Provincial parliamentary buildings are must-see attractions

Impressive and historically significant, the structures are an unexpected attraction.

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Convincing travel-hungry Canadians to spend their precious vacation time at home hanging out with politicians may get you looking for the ceremonial Mace, but there is an argument for visiting parliamentary houses, if not their often unloved inhabitants. .


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The reason is simple: Canada’s legislative buildings are some of the most impressive and historically significant structures in this country. And they are handsome to begin with.

This was intentional. Government buildings, typically made of stone and brick, were designed to dominate their surroundings, projecting an image of strength, stability, and permanence – an architectural chest-out fist pump.

It was a bit different in Quebec, where the church fought for leader status, but for the rest of Canada, the provincial legislative houses were and still are landmarks in the capitals from Victoria to Halifax.

It may not be fashionable to get nostalgic for Canadian history, but there is no denying that our provincial assemblies represent our unwavering tradition of parliamentary democracy and the dreams of millions of immigrants who forged the Dominion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. .

It would be a debate worthy of the founding of the Confederacy to suggest which of Canada’s legislative buildings is the best, so we leave that to the politicians.

But here are three that we suggest get your vote:

Highlight: Province House in Charlottetown (

One of the three legislative buildings designated as a National Historic Site, it has been a major tourist attraction on the island since the 1950s, charming hikers with its beautiful neoclassical ornaments, designed by an English immigrant who reportedly had no formal architectural qualifications, and ornate interior.


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What sets it apart, however, is its dual role as a working assembly and symbol of Canada’s birth as a nation in 1867. It was at Province House that formal talks began to bring the maritime colonies to the Confederacy, although it would be six more years. late, before a reluctant PEI signed on the dotted line as the seventh province.

Built between 1843 and 1847, the Province House replaced a rotating list of taverns and private houses that became a “bloody queer parliament.” Those strange beginnings were repeated after the successful Confederation conference in 1864 when the library was turned into a bar and the assembly into a dance floor.

Currently being restored, the Province House is expected to reopen to tourists next year.

Oldest: Province House in Halifax (

With apologies to central and western Canada, we return to the Maritimes for our next political bear pit.

A national and provincial historic site, this seat of power, built in the British Palladian style, became Canada’s first permanent House of Assembly when it opened in 1819, although the first session had already taken place in 1758. Another pen in its cap: it is officially recognized as the site of the first responsible government in the Empire outside of Great Britain.

“As a milestone in the constitutional evolution of Canada, it has been said that more history has been made within these four walls than in all other legislatures put together,” states the NS government.


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It is not just politicians who have made their mark. Many notable trials took place in what is now the Legislative Library, including the case against the son of a 19th century attorney general for killing a man in a duel. Due to the code that existed in 1819, which considered that dueling was a reasonable means to protect honor, Richard John Uniacke Jr. was acquitted.

In 1835, meanwhile, the trial of Joseph Howe on a criminal defamation charge is largely attributed to setting the benchmark for press freedom in Canada and a springboard for the acquitted Howe’s political career the following year.

Their heads were removed in the 1840s, that is, hawk heads. Legend has it that a fierce member of the legislature, fueled by the anti-American sentiment that was on the rise at the time, used his cane to cut off the heads of the decorative hawks that dominated various parts of the house. It is said that he mistook hawks for eagles, symbols of republicanism in the south.

Most Intriguing: Manitoba Legislative Building, Winnipeg (

Right in the middle of the country and a relatively teenager built between 1913 and 1920, this Beaux Arts gem has impressive exterior and interior features, as well as some of the most eye-catching craziness and ornaments to be found in any public building. in the country, including Canada’s only circular legislative chamber.

Take the number 13. Considered a symbol of luck among ancient Egyptians and Freemasons, it is found throughout the three-story building, along with other mystical iconography such as the Greek key, the running dog, Medusa, and sphinxes.


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Prior to the pandemic, architectural historian Frank Albo conducted popular Hermetic Code tours that explore the mysteries of the building’s hieroglyphic inscriptions, number codes, and hidden symbols.

“It’s an architectural crossword,” says Albo, who has been dubbed Winnipeg’s answer to Dan Brown, of the renown of the Da Vinci Code.

Less mysteriously, a pair of life-size bronze bison, each weighing two and a half tons, greet visitors from high stone pedestals at the foot of a grand staircase leading to the legislative chamber and symbolize the herds of buffalo that once roamed the grasslands.

Formally inaugurated in 1920 on the 50th anniversary of Manitoba’s entry into the Confederacy, the crowning glory of the Winnipeg landmark is the “Golden Boy,” a 5.25-meter-tall gilded statue based on a 16th-century design that embodies the spirit of eternal youth of the Prairie Province. and company. His right hand raises a torch in the air, while his left carries a beam of golden grain.

Sculpted in France and having survived a hectic experience as a troop ship ballast during World War I before arriving by train in Manitoba in August 1919, the Golden Boy was restored and redoubled in 2002 at a cost of $ 1.1 million and continues to delight visitors and locals. equally in 2021.

As framed by its original designers, the Manitoba Legislature was built “not for present-day delight or use alone … but as our descendants will thank us.”

And thank you for doing it, even if we strongly disagree on the value of the work that goes on behind the nation’s legislative walls.

– Andre Ramshaw



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