Parliament Hill tour guides told to fluff the Senate, and other odd talking points

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew

Great news for anyone visiting Parliament Hill this summer – the Canadian government will provide you with your own personal propagandist.

The Canadian Press reports that summer tour guides are being been trained to "praise the Senate and disdain democracies with three or more political parties."

An eyebrow-raising manual obtained through an Access to Information request (because nothing is easy when it comes to government transparency) outlines the values of "Canada's second – not secondary – chamber" as more cost effective than the House of Commons and more efficient in holding the government to account.

The manual goes on to say that the tour guides, most of whom are university students, should make Canadians aware of the Senate's many achievements while avoiding controversial debates.

It also describes two-party systems (such as the U.S.'s Democrats and Republicans) as having more moderation than multi-party systems.

[ Related: Harper arrives in Ireland, lashes out at Putin ]

Canada, of course, uses a multi-party system. The House of Commons currently includes Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party representatives. Most of those MPs are considered by the Tories to be “not us.” It’s just simpler that way.

While it is not clear if these notes are suspect or simply outdated, the idea that tour guides are out espousing these particular talking points to some half-million tourists is either amusing or troublesome.

In that vein, we present you with notes that didn’t quite make it into the training manual:

Justin Trudeau’s seat in the House of Commons: We highly recommend that when visiting the House of Commons, tour guides point out the seat where Justin Trudeau used to sit before becoming Liberal Leader. Guides should feel comfortable noting that Trudeau was absent for 36 per cent of the votes between the 2011 election and when he was named party leader.

Parliament Hill’s security system: Canadians will want to know their elected officials are kept safe. Parliament Hill’s security system includes a vehicle screening facility. It is worth noting that NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has trouble with this feature. Be sure to ask visitors if they know who he is.

The Prime Minister’s Office: If guides include a visit to the Prime Minister’s Office, be sure to emphasize how large the office actually is. Physically. There is a lot of space, and several different rooms. It is entirely possible that someone, say, a chief of staff, could do something like write a cheque for $90,000 and give it to an embattled Tory Senator without that information ever reaching the prime minister himself. I mean, it is a pretty big office. Who can keep track?

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Canada’s Harper government has been blamed with undervaluing the importance of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and presumably ignoring its anniversary because it was installed under a Liberal government. Assure our guests that we appreciate the Charter for what it is, a great set of suggestions. But what is really bully is the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was brought in under Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker.

The prime minister’s airplane has always been blue: Visitors may ask about the “recent” makeover given to the prime minister’s transport plane. If asked why the new paint job features the colour blue so prominently, please assure our guests that Canada’s official colours have always included blue. In fact, we haven’t changed anything. That plane has always looked like a Conservative campaign bus.