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MPs clad in eclipse glasses stare at 'surreal' celestial event on Parliament Hill

OTTAWA — Not even the vital business of Parliament was enough to keep MPs from slipping outside to glimpse celestial history.
Federal Minister of Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne watches the total solar eclipse at Parc Jean Drapeau, in Montreal, Monday, April 8, 2024. Champagne's colleagues in Ottawa also paused the business of government briefly to take in the show. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

OTTAWA — Not even the vital business of Parliament was enough to keep MPs from slipping outside to glimpse celestial history.

Dozens of elected officials, including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, gathered on the Hill to crane their necks skyward.

As darkness descended, Poilievre — from behind a pair of standard-issue eclipse glasses — described the moment as "surreal."

"It really does feel like a different world," Poilievre said as the air cooled around him. 

"I hope everybody has a good time, that nobody stares too long at the sun — because we want them to be able to read their briefing notes when they get back to the House," he added with a chuckle.

Justin Trudeau was spotted taking in the spectacle from the roof of the building that houses the Prime Minister's Office. 

Standing on a small patch of grass, Liberal MP Jaime Battiste called it one of the biggest highlights of his time on the Hill.

"It kind of humbles you," said Battiste, still wearing his eclipse glasses. "At this point, nobody cares what party you're in — you're just humans taking in a phenomenon."

Parliamentary activities were briefly suspended to allow MPs and their staff members to enjoy the partial eclipse, said Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, who smiled as he took in the sight.

"Millions of people in this country are very excited," said Guilbeault, before promptly putting his glasses back on to catch another look.

Liberal MP Marco Mendicino, his eyes toward the sky, simply said: "Cool."

NDP MP Leah Gazan shared a laugh with fellow parliamentarians Lori Idlout and Jenny Kwan as they watched the moon drift across the sun.

"It seems like it maybe should be more exciting than what appeared," said Kwan shortly after she removed her glasses. 

"But they say this isn't going to occur for another 300 years. I'm pretty sure by then I won't be alive, so it's now or never."

Idlout, meanwhile, had something beyond the sun and moon on her mind: "I'm really a lot more excited that it's my colleague Leah Gazan's birthday today."

Transportation Minister Pablo Rodriguez said witnessing the sight was a "big moment." But as a large truck attempted to drive past where Rodriguez was planted on the road, he moved out the way in hopes of preventing another.

"That would be a bigger one if it hit me," he laughed.

Further down Wellington Street, the foreign interference inquiry also paused briefly to let lawyers, witnesses and journalists watch the show.

They stood outside the Library and Archives building in downtown Ottawa as the sky darkened, some sharing their eclipse glasses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2024.

— With files from Anja Karadeglija

Alessia Passafiume, The Canadian Press