Mayor acknowledges frustration over Canada Day lineups

The day after Canada 150 celebrations drew thousands of people to Parliament Hill, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said some of the security elements of the party could have been better organized.

Mayor Jim Watson says events of that size are 'never going to be perfect'

People look on during the Canada Day noon hour show on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday, July 1, 2017. Many waited hours in line to get in. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The day after Canada 150 celebrations drew thousands of people to Parliament Hill, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said some of the security elements of the party could have been better organized.

As CBC News reported on Saturday, lineups to get onto the grounds of Parliament Hill were several hours long for much of the day, adding to the frustration of visitors who already had to deal with wet weather.

And just like the weather, Watson said there were a lot of things that were outside the city's control.

"Security on the Hill, we have nothing to do with it. The feds set that standard," said Watson on Sunday.

"I wish it ran smoother. I wish it was faster, I wish the RCMP and parliamentary security responded quicker to the lineups. And there should've been greater organization."

Watson acknowledged that there was a "level of frustration" among visitors, but said that events of this size are never going to be perfect.

"At the end of the day, there were literally hundreds of thousands of people. Whether they be on the Hill, Wellington Street, Rideau Street, Byward Market, Major's Hill Park. And I was down in the crowds for a good couple of hours, and aside from the rain, I think people had a really good time," he said. 

The Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS), which is responsible for security on Parliament Hill, was in charge of access control and queue lines for Saturday's big event.

A huge crowd waits to get into the Parliament Hill grounds for Canada Day festivities on Saturday. People waited for hours to get inside. (David Corrigan/CBC)

PPS spokesperson Melissa Rusk told CBC News they understand the frustration, but people's experiences need to be balanced with security considerations.

"In today's environment, it's essential that we have the appropriate security measures in place to ensure the safety and security of these events," said Rusk.

"As Canadians we pride ourselves on the ability to gather as a collective and celebrate occasions, and our priority is always to ensure that we can continue to do this in a safe and secure manner."

Wet weather added to delays

Rusk admitted that rainy weather also contributed to further delays for people trying to get in.

"As we all know, yesterday, Mother Nature didn't necessarily cooperate, which resulted in some unpredictable flooding on the grounds of Parliament Hill. This contributed to some of the initial delays, as we were unable to get people who had already been processed through the access control points," said Rusk.

When asked whether more points of access to the grounds would have eased the congestion, Rusk said it's something they're considering for the future.

"But the reality is that we're working with a geographically limited area. The grounds of Parliament Hill provide us with a unique operating environment," she said.

According to Rusk, a security strategy for an event of this magnitude at Parliament Hill needs to consider not only entrance points, but also exit points, in case of an emergency evacuation.

For many of the party-goers, long lineups were also found inside the grounds. Food was only available at one location, and people lined up for hours to buy a meal.

The Department of Canadian Heritage, which organized the events on Parliament Hill, had not yet responded to a request for comment by Sunday evening.

Members of the public celebrate at the Peacekeeping Monument on Canada Day in Ottawa on Saturday, July 1, 2017. ( Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)