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View from the hill

By Geoff Ash

When you think student summer job, you probably don't envision donning a uniform and strolling the halls of Parliament Hill. But for Memorial University students Kirsten Morry and Shawni Beaulieu, that's exactly what they're up to.

"It's really cool to just get to be here and be allowed to walk around everywhere. A lot of people don't get to see some of the things we've seen. And it's really humbling to think about the kinds of things that go on here," said Ms. Beaulieu, one of the students chosen to take part in this year's Parliamentary Guide Program.

The women were among the 39 guides chosen out of 300 applicants from across Canada for the program.

The primary duties of the parliamentary guides are to lead tours through the centre and east blocks of the Parliament Building, and to provide interpretation of Canada's political history, legislature, and the Parliament Buildings themselves, along with the art and artifacts inside.

Being selected for the program is quite an honour. Candidates are required to be bilingual in English and French, currently attending a recognized university, and if chosen for an interview must also complete a written exam and give a presentation.

Ms. Morry, a native of St. John's studying history and french at Memorial, admits that her post-secondary interests were what drew her to the program.

"There are few places in Canada as historic as Parliament Hill, so it was a good opportunity to get away for the summer and to experience some of that history first hand."

She adds that she has had fun injecting some Newfoundland facts into the tour as well, like how our provincial flower eats insects.

Ms. Beaulieu, originally from New Brunswick, is now in her fourth year of anthropology studies at Memorial and was thankful for the intense two week training session provided to the guides.

"I didn't really know a lot about politics before this, but I was always interested. They gave us a three-inch binder to read in two weeks," she explained, adding in a joking tone: "I probably did more work then than the whole year in school."
Her experience has been so good that she's even considering a political science program in the future.

But whether it's the training, the experience or both, these women know their stuff, and are able to field the toughest questions about Canadian politics, and everything from does this castle have air conditioning to why do you still have two official languages, instead of just getting rid of one of them?

Ms. Morry remarked that they often get participants who like asking tough questions and trying to stump them, and that "sometimes it's best to just admit that you don't know the answer but you'll check into it."