Lots of stories over the last couple of days about potential improvements to security on Parliament Hill.
First, we had the RCMP reintroducing H and K submachine guns to their Hill detail. About time! Did we honestly expect the RCMP officers to defend the Hill, the PM, MPs and staff with a handgun?
And today, stories of high tech upgrades, cameras, panic buttons etc. Again about time! While some moan about access for the public lets not forget there are 1000s of people who work on the Hill every day from maintenance workers to MPs, they deserve to be safe and feel safe too.
Anyone who has worked on the Hill can tell you that generally they don't take Hill security seriously. Access for "staff" is gained by waving a pass at a security guard as you dash through the basement of Centre Block. How many have done that with expired passes? How many lost passes are there in any given week on the Hill? How many use their old pass even after they no longer work on the Hill? At least in the Langevin Block (PMO) and many other departmental buildings, you have a gated entrance where you have to swipe your card. You will not get through that barrier any other way. Lose your card and they change the code. If someone else uses it it won't work. Not so Centre Block though.
And who thought up the brilliant idea about screening visitors in the basement of Centre Block? Years ago with minimal threat from suicide bombers etc it might have made some practical sense. But in this day and age? In the prime tourist season visitors are packed into a narrow walk way waiting to go through the screening process... if you think waiting for airport screening is bad, try Centre Block some day this summer.
And this is not a knock against the security staff on duty there or in other Hill buildings. They are professional, courteous and do the best they can with what they have to work with. An overhaul is long overdue though when there are three security forces IE House of Commons, Senate, RCMP each with their own protocols and area to protect. Time for one force, one person in charge, the same training for everyone and one task... protect the public, our institutions, Hill staff and elected officials. But first, we have to do our part and recognize that this is not 1867. We face different threats today. Hill security staff can't do everything on their own, we have to provide the money, facilities, training and command structure as well. As Greenpeace pointed out ... we have a few problems with Hill security, lets fix them before something happens not afterwards.