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May 2, 2011. The election results are in and already the clock is ticking. The House Administration knows the House will sit again soon and is already putting in place everything the 111 newly elected Members will need to start serving their constituents. It is not until May 16, however, that June 2 is announced as the opening date of the new Parliament, making this the shortest time from election to opening since 1988.

Ready from day one

Within hours of the election results, House Administration staff began contacting new Members, putting into motion the processes that would help newly elected Members quickly and efficiently assume their roles on Parliament Hill. One of the first tasks was to take care of the ‘business’ side of the equation. On May 2, the House Administration opened an Orientation Centre—a central location where Members could access administrative advice as well as temporary workspace until their new offices were available.

Reaching out to Members

Every new Member was assigned a liaison officer as a guide and for support during the first few weeks on Parliament Hill. Almost immediately, these liaison officers began providing important information about the processes involved, scheduling in-person meetings between Members and representatives from the House Administration’s six service areas. Through these meetings—489 in total—new Members had their basic administrative requirements attended to, from being placed on the payroll to having their email and mobile devices configured.

In addition to the liaison officer function, a new role was introduced in 2011: House Administration volunteers served as transition officers to assist Members who had not been re-elected—relaying information, coordinating meetings and facilitating moves. For the first time as well, an integrated information package was produced for Members leaving the House. Thanks to the efficiencies gained through this new approach to transition, within two weeks of the election more than 90 meetings took place between departing Members and House Administration staff.

A non-partisan approach

Members and their spouses/partners were invited to a non-partisan administrative orientation session on May 19 on Parliament Hill. The session outlined the financial and legal obligations of Members including staffing and budget management. Returning Members from all three officially recognized parties shared their experiences and perspectives, and the Clerk of the House of Commons addressed the group. Key to the House Administration’s approach was delivering information to Members ‘just in time’—when it was most relevant to the tasks before them.

Perspective: Constituencies

Each of Canada’s 308 constituencies—also called ridings or electoral districts—elects an individual to the House of Commons. The Members who represent these constituencies are available to discuss issues of concern with constituents, attend important events and help citizens access federal programs and services.

The House of Commons typically meets for three weeks each month; Members usually spend the remaining week in their ridings (and longer when the House is not sitting during the summer and over the winter holidays). They also have local offices and staff, allowing the public to connect with them at any time. The House Administration supports Members’ constituency work by providing up to four telephone lines and a high-speed Internet connection for their primary constituency offices, and by allocating office budgets and administering payroll services for staff employed by Members in their offices both in Ottawa and their constituencies.

Canada’s Constituencies

  • British Columbia: 36
  • Alberta: 28
  • Saskatchewan: 14
  • Manitoba: 14
  • Ontario: 106
  • Quebec: 75
  • New Brunswick: 10
  • Nova Scotia: 11
  • Prince Edward Island: 4
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 7
  • Yukon: 1
  • Northwest Territories: 1
  • Nunavut: 1

The positions of liaison officer and transition officer are staffed by dedicated volunteers within the House Administration; since some regular parliamentary activities cease during an election, additional resources are not required to fulfill these important roles.

By providing the information they needed to shut down their offices, I think I helped lessen the impact of the transition on defeated Members. It was very rewarding to have been a personal contact for the Members assigned to me—and they were all grateful to have somebody there to answer their questions.”

~ Danielle Gougeon, Transition Officer