Tuesday night’s fatal shooting at the election HQ of Quebec’s Premier-Designate Pauline Marois tragically highlights the role of personal security in protecting political leaders in Canada and elsewhere.
Details of the shooting are still coming to light, with police saying they apprehended a 50-year old man who burst into the auditorium and shot two people, one of whom died of his injuries at hospital. Security personnel, in hearing the shots, quickly whisked Marois off the stage to safety as she was speaking. She then returned to finish her speech before leaving the auditorium.
Stories about personal security for politicians in Canada are rare given the usually peaceful nature of politics and our society in general. But almost all political leaders have personal protection of some sort.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has the largest personal protection service in Canada, with the Globe and Mail reporting earlier this summer that this service costs $20 million a year.
“During his six-year tenure, the Prime Minister’s Protection Detail has gotten new weapons, bigger all-wheel drive vehicles, and a new training regimen involving mock attacks, target practice and paintball drills. There is a growing use of SWAT teams in the Prime Minister’s motorcade, and the Mounties on the detail are fitter and better trained than ever.”
Meanwhile, all federal cabinet ministers have personal protection, as do Canada’s premiers and many provincial cabinet ministers. In many cases, this protection is provided by either the RCMP or local police forces.
It’s an entirely different story in the United States where a phalanx of bodyguards is commonplace.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for example, cut the number of bodyguards for outgoing mayor Richard Daley from six to three last year. Emanuel’s former boss, President Obama, is constantly surrounded by the Secret Service, and will be for 10 years after he leaves the White House.
And during the current heated election, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, his running mate Paul Ryan and their respective families receive close security protection. Indeed, the Huffington Post reported yesterday that Ryan’s not-so-secret code name is “Bowhunter”. Meanwhile, former Republican candidate Ron Paul even has a Facebook page called Bodyguards for Ron Paul with 1,980 Likes.