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Blackberry outage sends MPs and Hill staffers 'back to 1985'

DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

Across the country Wednesday, Blackberry-challenged politicians and their aides were forced to innovate, which meant using a telephone or just staying quiet.

It was so last century.

"It complicates things though, doesn't it?" said Rodger Cuzner, a Cape Breton Liberal MP, about the global service disruption.

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Mr. Cuzner, who was interviewed by phone just after he got off an airplane, joked he was expecting the service to be restored during his flight.

"I was just waiting for the notice to come forward," Mr. Cuzner said. "Somebody had tweeted that Raitt was going to put back-to-work legislation in place to make sure they were up and running. So I thought it would be resolved by now."

He was referring to Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, who has threatened back-to-work legislation in Air Canada's dispute with its flight attendants.

Toronto NDP Olivia Chow, meanwhile, was also travelling in Nova Scotia while Commons is on a break week. She is a bit of a Blackberry addict, noting that she uses the device for "almost everything."

"It's not the most convenient thing," she said of the service disruption. "When it doesn't work it's pretty devastating."

Ms. Chow, however, travels with some insurance – her iPad. And so, she was able to receive email through a Gmail account.

In Ottawa, NDP strategist Brad Lavigne – whose thumbs bear the callouses from constant Blackberry use – said he's using the phone a lot more.

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"Reminds me of 1999," he said. "Despite the frustrations I am confident the RIM team will have Canada's best-known export back on track soon."

Dean Del Mastro, the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary, joked that politicians and staffers are having to communicate the "good old-fashioned way," which is to pick up a telephone. In fact, Mr. Del Mastro prefers the phone to the Blackberry.

"What I understand is that people are actually at their desks in Ottawa today, which is a novel concept," he said. "They are working the phones. We're back to 1985."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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