We passed on to the House of Commons, empty late in the evening. We were free to try out the Speaker’s Throne, or the seats of the various members, while Bill explained the seating arrangements for members and Parliamentary officials, and the various galleries, such as the press gallery and the public gallery.
Scott Cameron with R. Tait McKenzie’s statue of Lieutenant-Colonel George Baker, M.P., killed in 1916.
Then it was on down the Confederation Hallway, noting the white marble floors from quarries near Lake Champlain in Quebec, and more paintings of prime ministers and dignitaries, to the Rotunda. A massive stone pillar here dedicates the restored building to the soldiers of the First World War, and expands upward to magnificent fan vaulting and carvings, while on the floor of inlaid marble, both from Quebec and abroad, is a 16-point compass star, surrounded by concentric rings of colour representing the land of Canada, the sea and the world.
We continued down the Hall of Honour to the Parliamentary Library, noting on the way the old Members’ Reading Room, the Railway Committee Room and the location where the Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, shot Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in 2014.
The Parliamentary Library, Bill explained, was of the same wood construction as the old Parliament Buildings, and during the fire of 1916 was only saved by an alert employee closing the steel doors, which he showed us. He drew our attention to the intricately carved pine woodwork of the stacks, in which each carving is unique, and to the floor pattern in cherry, oak and walnut. A display told the story of the fire. Bill told us that one of his constituents, living in a seniors’ home at the time, had been a page in the House of Commons in 1916 and claimed to have led Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden out of harm’s way.
Last we visited the Senate Chamber, the Red Chamber. Here Bill noted the use of Indiana limestone for trim and carvings, explaining that it was very easily worked. We also viewed the Senate foyer with paintings of Canada’s monarchs, although some of these are copies.
We returned to the Main Entrance, where Gerry had brought our bus right to the door. By the time we got back to the Client Service Centre, after 10 p.m., everyone felt that we had had a full and rewarding day, and all agreed that Bill Tupper had put together a most memorable outing.
Some thirty Historical Society members and guests enjoyed an expedition to the national Parliament organized by Bill Tupper, our former President and former Member of Parliament. We travelled from the North Gower Client Service Centre in a Rideau Bus Lines schoolbus, driven by Gerry Egan, one of our members, in the late afternoon. On the way Bill pointed out an outcrop of Nepean sandstone along Hwy. 416 from which the Parliament Buildings are constructed.
Members of the historical society addressed by Bill Tupper. In the foreground, left to right are John Seabrook, Ruth Wright, Eleanor Aass, Annabelle Aass, Patricia Pratt, Dennis and Anne Osmond and Bill Tupper.
Arriving on Wellington Street, we de-bussed at the Centennial Flame and, mingling with the other tourists, we walked up the impressive approach to the main entrance of the Centre Block.
Members of the historical society on the approach to the Parliament Buildings. As can be seen in the background, it was a perfect evening.
We proceeded to the Parliamentary Restaurant, where we enjoyed an excellent buffet supper. While there, we peeked into the New Zealand Room, one of the small private dining rooms used for special occasions, with an outstanding view up the Ottawa River to the Chaudière Falls.
Leaving the dining room, we were met by our current Member of Parliament, Hon. Pierre Poilievre, who introduced us to his friend and colleague, Erin Weir, NDP M.P. for Regina-Lewvan, who in turn introduced us to the members of his staff who were just going in to dine.
Our tour conducted by Bill Tupper began in the Members’ Entrance. Bill pointed out that the interiors of the old Parliament Buildings were made almost entirely of wood and were a firetrap. This was borne out in the fire of 3 February 1916 which destroyed almost everything except the Parliamentary Library. The reconstructed buildings were of fireproof Nepean sandstone. Nowadays, repairs are made using stone quarried near Mirabel, Quebec. Much of the interior is in warm Tyndall limestone, which takes well to carving.
In the Members’ Entrance. Eleanor Aass admires the carvings high up.
We viewed the symbolic carvings high in the cornices of the entrance. We also looked at the oil paintings of some of the prime ministers, and the bronze statue by Dr. R. Tait McKenzie of Lieutenant-Colonel George Harold Baker, M.P., killed at Mount Sorrel in 1916. Dennis Osmond provided further detail on McKenzie’s local roots in Lanark and his medical achievements at his old medical school at McGill University.
Harry Joyce in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s seat in the House of Commons.
Outing to Parliament Hill
Wednesday 21 September 2016
Article and Photos by Owen Cooke