Structuring Remote Parliamentary Offices for Members in the House of Commons, Canada: A Digital Transformation Journey

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The advent of the digital age has instigated significant changes to the traditional structure of parliamentary offices. The House of Commons in Canada is a prominent example of an institution that has positively embraced these transformations, restructuring its remote offices to accommodate the evolving needs of Members of Parliament (MPs). The success of this transition is a testament to the power of digital transformation in promoting efficiency, flexibility, and resilience in the face of unforeseen circumstances. This essay will delve deeper into the journey towards this significant digital transformation, exploring its conception, the steps towards its implementation, the challenges encountered, and the invaluable lessons learned from this process.


Pre-Pandemic Vision


The ambition to establish a digital office in the House of Commons commenced back in 2018, long before the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated remote work. The goal was to prepare for an inevitable future dominated by mobile and cloud-based technologies. As part of this vision, the House of Commons began posing fundamental questions to guide its digital strategy, including ‘why can’t this service or product be in the cloud?’ and ‘is it mobile friendly?’. These inquiries were aimed at challenging the status quo and pushing the boundaries of what was possible.


The vision aimed to align the operations of the House of Commons with the Office 365 ecosystem, with Teams serving as the primary digital office hub. This hub was designed to be compatible with a wide array of devices, including PCs, portable PCs, and a lineup of mobile devices such as Android phones and iPhones. This compatibility aimed to offer MPs and their staff greater flexibility and convenience in accessing and utilising the digital office, regardless of their location or device preference.


The timing of the 2019 federal election proved fortuitous, providing an opportunity to deploy this digital vision to newly elected MPs. The digital office was designed to cater to the diverse work environments of MPs, whether they were operating within the parliamentary precinct, from their riding offices, or from more remote locations.


Addressing Challenges in Implementing the Vision


The journey towards digital transformation was not without its challenges, especially when it came to transitioning existing MPs and their offices to the new digital model. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 added a new layer of complexity to these challenges. The pandemic prompted a sense of urgency in the transition process, as traditional modes of operation were disrupted and remote work became a necessity. Despite these hurdles, the House of Commons was somewhat prepared, thanks to the pre-existing cloud-ready strategy and resources that had been put in place to facilitate the transition of offices on an individual basis.


Key Features of the Digital Transformation


The digital restructuring aimed to offer flexibility, prioritise a mobile-first methodology, and ensure readiness for cloud-based operations. These objectives were central to the transformation and influenced its various facets. The transformation sought to provide all the applications and collaborative functionalities that MPs would need to effectively carry out their duties remotely.


This included the provision of Office 365 collaboration and productivity tools, virtual conferencing capabilities, and an e-voting system. File storage and collaboration tools like OneDrive for Business and Office 365 Groups in SharePoint were also provided. These tools allowed MPs and their staff to store and share files securely and collaborate in real-time, regardless of their location.


Trust was a significant aspect of this digital transition. To ensure that the transition to remote working did not compromise the security of parliamentary operations, robust measures were put in place. These included the implementation of multi-factor authentication and facial recognition for the e-voting applications, reinforcing the security of these crucial operations.


Ensuring Quality and Reliability


Ensuring the reliability and quality of remote operations was a crucial part of the digital transformation journey. This was addressed by providing standardised equipment packages to MPs, including cameras, headsets, microphones, and ring lights. The House of Commons also prepared for potential supply chain interruptions by stocking up on PCs and mobile devices.


However, the unpredictability of internet connectivity in different areas of Canada presented a unique challenge. This was managed by assisting MPs and their staff with signal strengthening, providing guidance on Wi-Fi setup, and even advising on the optimal positioning of Wi-Fi access points. These strategies were aimed at ensuring consistent and reliable connectivity for MPs, irrespective of their location.


Support and Change Management


Throughout the process of digital transformation, the provision of support and resources to MPs and their staff was a priority. The House of Commons established proactive training and resources, provided dedicated support staff, and implemented remote control of PCs and mobile devices to ensure seamless operations.


Change management was recognised as a crucial aspect of this transformation. Understanding that change can be difficult, especially during a crisis such as a pandemic, the House of Commons was keen to respect the business, time, and change management needs of MPs and their staff. The goal was to manage the change from a human perspective, recognising the varied experiences, perceptions, and technical abilities of MPs and their staff.


Lessons Learned and Future Directions


The remote working strategy implemented by the House of Commons proved to be a relative success, demonstrating the effectiveness of the digital transformation strategy. However, the lessons learned from this journey have shaped the vision for the future. The focus is no longer on a ‘return to work’ but rather on adapting and evolving to meet future challenges and leverage potential technological advancements.


Change management will continue to play a critical role in this ongoing journey. The experiences and lessons learned from the initial transition to remote working will be invaluable in managing future changes. The House of Commons is committed to preparing for whatever the future may hold, whether it be another crisis or a significant technological advancement.




The House of Commons in Canada presents a remarkable case of successful digital transformation. The journey to restructure remote parliamentary offices, guided by a vision set in motion well before the onset of the pandemic, has reshaped the way MPs work. It has shown that with foresight, planning, resilience, and an understanding of human needs, it is possible to navigate even the most challenging transitions. This transformation sets a valuable precedent for other parliamentary institutions around the world, demonstrating the potential of digital strategies in fostering resilience, flexibility, and efficiency in parliamentary operations.

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