If you hang around the House of Commons long enough, people start to look at you funny. At the end of business one Thursday evening last December I found myself locked in: the security guards apparently not used to having to account for anyone in the gallery after 3pm. I had to catch the attention of a page on the House floor and ask to be let out.
A couple weeks ago, an MP looked up at me in the gallery and appeared startled by my presence. A security guard came by later and complimented my endurance in having been there all day (I assured him I had stepped out briefly for lunch). When the House adjourned that night, Conservative MP Mike Lake looked up at me in the gallery and asked me what I was doing there.
What I was doing there was trying to answer a complicated question: Does the House of Commons still matter? I spent some time watching what goes on there all day. I talked to some of the people who work there. And then I tried to sort out my own thinking about the institution. The result is here, a 5,200-word attempt to answer that question.
The piece could have been three times longer and four times more ponderous, so I’m going to take the coming weeks to empty my notebook and brain. I’ve asked some smart and thoughtful people to share their smart thoughts on the present and future of the House and they’ll be stopping by too over the next while. At some point, no doubt, we’ll have it all figured out.
I will say for now that, while I I came away frustrated and concerned with the state of it, I also came away with more respect for the place and those who commit themselves to it. I feel lucky and honoured to work there on a daily basis. It is a great room and an important room. It matters. Unfortunately, it is not now treated as if it does.