The focal point of Ontario Legislative Chamber, the Speaker’s Chair is a symbol of authority that also has a very practical function for its occupants.
This column is the first of a regular series of historical vignettes exploring Canadian parliamentary traditions, legislators and legislative buildings. Drawing on the knowledge of an established network of Canadian parliamentary librarians and researchers, we also welcome reader suggestions or questions about interesting parliamentary curiosities of the past and particular parliamentary quirks which could become the basis of future columns. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In each Canadian capital many people take great pride in a building that symbolizes parliamentary democracy and government. Legislative buildings attract tourists, lobbyists, school children and demonstrators. People come to them to learn, to influence, and to take in the special ambience of a place where their elected representatives make decisions affecting them all. They also, at times, come to protest.
Canadian legislatures provide paid employment for students in a variety of programs that benefit both students and legislatures. Hired as pages, interns, tour guides, summer staff, and in co-op programs, students assist regular staff in providing services to Members, other legislative staff, and the public. Through these programs young people earn money to help finance their education while learning first-hand about the institution at the heart of democratic government in their jurisdiction. This paper looks briefly at co-op programs in selected jurisdictions across the country and explores the Legislative Learner program in Ontario in some depth.1
In May 2012 the Ontario Legislative Library published an illustrated book, Built to Last, to tell the story of the planning, construction and evolution of the Library in the North Wing and provides a snapshot of the facility in its 100th year. The book draws on the Library’s photo collection, original architectural drawings, archival materials of former Legislative Librarians, interviews with staff and contemporary photographs.
On September 1, 1909 the Legislative Library of Ontario was destroyed when a fire gutted the West Wing of the Legislative Building. In the fall of 2009, the Legislative Library published a book, From Ashes to Steel: Rebuilding the Library and its Collection, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the fire. The book tells the story of the fire and its legacy and features reproductions of selected letters and photographs from the time of the fire. It is available for purchase at the Legislative Assembly’s Gift Shop http://www.ontla.on.ca.