One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
I didn’t mean to do it. I swear, it just happened.
One minute, I’m taking pictures of Treasury Board president Member of Parliament Stockwell Day, chatting about what a small-town reporter is doing in the House of Commons. Stepping onto an elevator, he told me something along the lines of “have fun on the rest of your trip.”
“Always do,” I said with a wink.
Who winks at federal politicians? Apparently, I do.
I’m pegging it to the nervous twitch that has developed in my eye over the past year. Or, my old roommate and sports reporter Jeff D’Andrea used to squint his left eye sometimes — maybe I’m subconsciously copying his old habit.
All people have weird quirks, and we journalists are certainly no exception.
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On the topic of D’Andrea, he can list you the entire Blue Jays roster from 1993 when they won the World Series. He has more knowledge about any sport — whether hockey, wrestling or water polo — than anyone I’ve ever seen.
Sports are his life. The Superbowl is one of the greatest events of the year.
While I couldn’t tell you every member of Jean Chrétien’s cabinet in 1993, federal elections are my Superbowls. I love federal politics. For me, wandering around Parliament is like wandering around a stadium. A press pass is like the pass to the locker room hallways.
You walk down the quiet halls of the Centre Block, security guards tipping their hats at you. Asking for directions, they’re not sure what a “scrum” even is, let alone where they are.
But when you get there you know it. Sound echos through the hallway. Reporters mull around, waiting for our politicians to leave their lobbies. There are big lights, big cameras, big televisions showing CPAC.
Friday was not the first time I was in Parliament for a story, but due to a bit of a bungle on the office end, it was the first time I was in as a guest of a minister rather than journalist.
It’s odd not being considered a reporter. I was indignant when I couldn’t stay at the scrums by myself. I flipped when they wouldn’t let me have my notebook in the House of Commons.
I did, however, poke my head into the infamous government lobby, where Stephen Harper’s pictures did indeed line the walls — at least the walls near the entrance that I could see. And yes, I did see the picture of the Queen with Harper poking his head out from behind her. Granted, I was told there were pictures of other ministers further down the hall. I was also told that only Liberal prime ministers are shown in the opposition lobby on their portion of the wall.
Monday, I finagled my press pass and was back in as one of the reporters, sitting in on Question Period where I should with pen in hand and ink on page, covering what I needed to cover.
In the House of Commons, however, reporters are not allowed to take pictures. No one is.
If I want a picture, I need to either pay for it from Reuters or the Canadian Press, or ask a politician to ask a House of Commons photographer to snag one for me. From there, the pictures go to the office of the politician and they choose what to send to me.
So unfortunately, there are no pictures for me to add here of Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq Friday before Question Period. Slumped in her chair, thumbs in action on her Blackberry, she shouted snarky comments at Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett making a speech.
I can’t show you pictures of Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley, fairly soft of voice, also being interrupted by all sides.
There are no pictures for me to show of the empty seats on Friday, nor the full ones on Monday.
Yes, we can watch the House of Commons proceedings on CPAC. We can read articles about what’s going on, and we can watch the news clips on CBC or CTV for a bit of extra context.
But just like it’s difficult to understand the nitty-gritty rules and tricks of hockey from your couch, it’s hard to really understand how Parliament works unless you see it for yourself.