Members’ Offices

Members are accommodated mostly in suites of offices located in the Centre Block, East Block and West Block, and the Valour, Wellington, Confederation and Justice buildings. Ministers have offices on Parliament Hill as well as in their departments. Office space is assigned to Members in consultation with their party Whips. Members of parties not officially recognized in the House and Members with no party affiliation (usually referred to as independent Members) are allocated offices by the Speaker.110

At Confederation, the newly built Centre Block, or “Parliament Building” as it was then known, housed the entire Parliament of Canada. The East and West Blocks, or “departmental buildings”, were occupied by government departments and included offices for Cabinet Ministers. The Speaker was the only Member to have an office in the Centre Block. Members were provided with desks in the Chamber, lockers nearby, and facilities for dressing, reading and smoking; the nature of the Members’ work and the length of sessions were such that this was considered adequate to their needs.111

The Centre Block was designed for the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, which was composed of 130 members; at Confederation in 1867, it was required to house 181 Members of the House of Commons. By the 1880s, the basements and attics were fully utilized and parliamentarians demanded improvements in their accommodations. By 1916, the year in which fire destroyed the building, some Members were allocated private offices (i.e., the Speaker, Cabinet Ministers, leading Opposition Members); others shared rooms. Conditions for Members improved in the new Centre Block, though not to the extent of offering private offices for all.112 Over the years, the membership of the House increased and so did Members’ requirements for space and staff, in line with the evolving role and worklife of Parliament and its elected representatives. Gradually, additional space became available as administrative services were moved to other locations, and as other buildings were converted for House of Commons use.113