Ottawa shooting changes life on the hill for Nova Scotia MPs
Parliament Hill grounds open but security will likely be stepped up
The days of an open and available parliament are changing for Nova Scotia MPs returning to the House of Commons after Wednesday's shocking shooting.
Parliamentarians, staffers and others will return to work one day after a gunman walked into the building just metres from the room where Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with his caucus.
New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer said he used to bring constituents through the building, introducing them to cabinet members and even the prime minister. He said security will change "no question."
"It is most unfortunate but it's something that needs to be done. It's not just for members of parliament and senators, there's 3,000 people on parliament hill that this is their regular work facility on a regular bases, 365 day a year they deserve that kind of protection," said the Sackville-Eastern Shore representative.
"I believe that's unfortunately what's about to happen."
Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison agrees, but urges a "level head."
"There's a balance between liberty and security," he said. "This is a game changer, but how can we approach this and maintain the values of openness and accessibility of democracy?"
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, was shot while on honorary guard at the National War Memorial, within walking distance of Parliament Hill. The MP's thoughts turned to him.
"Mr. Cirillo was a 24-year-old reservist and stood unarmed at the tomb of the unknown soldier to pay homage and respect to our liberties and our freedoms, to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice," said Stoffer.
"For him to pay the ultimate sacrifice in a brutal and unconscionable, unexplainable act of violence, I'm simply beside myself."
Both MPs were on the hill when a gunman entered the Hall of Honour.
Brison said he was wrapping up a meeting in Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's boardroom.
"The window was open and we could hear someone yell, 'Get down' and then what sounded like shots," he said.
At first people thought it was blasting from construction on the hill, but then they saw police officers running with guns.
"We knew something very serious was going on," he said.
Stoffer was in the NDP caucus meeting, just metres away from the gunman.
A security guard rushed in and told them "to kiss the carpet more or less and we just hit the ground as quickly as possible."
"When you have 100 people instantly hit the ground in a heartbeat you knew something serious was happening."
The MPs resumed sitting in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, one day after Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed while standing guard at the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.