Inside 5 of Ottawa’s most influential rooms

The Prime Minister’s Office gets all the attention, but these spaces in and around the capital have all been witness to power

<p>Library of Parliament</p>

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Library of Parliament. (Getty Images)

1. Library of Parliament, Centre Block

Arguably the most lovely room in Canada, Stephen Harper showed it off to Barack Obama (and thus the world’s media) when the U.S. President visited in 2009. Afterwards, the Prime Minister made shrewd use of the heavily carved, white pine interior as the burnished backdrop for a key TV interview. Beauty as power.

2. Wilson House, Chelsea, Que.

Once the summer home of inventor Thomas Wilson, where Brian Mulroney and the premiers negotiated the Meech Lake accord, Wilson House is located in Gatineau Park, about 25 minutes north of Parliament Hill. In recent years it has hosted meetings of the country’s finance ministers, the planning and priorities committee of the federal cabinet and the “Arctic summit” of ministers from Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway.

3. Grand Hall, Canadian Museum of Civilization (soon to be renamed the Museum of Canadian History)

Soaring windows frame an unmatched view of Parliament Hill across the Ottawa River from this modern showcase, where real totem poles tower over the tables for state dinners. Visitors feted in style there include Nelson Mandela. Less dignified, but still a draw for the powerful, is the annual Press Gallery dinner which has been held there in recent years.

4. Room 237-C, Centre Block

Once known as the Reading Room, it started out as a quiet place for MPs to read. But its warm wood panelling and striking art-deco 1920s murals made 237-C too tempting in the age of TV image-making. It’s been repurposed as a go-to room for House committees, Tory caucus meetings, and key events with visiting luminaries. Last spring, it was where Stephen Harper delivered a key speech after news broke that his chief of staff signed a $90,000 cheque to pay Mike Duffy’s disputed Senate expenses. The speech was panned. The room looked great.

5. Chateau Laurier Ballroom, downtown Ottawa

Pierre Trudeau claimed his last election victory there (“Welcome to the 1980s”). Mackenzie King announced his 1948 retirement there. The Queen has dined under the crystal chandeliers. And the 1912 hotel’s old-school ballroom remains the venue for must-attend functions, notably the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s annual Politics and the Pen dinner, which draws top politicians, famous authors, and those anxious to rub shoulders with them.