In July, a friend of mine (a former Senate Page) arranged for a friend of his (a current Senate Page…hmm, a colleague of dePape?) to give a behind-the-scenes Parliament Hill tour. This post is much delayed because the pictures taken on the tour were on someone else’s camera. With an experience as extraordinary as this, photographic evidences are critical. This is why I waited until Felix uploaded the pictures before sharing this adventure with you (P.S. Thanks for keeping your word Felix!).
Our tour began at the Senate entrance during a rainy lunch hour. As the name indicates, it is the entrance used by senators (*Rose pops her collar). I may not be remembering this correctly because it was so long ago, but I don’t think we even went through a metal detector. We waited to be called by security while sitting in a deep cushioned mahogany couch. When my turn came, the guard merely wrote down my name from my Department of Justice badge. I know I look very trustworthy and my credibility was confirmed by the Page (who knew all the guards), but getting in still felt too easy. Considering all the “restricted” places I’ve gotten access to by dressing appropriately, dropping the right names and eluding the correct “air”, I would make a really great spy!
Anyhow, here are some tour highlights.
Committee Business: While wandering around the hallowed halls of our seat of government, we were stopped dead in our tracks by an intimidating holler. However, the equally intimidating guard quickly turned into a big teddy bear when he recognized our guide. When he heard we had a foreign visitor among us (thank you Felix!), the guard unlocked a committee room especially for us. Committee rooms have heavy, wooden doors that are hollow on the inside. This core is covered with tightly stretched leather that is nailed into the wood. Apparently, this is to prevent eavesdropping on confidential Committee business.
Getting Whipped! Since neither the House nor the Senate was sitting, most of the doors to the offices of interesting people were closed. However, we ran into the Opposition Whip, Senator Jim Munson. He also knew our guide (good job for having left a positive impression on so many people, Jessica!) and again we played the “we-have-a-foreign-visitor” card (Gosh Felix, were you ever useful!) so Senator Munson invited us into his huge, light-filled office. He showed us memorabilia from his 25-year journalism career at the CBC and we talked about his time reporting in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square incidence.
Dining and Tunnelling: One of my goals for this private tour was to see the parliamentary dining room. I heard it was a linen table-clothed and silverware affair. I suppose it must be a place off-limit to those lower on the totem pole. This is because the only food-related place in Centre Block that Jessica knew was a cafeteria. Nevertheless, I drank a glass of water there as my way of marking “Rose was here”. The good news is that there is still the chance to impress me by inviting me for a meal (well I suppose drinks are acceptable too) at the parliamentary dining room. My other goal was to explore the tunnel linking the Centre Block and the East Block. I had envisioned exposed rock walls with torches stuck between the cracks (yes, I fantasize) but it turned out to be just a modern tunnel. This was the second time I was let down by a supposedly “cool” tunnel: the other being the one between Château Laurier and the Congress Centre.
I want to thank Jeff and Jessica for making this tour possible; Felix for the pictures; and Etienne for being such a good sport about my last-minute lunch plan change. So there, just another typical lunch hour in our nation’s capital.