I remember the first time I wandered the hallowed halls of Parliament’s Centre Block.
It was the summer between Grade 5 and Grade 6. My family was in the middle of a major cross-country road trip. We’d stopped off for a few days in Ottawa, in time to visit with some of my mother’s extended family and take in the Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill.
Part of our adventures included taking a tour of Parliament Hill’s most iconic building.
I was bitten by the parliamentary bug as soon as I set foot inside.
It was love at first sight: the intricate carvings, the hidden fossils buried within its stone walls of magnificent limestone, the marble floors that glisten in the sunlight after they’ve been polished, and the magnificent parliamentary library with its towering statue of Her Majesty Queen Victoria watching your every move.
Sixteen years later, the building’s magic has not worn off. I still get chills every morning when I walk to work.
There’s a certain thrill that comes from being able to walk through the building’s main doors underneath the Peace Tower.
Even after so many years of working on the Hill, I still can’t believe I’m one of the lucky few who gets to say her office is “on Parliament Hill.”
Parliament Hill, and Centre Block, form the heart of so many of my most treasured Ottawa memories.
Centre Block was home to my first real job in 2009 when I moved from my hometown of St. Albert, Alta., to work as a page in the House of Commons. I was barely 18 and had never lived so far away from home before.
It was a scary and exciting time.
I still remember the day my entire family got to sit in an MP’s seat on the floor of the House of Commons as they watched me sign my name into the official book of record.
I’ll never forget the look of pride on my parents’ faces as they got to walk past the tour groups and explore Parliament’s many inner stairwells with me after the ceremony.
My dad said he felt like a “big shot.” The thing is, I did too.
Nine years later, many of my fellow pages remain some of my best friends.
Parliament Hill was also where I learned how to be a journalist.
It’s where I first scrummed a member of Parliament (and learned scrum etiquette in the process.)
In 2013, when the Senate scandal was in full swing, I spent hours staking out the Senate foyer with fellow reporters as we tried to keep up with the evolving story.
I gained the confidence to ask questions and challenge those answers when necessary.
I’m not afraid to holler a cow question in a scrum, even if it’s not the issue of the day.
I have the patience of Parliament to thank for that. My colleagues and others have taken me under their wings over the years, those who have sat with me at endless committee meetings, and who have contemplated my questions and urged to dig deeper.
They’ve guided me through my first national tragedy, when a lone gunman stormed into the building and opened fire.
If walls could talk, I can only imagine what the walls of Centre Block would say.
Come January, I’ll have a new, albeit-temporary, office. The House of Commons will move in to the newly renovated West Block.
The Senate is headed down the street to the old central train station.
Centre Block’s renovations are set to take at least 10 years to complete. Who knows what the future will hold?
One thing I know is true. These memories, I will cherish forever.