Politicizing the PM’s security detail

Every year or so, there’s an article in Canadian newspapers describing the complexities of the Prime Ministerial security detail. Many articles make a snide point about the costs and suggest that it is largely unnecessary.

There’s a refreshing change today in Steve Chase’s Globe and Mail article about the Prime Minister’s trip to India. Chase points out that India dropped the ball when it came to the security for a visiting head of government — India offered the PM’s team a simple car of antiquated design. The RCMP obviously thought this was inadequate and chose to fly the Prime Ministerial motorcade to India onboard a C-17. Instead of offering a passive aggressive swipe the Prime Ministerial security bubble, Chase accepts its necessity and finds news in India’s failure to provide one. The top comments on the article, however, show the very different mindset of the Globe’s readers.

Indeed, it’s usually a perennial sport in Ottawa among Harper critics to bemoan the PM security detail. Suddenly left-wing ideologues are concerned about costs. And the protection of a duly elected representative of all Canadians? Better for Harper’s critics to chalk it up to the PM’s ego or his hubris. Nevermind that security is assessed according to threat and that it is done so by the RCMP. Note too the recent Ottawa-media-driven process stories regarding trick-or-treating at 24 Sussex. The horror according to the subtext? That children and their parents passed through metal detectors before greeting the PM.

When the PM’s security detail was taking shape, the NDP’s Pat Martin remarked, “It looks like something Darth Vader would be driving. We’ve got this gas-guzzling behemoth touring around with the prime minister. It looks tough, it looks quasi-military. Is that the kind of image the prime minister wants to project?” *

The security of the Prime Minister of Canada should be important to all Canadians despite their political stripe. Even if you didn’t vote for Harper or his government, an attack on the Prime Minister is an attack on the outcome of our democratic selection and the sovereignty we exercise in that process. This came under threat with the Toronto 18 in a plot to behead the Prime Minister of Canada, and again provincially when a man took shots aiming to harm or kill the Premier-elect of Quebec. These were only the cases that were publicized. As a matter of policy that governs this sort of security, the level and detail of threats to senior public figures rarely reach the public forum for the consumption of the armchair punditry.

No serious person would seek to strip security from the Prime Minister as a result of an ideological difference because the very necessity of that security is not under dispute by the serious people in charge of affording the same. His security is not political and ought not be.

This isn’t the first time that reactionary critics like Martin have worried more about the symbolism of security than its utility. Many among his cohort were the ones that invested heavily in the symbolism of a multi-billion dollar long-gun registry without any evidence that it provided any effect in preventing crime or saving life.

If the NDP were to ever be successful in forming a government, their leader would be my Prime Minister as well and I would want them to be afforded every necessary protection.

This protection of our democratic will is paramount and even though we disagree on a lot, thankfully we’re able to do so in an environment sheltered from those that would violently circumvent the system in which we all have a voice.