New Brunswick

'This is expensive, there is no doubt': Legislature gets $400K security feature

Work is almost finished on a new security perimeter in front of the New Brunswick Legislature.

123 concrete posts installed to prevent vehicles from driving onto grounds of legislature building

The 123 bollards are designed to prevent vehicles from driving onto the grounds of the New Brunswick Legislature. (CBC)

Work is almost finished on a new security perimeter in front of the New Brunswick Legislature.

The province is spending $400,000 to install 123 bollards on three sides of the front lawn. The concrete posts prevent vehicles from driving onto the grounds.

Speaker Chris Collins says the measure was recommended by "threat assessments" done after the shooting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in October 2014.

"This is expensive, there's no doubt," Collins said. "We don't want to have to spend $400,000 on security, but that's the reality nowadays."

Any legislative assembly or parliament anywhere in the world can be a target.- Chris Collins, speaker of the legislature

The bollards are aimed at stopping potential car bombers wanting to attack the legislature or someone who might drive onto the lawn to hurt protesters gathered there.

Collins pointed to recent terror attacks in Nice and Berlin, which involved attackers driving vehicles into crowds.

And he dismissed the idea that New Brunswick is not a target because it doesn't get much world attention.

"Any legislative assembly or parliament anywhere in the world can be a target," he said. "It's about symbolism. It's not about the population base.

"In fact, some places that are soft targets could be a better location for something like that to happen because our security level is down."

Attacks in Quebec, P.E.I.

Legislature Speaker Chris Collins says the new security posts around the building came out of a security review following the shooting on Parliament Hill in 2014. (CBC)
Collins said New Brunswick is "surrounded" by provinces with legislatures that have been attacked. In 1984 a gunman stormed Quebec's National Assembly, killing three employees. There was a series of pipe bombs at the Prince Edward Island Legislature between 1988 and 1996.

In 2013, a couple plotted to set bombs off at a Canada Day event at the British Columbia Legislature.

Senator Vern White, a former Ottawa police chief and senior RCMP officer who now sits on Parliament Hill's security committee, said an attacker's goal is usually to make people feel less safe.

"They would see the legislature in any province as a place where the public feels it's safe," he said. "I don't think there's a province in this country that is exempt from that."

He said the bollards, which extend about six feet into the ground, are an effective way to slow down an attack and give security staff more time to react.

"It may not look appealing, and I get that, but at the end of the day you'll be happy if it works," he said.

Heritage appearance

The concrete posts will eventually all be covered with a black cast-iron cover, like the others in this photograph. (CBC)
The bollards are being covered with black cast-iron sheaths that is supposed to give them more of a heritage appearance.

That was more expensive, Collins said, but conforms more with the historic look of the building.

"We could have bought jersey barriers, and it was something that I thought of," he said, referring to long concrete barriers often used for security and in highway construction.

But "one, they're ugly, and two, they're not as effective because they can be rolled over. Some vehicles can get over them. These are very strong."

Collins said the expense is far lower than a $62 million tunnel being installed at Quebec's National Assembly to funnel visitors through security checks.

Part of the $400,000 cost of the Fredericton job will come from cuts to travel spending by MLAs, including fewer trips to parliamentary conferences, he said.

Rear section unprotected

There's one apparent gap in the new security perimeter: the bollards don't extend to the Brunswick Street side of the legislature, the rear section of the building.

Collins said that may be phased in later.

"Our priority was to protect not the politicians but the people who gather on these grounds to express their opinion of government," Collins said. "Sometimes we have 500 people on this, and it's kind of a rich target."

A small number of the bollards can be removed by security staff for when vehicles need to drive up to the front door for ceremonial events, such as a royal visit or the lieutenant-governor's arrival to deliver a throne speech.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He grew up in Moncton and covered Parliament in Ottawa for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. He has reported on every New Brunswick election since 1995 and won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Newspaper Awards and Amnesty International. He is also the author of five non-fiction books about New Brunswick politics and history.

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