When I was a kid, my Gramps tried to convince us that the work my mother did on Parliament Hill included setting the Peace Tower clock.
Like leaning out of the Peace Tower and moving the hands on the clock.
What she actually did was research for Mr. Gordon Fairweather, MP for Fundy-Royal. She spent a lot of time in the Parliamentary Library. When I left my job in the House of Commons, working for Jack Layton, MP for Toronto-Danforth and leader of the NDP, my colleagues gave me a pen as a going away present. The pen was made from wood that used to make up the library floor. The same floor my mother walked on, or so I like to think.
My father worked in the House of Commons too – in the Parliamentary Press Gallery and for Judy Lamarsh, MP for Niagara Falls and Minister of National Health and Welfare. In fact, the last time I saw my Dad was when he came to a class I was taking in women in politics. He talked about his time with Judy and what an amazing woman she was.
Centre Block has always been a very special place to me. I grew up in Old Ottawa South, not too far from Parliament, and downtown was always a special occasion. Canada Day, Victoria Day, visiting the old bell that fell off the original tower during the fire of 1916.
(The library was saved during that fire, by an employee who thought to close the doors).
But even having grown up with the Peace Tower as a constant – and the northernmost point in the city, and, for a long time, the tallest building in the city (there was a bylaw) – it remains a special place.
I will never forget being there for work and walking down the stairs while the clock chimed. Hearing rumours swirl about coalition negotiations, and seeing Ed Broadbent during a meeting and realizing it really was all true. Sitting at Jack’s desk in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. When I was summoned to the opposition lobby to meet with an MP who had a question for me, and when I had my first meeting in the government lobby. Meeting the Clerk of the House and the longest-serving Speaker. When I was pinned with my classmates after completing my Masters and my kid took the opportunity to cartwheel in the Hall of Honour.Just this year when I got to walk on the floor of the House of Commons for the first time and sit in the Speaker’s chair.
Today journalists and parliamentarians are reminiscing about Centre Block as the sitting winds down and we get ready for the closure, with renovations set to take more than a decade. The new House of Commons is ready – a gorgeous space with an ill-advised glass roof. (This is Ottawa, we get 30 cm of snow at a time).
I am lucky that Centre Block is such a part of my town, my memories, my family. I will miss it, though it will be interesting to see what happens when it re-opens.