The Parliament Hill Cafeteria Can Be a Scary Place For a Newcomer
With 105 rookie Members of Parliament being sworn in on The Hill, there’s bound to be some concern, confusion and consternation among them. Kind of like the first day of high school, without the threat of being hung, by your underwear, on your locker hook. At least, I don’t think they have to worry about that, although John Baird strikes me as someone who’d find that funny.
To ease the first day jitters of the fresh meat – er, wide-eyed, super-intelligent, rookies ready to inject a fresh, new energy to their caucus – the Clerk of the Speaker of the House of Commons sends them each a guide to rules and regulations of parliamentary life. It’s not meant to be seen by non – parliamentarians, however, I’ve managed to secure a copy and will give you some of the more important guidelines.
Today, I’ll focus on the rules of the Parliament Hill cafeteria. Here are some verbatim highlights:
As you make your way into the cafeteria for the first time, you’ll be handed two trays. One is for you, the other, for the veteran MP you’ve been assigned to serve. In some cases, NEITHER tray is for you. This means you’ve been assigned a senator. After bringing the tray, or trays, to your designated Luncheon Lord, or Lady, stand quietly, hands clasped behind your back. Wait, silently, until a request for napkin dabbing is made, or you are waved away contemptuously.
Sit in ROOKIE DESIGNATED AREA ONLY. If you have trouble finding it, as it is not clearly marked, just follow the unmistakable smell of innocence and idealism dying.
If the Prime Minister enters after you are already in the cafeteria, you have TWO choices: Stand up immediately, or dive under your table until the threat of him seeing you has passed (This does not apply to opposition members of Parliament, as there is no possibility of the Prime Minister actually noticing you). Do NOT make eye contact with the Prime Minister. If eye contact is inadvertently made, your dessert will automatically be forfeited to backbench scavengers.
Delivery of food items is available for members of the governing party ONLY. First time MPs will do the delivering. It will be guaranteed in 10 minutes. To assist you in speedy delivery, The Honourable Jack Layton has determined that his hip is sufficiently healed, and he no longer needs his EZ-Go cart. He has graciously donated it to Delivery Services. NOTE: Cart availability is subject to suspension, based on how energetic Senator Mike Duffy is feeling that day. Plan ahead.
Food fights are not uncommon, but are to be started by governing party members ONLY. You will know that one is imminent, if The Honourable Jim Flaherty enters wearing a toga.
Seating arrangements are based on election results. Conservatives and members of the NDP in the main dining hall, Liberal Party members at the kiddie tables in the Centre Block Daycare. The Honourable Leader of the Green Party has not opted in to a meal plan, based on the unavailability of bean sprouts and willow bark tea.
Menu changes: With the securing of a majority government, it has been determined that “Pro-rogies” will no longer be available. One item has been added to the breakfast menu: Sausage, inside a rolled pancake. However, instead of being called “Piggies in a Blanket,” a Royal Commission on cafeteria foodstuffs has determined that they will be known as “Pork In A Barrel.” Not all food items will be available; the menu is subject to change, at any time, at the whim of The Honourable Bev Oda.
Finally, make sure to fill out the “How’d We Do?” comment cards after each and every cafeteria visit. As a newcomer to the Hill, your fresh perspective and new ideas on how the Government of Canada commissary is serving you are very important, and greatly valued.The Harper Government Action Plan Eatery is tired of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Just eat your food and get out.