Anthony Housefather, National Post | December 8, 2015 5:19 PM ET

Many people have asked me what sitting in the House is like. I thought I'd highlight some of what I have observed over the first couple of days.

Christinne Muschi for National Post. Many people have asked me what sitting in the House is like. I thought I’d highlight some of what I have observed over the first couple of days.

Last Thursday, I took my seat in the House of Commons for the first time. Between then and my election on Oct. 19, there have been lots of things on my plate. Some of them — such as being sworn in as a member of Parliament in front of family and friends, or attending my first caucus meeting — have been tremendously exciting. Others — such as resigning from my previous jobs, leasing an office, reviewing CVs and interviewing and hiring staff, ordering office supplies and figuring out how to obtain telephone lines — have been more routine. But everything paled in comparison to taking my seat, looking at the speaker’s chair, gazing at my new colleagues and realizing that I am now an up-close witness to Canadian history.

Many people have asked me what sitting in the House as a rookie MP is like. There are certain aspects of the Commons that are not as glamorous as Canadians may think. The acoustics, for example, are very poor. I thought as a fully bilingual MP, I would never need to use the headsets as I do not need translation. But I quickly learned that I actually need to wear the headsets just to amplify the sound.

In addition, for those of us who sit in the forth and fifth rows, we have new, longer benches with five people sitting together. This means anyone sitting on the end, as I do, has to get up every time someone wants to get in or out. Given that the speaker recognizes MPs by seeing them stand in their place, this may lead to some confusion.

However, there is also an incredible natural beauty to the chamber. The height of the ceilings, the beautiful windows and furnishings, the pomp and pageantry that are associated with the election of the speaker and the speech from the throne, are all quite spectacular.

During the first few days of the new parliamentary session, there has also been quite a lot of informality and conviviality.  The election of the speaker begins by listening to the speeches of the candidates and voting for them. There is then an extensive wait, while the results are being tabulated.  This gives members a chance to really meet and chat with their colleagues from the other parties. I already had an opportunity to meet many (if not all) of the Liberal members. But this was the first chance I had to meet many of the Conservative, NDP and Bloc members.

One of the things I have always believed throughout my many years as a mayor and councillor at the municipal level ,is that politics works best when you make friends with people who may have different political views. This allows you to work together in a constructive, less confrontational spirit. I really enjoyed meeting the MPs from the other parties, both that day and the next day, as we congregated outside the Senate chamber during the speech from the throne.

Something I did not know is that members of the House of Commons have a terrible view of the throne speech. Senators and guests sit in the Senate gallery, watching the governor general deliver the address close up. While the prime minister is in the Senate during the speech, almost all the other MPs are outside the chamber in an ante-room with no view whatsoever of the proceedings.

While television sets are generously spread around the room, it was kind of disappointing to have to watch the event on TV, when it was taking place in the very next room. On the positive side, we were surrounded by some of the most excited people on the planet and could not help but be carried away by the exuberance in the air as our party’s platform was being articulated by the governor general.

The short (15 minute) throne speech was so cogently and clearly written that it gave me chills. I could not wait to go back to the House and legislate. First order of business is the middle-class tax cut, which the government hopes to adopt before the House recesses on Friday. I am eager to begin making a difference on the national level.

National Post

Anthony Housefather is the new Liberal MP for the riding of Mount Royal in Quebec.

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