I found myself at Queen's Park this past Monday.
No, I wasn't signing a bill into legislation or debating the relevance of wind power.
During a recent fundraising event in Cobourg, my wife Angela and I bid on a silent auction item – lunch with our local Member of Provincial Parliament and a tour of Queen's Park.
Being a bit of a political junkie, I put in a bid and won.
After a series of emails to nail down a date, Angela and I made our way to Queen's Park in Toronto this past Monday. We were met in the lobby of the Ontario Legislative Building by Travis Hoover , executive assistant to Lou Rinaldi, MPP for Northumberland-Quinte West.
After quick introductions, a tour guide gave us a half-hour glimpse into the workings of Queen's Park. The history of the building was fascinating, so I was rather surprised by the first question that came from Angela.
"How much does it cost to heat this building?"
Unfortunately, our young tour guide didn't have a clue to the answer and probably had never been asked that question before. I suspect that question has never been asked in the history of tours at Queen's Park.
In my wife's defence, the massive building was really warm, and once the heat is turned on in such an old building, it stays on until spring. I could tell the cost to keep it that warm was killing Angela.
Following the tour we waited at the Grand Staircase for our MPP.
Lou Rinaldi can probably be best described as grandfatherly. He is affable, unassuming and extremely personable.
He has been involved in politics since 1992 as Mayor of the Municipality of Brighton and Member of Provincial Parliament. He served as the MPP for Northumberland-Quinte West from 2003 to 2011 and was re-elected in 2014. He is also Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
We made our way to the member's dining room where we had a delicious buffet lunch. While I asked questions from a political slant, Angela was more intrigued by his budget, how much his cost of living allowance is and what he could write-off for expenses.
In my wife's defence, she loves to save money and in Rinaldi's ("call me Lou") defence, MPP's are kept on a pretty strict budget.
When in session, he spends his time in Toronto during the week before heading home on weekends. There is little free time and his weekend's are spent attending events in a riding which stretches more than 2,600 square kilometres.
After lunch we attended the afternoon session of the legislative assembly, that's the place where the MPPs pass bills and yell at each other. Moments after sitting down, we were approached by Kathryn McGarry, MPP for the riding Cambridge. I knew her during my many years as editor of the newspaper in Cambridge, but it was an honour to have her come over and say hello.
Lou also announced our presence in the legislative assembly and we received a round of applause from the MPPs. Though its a formality provided to all visitors, I loved it. (I always thought it was a secret, but apparently Angela had figured out that I like the notoriety, but never told me she knew, go figure).
While politics is a vicious game and I get as frustrated as the next taxpayer when it comes to decisions at Queen's Park, my visit with Lou Rinaldi offered a different perspective about Ontario politics and Ontario politicians. It's not an easy job, but in between the moments of frustration, there are also moments of fulfillment.