No more vehicles in front of Parliament? Renewed calls to close the street as occupation continues
There are renewed calls to make the area in front of Parliament Hill closed to vehicles nearly two weeks into an occupation that has seen thousands of trucks and people who are calling for an end to COVID-19 restrictions and mandates flood into Ottawa's downtown core.
Sen. Vern White, a former Ottawa police chief, said the trucks should not have been able to get so close to the Hill in the first place.
"As much as people say, 'Well they're just trucks parked there,' nobody knows what might be in those vehicles and the things that could occur if someone decided to take extreme action so no, those vehicles should not be there," White said, adding he's in favour of making Wellington Street a pedestrian mall.
"I think it absolutely makes sense and this is just the proof you may need to say look this would not have occurred if you had bollards at each end of Wellington Street…they would not have been able to gain access."
Bob Plamondon, a former National Capital Commission board member, agrees.
"One of the advantages of this idea was that it would provide greater security and protection for the parliamentary precinct," he said. "Obviously with the recent occupation that issue as a priority has become much more apparent and acute and for its benefits."
In addition to pedestrian-only traffic on Wellington Street, there are also calls to make the street directly in front of Parliament Hill, currently the jurisdiction of the city of Ottawa, a federal responsibility.
"Parliamentary Precinct security would take over that which means they can gain access to federal resources much more quickly and easily," White said.
"It simplifies planning, it simplifies security and it simplifies the use of these really foundational streets for the good of all Canada," said Plamondon. "In my view, these are streets of national significance and importance and that they form part and parcel of the Parliamentary Precinct so to have these as city-owned assets in between federal infrastructure doesn't make sense. Why would the federal government own Island Park Drive but not Wellington Street at the foot of Parliament Hill?"
On Monday, Ottawa city council passed a motion by Coun. Catherine McKenney to formally petition the federal government to take over responsibility within the Parliamentary Precinct, in addition to providing an immediate and significant increased level of support including officers and equipment to Ottawa police.
When asked about transferring responsibility Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said, "I think following the resolution of this convoy, we need to take away a number of lessons as to, you know, the way in which there was a response to the convoy, including the way that Wellington Street fits into the Parliamentary Precinct."