Going through life, offers many opportunities to check boxes on your bucket list. I have inched my way along the edge walk at the CN Tower, spent time in a flight simulator and last week, I had an opportunity, which was very educational and extremely interesting.
I was invited to spend a day at Queen’s Park. Let me be clear, this was not a political event, promoting any specific party, but an opportunity to see how our government functions.
The day started with a drive to Queen’s Park, and after a security check, being ushered, by a page, to the member’s gallery in the Legislative Assembly. I may have been in this room on a school trip, many years ago, but having no recollection of that previous visit, it was a new experience.
The chamber is beautiful, with ornate woodcarvings everywhere. The entire building is steeped in history, and is a beautiful piece of architecture. The Ontario Legislative Building is surrounded by Queen's Park, and sits on that part south of Wellesley Street (the former site of King's College, later the University of Toronto). It was leased from the university by the municipal government of Toronto in 1859, for a payment of $1 per year on a 999-year term. The southern portion of the site was later given to the provincial government.
The building is constructed of 10.5 million bricks, each of which was made by inmates of the Central Prison. They have a pinkish tint, and were mined from the Credit River valley near Orangeville, Ontario.
The first few hours were taken up by question period. The opposition, led by Marit Stiles, asked questions of the Conservative government. The issues addressed were thought-provoking and several points raised sounded worthwhile. It was interesting to see Ministers and the Premier answering and defending questions.
Upon completion of question period, I was ushered by a page to a vestibule, and had an opportunity to meet and chat with the Premier of Ontario. No matter what your political views are, the experience was humbling.
I was given an in-depth tour of the building, intrigued by the paintings of former Premiers on the walls. I also saw the walls where the name of every Member of Parliament is carved into the stone.
Part of the building was ruined by fire in 1909 and reconstructed a few years later. It made me think of the tragic fire at Windsor Castle, a few years ago, and the devastation of losing priceless and non-replaceable artifacts.
I enjoyed a very tasty lunch in the Parliamentary dining room, and had an opportunity to reflect on the fantastic history that made our country great. If you have a day this summer with nothing to do, consider a visit to the Legislative Assembly at Queen’s Park. It is easy to imagine the great historic significance of the building, as you stroll through the halls that shaped our lives.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.