City councillors have been assured that they’ll get the final say on implementing bag searches, metal detectors and a 4-foot, 7-inch security wall inside council chambers. Council’s executive committee reviewed the changes Tuesday, but they decided to refer the decision to all of city council at next Tuesday’s meeting without a recomendation.
The changes are part of a safety audit done on the city hall precinct.
“Collectively there are 80 recommendations for the building and I would suggest there’s probably a handful that are truly highly impactful that council might be interested in having a discussion around,” the city’s Walter Trocenko told reporters after the meeting.
“Much of that work is in progress and it’ll get implemented and, quite frankly, people who visit city hall probably won’t even notice the change and it’s just part of being as safe as we can be and it’s part of the day to day business at city hall.”
“The minor ones are things like peepholes in doors, landscape pruning so there are sightlines maintained, things like moving signs inside city hall to create sightlines and view corridors. These are all minor, low-cost logical things that we would naturally do to be as safe as we can be without incurring a lot of costs.”
The full security audit will be back before city council prior to the summer break.
Council is split, with some like Coun. Dave Loken convinced they should listen to the advice of the safety experts who put the report together. “Why as politicians do we think we’re such experts on everything. We’re not. You can’t put a price tag on life and I don’t want to be looking back and saying ‘we should have done something’. Then it’s too late.”
Others like Coun. Scott McKeen see the recommendations as an overreaction. “Yes, the NHL has imposed bag searches if you go into Rogers Place. The Eskimos have done it for years at Commonwealth Stadium, mostly to make sure no one is carrying big bottles of hard liquor that they can throw on to the field like they used to do in the 1970s. And the courthouse is a bit of a different place, I guess.”
Coun. Bryan Anderson fears that the casual citizen, who might drop in at city hall while downtown to see government in action, might turn on their heel and head home once they realize they’ll be subjected to the heightened security. “I get the distinct feeling in my heart that that can be a direct result to bag searches and metal detection and that part of this proposal.”
Also undecided is Coun. Michael Walters. “I appreciate the position you’re in and the expertise you bring. But it still leaves me with some pause, though.”
Councillors were told that other city buildings are also having security audits. They include those that have quasi-judicial hearings like business licence reviews and development appeals.
Council services committee met privately about the increased security last year, and the debate was leaked to the public. Mayor Don Iveson was not at that meeting, and he said he won’t be at next week’s council meeting either, because he’ll be in Ottawa preparing for the federal budget, which is due to be released the next day.