On June 1, all three AP Comparative Government and Politics classes went on a field trip to visit the British Columbia Legislature. When we arrived, we took a photo of ourselves outside of the legislature, and discovered that we wouldn’t be able to see Question Period because the MLAs weren’t sitting. However, we did get to see the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Andrew Weaver, the sole Green Party representative. He gave us a tour of the legislative precincts, including the library, inside passages, the journalist headquarters, the Green Party offices in the legislature, and a jail cell (that apparently has never been used).
Visiting “the stacks” (the legislative library) had an impact on me. There were newspapers from every constituency in B.C. and years worth of compiled original documents, all housed under high ceilings and marble walls. It was the library of my dreams! We were able to see the journalist’s rooms – a cozy, cluttered place that encompassed everything I hoped journalism would be. We were able to look through the glass in the doors that the MLAs walk through to get into the legislative chamber. Some of us hope to walk through them one day to debate the issues and change the province.
It was quite exciting to walk the halls of the legislature and see all the faces on the walls of people who have changed the province and taken it to where it is now. We learned so much about the structure of governments around the world. It was a very interesting experience to visit and to see firsthand how politics is done and realize how individuals, just like us, make the political process happen.
Our tour of the B.C. Legislature didn’t start out as we had hoped, with the discovery that the MLAs were no longer sitting and therefore there was no Question Period for us to sit in on – but from there the day was only uphill.
After walking into the building, our group met with Andrew Weaver, the MLA for Oak Bay and Saanich. He agreed to give us a special tour, and went above and beyond to show us the building. We got to see the chamber (from the outside only, of course), as well as the library, but he also took our group to some extra cool places. We got to spend a few minutes up in the main media centre, which was full of activity and where the walls were covered in old political jokes and cartoons. We also got a chance to look around Mr. Weaver’s office, where he went over some of the duties assigned to him and his co-workers.
My favourite part was when he took us downstairs to the never-yet-used jail cell (which now houses Perrier water). It was down here that Weaver described what an average day is like for him, which is about 10 times busier than some other MLAs since he’s the only provincially elected member of the Green Party in B.C. It was fascinating to hear about what goes on in the daily work of an MLA, even within the parliament itself, and it also confirmed several things we had already learned. Our trip ended with a guide showing us the chamber and sharing with us some great historical facts. While it would have been nice if the MLAs had still been sitting, because Question Period would’ve been very cool to see, being given such an in-depth tour of the building was equally amazing!