library several times in its history- in 1849, 1916, and 1952.
Each of these rooms were impressive, but equally so is the rest of the architecture throughout the corridors, staircases, and other areas in the Centre Block. Our guide stopped us in many of these areas to show us particular bits of interest and described the symbolism of each. I really could have stayed several more hours here just taking in every nook and cranny, and then likely taking even more photos of all the details. And it’s some of those details I’ll leave you with for today.