The Press Gallery
The interaction of Members
with the media is an essential aspect of the functioning of the House of
Commons. Canadians understand that the media play a key role in
maintaining the transparency and accountability of their democratic
institutions. As with other activities, this interaction requires space,
security, and support services.
has been steady growth in Press Gallery membership and increased
technical and other demands related to reporting and broadcasting. The
media’s requirements have also changed in response to the increasing use
of the buildings and grounds for special events. Renovations to, and
development of, the Precinct must reflect the continued and vital
involvement of the press, while protecting the needs of Members within
their various lines of business. Requirements for the press focus on
providing the communication infrastructure and flexibility needed for
their work, both now and in the future.
Fuller and Jones’ winning
design for Ottawa’s new Parliament Buildings was selected in part
because of its accommodation of the press and the public. In fact, the
design jury chair, Samuel Keefer, believed that it was the only design
that met both the aesthetic and practical requirements of the government
in this respect.
the new building, reporters were assigned designated entrances, Press
Galleries in the House of Commons and the Senate, and rooms in the
north-west and north-east towers. The corridors were the place for
direct contact with Parliamentarians. The press was given a long room
across the west of the building when a wing was added in 1909.100
The new Centre Block, which opened in 1920, contained a working space
and lounge for reporters that was accessible to both the House and
Senate Press Galleries. The press was also provided with a Chief Page
and several Assistants.
Gallery membership grew from 33 in 1929 to 100 in the early 1960s.101
By that time, the press had expanded out of their third floor room into
the adjacent corridor and set up a rabbit warren of desks and equipment.
Despite 6,000 sq.ft. of space being set aside in the renovation of the
West Block, the press refused to move, preferring cramped quarters close
to the House.102
Finally in the mid-1960s, when threatened with eviction from the
corridor for fire safety reasons, reporters agreed to rent
government-provided space in the Norlite Building on Wellington Street.
As part of this arrangement, an interview room was fitted up on the
lower level of the Centre Block.
Current and Future Situation
Members of the press have
always had a special relationship with Parliament — both as observers
and participants in the process of Parliamentary democracy. In recent
years, however, Parliament Hill has become the focus of more public and
media attention. The introduction of televised debates in the House of
Commons has broadened the scope of Parliamentary media coverage and the
Parliamentary image is more widely diffused with the use of the Internet
and the inter-linking of media.
Increased Press Gallery
membership and media activity on Parliament Hill present both challenges
The media is becoming increasingly sophisticated and requires closer
physical and electronic access to all lines of business. Media members
are requesting more flexibility in connecting within the Precinct
environment in order to accommodate their varied technologies. At the
same time, Members who rely on the media as a vehicle for communicating
with the public expect fast and easy access.
The renovation program for the
buildings and Precinct provides a prime opportunity to enhance media
access by upgrading and improving electronic accessibility. A long-term,
coordinated plan will help to reduce costs as well as the unexpected and
undesirable results associated with ad hoc solutions.
and adequate space are prerequisites for the media to effectively
capture the deliberations and outcomes of Members’ work. For this
reason, space and facilities for the media within the Precinct should:
- Be provided in sufficient
quantity and quality to respect and support the media’s
long-standing and important relationship with the House;
- Ensure that infrastructure
adheres to approved House standards for IT connectivity and that
House network capability is accessible by the media for their
day-to-day business and for special events (e.g., budget night); and
- Be accommodated in a way
that reflects and respects the clear priority of space and
infrastructure used by Members in their lines of business.
rooms and corridors are well lighted and convenient. The two Houses are
on the ground floor, and ample accommodation is provided for the Public,
for ex-members, and for the reporters, in galleries that are placed
without the body of the House."99
Samuel Keefer, Chair,
Parliament Buildings Design Jury
Canadian Illustrated News
Press Gallery in the original
National Archives PA48151
The Press Gallery room in the Centre Block, 1921.
National Archives PA191549
The press in the north corridor Centre Block, circa 1965.