'Pull back the curtain': Speaker shares insider's view of legislature's inner workings

Palm trees with mysterious origins, a pirate hat with three corners, a bell tower without a bell. 

They may sound like riddles, but these are some of the oddities found inside the Alberta legislature building that Speaker Nathan Cooper has been investigating.

Through social media, Cooper has been shedding light the building's secrets and trying to remove some of the mystery surrounding the political process.

Through his ongoing video and photo posts, Cooper has given viewers a rare glimpse inside the legislature.

He has provided a VIP tour of the recently renovated bell tower, explained the rules around unparliamentary language and provided a history lesson on one of his least favourite parts of the Speaker's uniform — a three-cornered hat called the tricorn.

"I sometimes joke that there are tens and tens of people that follow the proceedings in the legislature," Cooper said in an interview Monday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"My goal, through the posts — whether they're on parliamentary language or the goofy hat that I wear — I hope that we can engage just a few more people.

"And by the end of me being Speaker, there will be dozens and dozens of people that care." 

Wallis Snowdon/CBC

At 39, Cooper is the youngest Alberta Speaker since 1936. The MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills is known for his love of parliamentary procedure and his sense of humour. 

In a nod to parliamentary tradition, Cooper was dragged to the chair by Premier Jason Kenney and NDP Leader Rachel Notley after he was chosen for the role by secret ballot in May.  

Despite the ceremonial foot-dragging, Cooper said he loves the job. 

Serving as the referee, he said he has a unique opportunity to talk about the political process in a nonpartisan way.

And working under the dome is an honour. 

The legislature is more than just a majestic backdrop for pontification, Cooper said. The stately Edmonton landmark has a rich history and an active role in shaping Alberta's future. 

'Critical part of the puzzle'

"I really think that it's an important part of the democratic process," he said. 

"It's a really critical part of the puzzle, and the speaker has this unique opportunity to speak about our democracy, freedoms, the strengths of our institutions, in a non-partisan, non-political way." 

Cooper plans to take his mace on the road around the province to teach more people about the political process. 

"I think that anything we can do to pull back the curtain and make our democracy just a little bit more accessible to the average Albertan is a step in the right direction."