MPs will soon have choice between iPhone and BlackBerry

The federal government is moving to add iPhones to the list of smartphones approved for use by MPs and parliamentary staff after a six-month pilot project.

Choice of Apple or BlackBerry smartphones to be offered to MPs and staff

The all-party committee that manages the administration of the House of Commons has decided to allow MPs to choose between Apple's iPhone and the BlackBerry 10 when upgrading their smartphones next spring. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)

Move over, BlackBerry.

As of April 2014, Parliament Hill will no longer be a one-smartphone precinct.

According to a message sent out by House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer earlier this week, starting this spring MPs and parliamentary staff due for an upgrade to their mobile phones will be able to choose between the BlackBerry 10 and Apple's iPhone.

The change in policy was approved by the Board of Internal Economy earlier this month following a six-month "pilot deployment" of the then newly launched BlackBerry 10, which began last June.

Although the House will continue to pick up the tab for standard voice, data and roaming services, the advisory makes it clear that staff will have to pay their way when it comes to non-essential accessories, virtual and otherwise.

"Any applications or digital content downloaded on a smartphone, as well as that of accessories other than batteries, cases and chargers, will be a personal expense for members and their employees," it states.

News that one of the few remaining BlackBerry-only enclaves is about to roll out the welcome mat for one of its fiercest rivals isn't likely to spread much holiday cheer within the embattled Waterloo, Ont., company.

Still, at least they can take some comfort that the iPhone won't be available for House employees until April, a full two months after the new BlackBerry 10 is slated to come online on the Hill.

And Android aficionados are still out of luck for now: the new policy, it seems, only extends to the iPhone, although that could change in the future.

Speaker's note to MPs

John Duncan, who as government whip is a spokesman for internal economy, said the board is increasing choice for MPs and their staff, who will now have "access to the latest smartphone platforms."

"We support this decision," he said.

Here is the full text of the notice about smartphones, which went out to MPs earlier this week:

At its meeting of December 2, 2013, following a successful pilot project, the Board [of Internal Economy] approved the adoption of the BlackBerry 10 and Apple iPhone as the standard for all House of Commons users. When a smartphone is eligible for replacement, Members may choose the BlackBerry 10 series, as of January 20, 2014, or the Apple iPhone, as of April 2014. The following conditions will apply:

  • Members may replace or upgrade an existing smartphone 24 months after its purchase date;
  • The replaced or upgraded device must be returned to the House Administration;
  • The House will continue to pay expenses related to the smartphone’s monthly plan and roaming charges as per the conditions previously set by the Board (i.e. up to three monthly voice plans, one monthly data plan, applicable monthly fees, air time, long-distance charges and features such as voice mail, access fees and 911 services);
  • The cost of any applications or digital content downloaded on a Smartphone as well as that of accessories other than batteries, cases and chargers will be a personal expense for Members and their employees;
  • Members and their employees using these devices must comply with the Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources Policy; and
  • All other conditions regarding wireless devices outlined in the Members’ Allowances and Services Manual apply.

Members are reminded that goods, funds and services provided by the House of Commons must be used in the discharge of their parliamentary functions only.

Members are custodians of the assets provided to them or purchased with any House budget. Therefore, the BlackBerry and iPhone devices are the property of the House of Commons and must be returned to the House when replaced, obsolete or no longer required.

The Members’ Allowances and Services Manual will be amended accordingly.


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