The RCMP is far from ready to take over full responsibility for security on Parliament Hill as announced this week by the Conservative government.
In an internal memo sent on Wednesday and obtained by The Globe and Mail, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson cautioned much work is still to be done before "the form this may take" can be determined.
"While I have been engaged in some preliminary discussions with officials, I must write to you today to caution that there are a lot of steps to be taken before this becomes a reality," Mr. Paulson said to members of the RCMP National Division, which is in charge of security in key federal properties.
Under the current system, House of Commons and the Senate guards are responsible for security inside the buildings on Parliament Hill, with the RCMP in charge of securing the surrounding grounds. Sources said the decision to concentrate all powers within the national police force is being driven by the Prime Minister, who was in the Centre Block when a gunman was killed there on Oct. 22.
"If this develops as reported, we look forward to working within an integrated security model," Mr. Paulson said.
Some people inside the House of Commons and the Senate object to losing their independent security forces. Still, the Conservative majorities in both chambers will ensure approval for government motions to create a new beefed-up security apparatus in an attempt to be better prepared to prevent another terrorist attack on the Hill.
After calling on the RCMP to take overall responsibility for security on the Hill, the next step will be designing a new security perimeter away from Centre Block to screen visitors, said Vern White, a Conservative senator and former Ottawa police chief.
Mr. White, who is the co-chair of a working group looking at security on the Hill, said there is a consensus the new system needs to include "greater time and distance between a threat and what we are protecting most, which is Parliament."
The goal will be to ensure that anyone with terrorist intentions can be spotted far away from the House and the Senate, possibly at the entrance to the grounds on Wellington Street.
"There is way too much potential for a high-risk threat within feet of the prime minister, ministers, parliamentarians and the building itself, not to do something at the perimeter, from my perspective," he said. "The first point of contact cannot be the front door of Parliament… which it is right now."
Mr. White said visitors should still have the freedom to walk all over the parliamentary precinct, but after a first check has been conducted.
"Should you have the expectation that you can put your backpack on and walk within 10 feet of Centre Block? Maybe that has changed," he said. "Canadians still want access, but we do want it more safe and secure. The end result can't be a gunfight in the Hall of Honour."
He said the attack of Oct. 22, in which Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier at the nearby War Memorial and then entered Centre Block and died in a shootout, was only a hint of the threats facing Parliament.
"It was a bad day," he said. "It was not the worst-case scenario, so we need to be better prepared."
Mr. White said the decision to call on the RCMP to oversee all security on the Hill came more quickly than he had expected. The other co-chair of the working group, Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer, is not commenting publicly on the matter.
Concentrating all security decisions with the RCMP is designed to prevent a repeat of the slow response time and communication confusion that characterized the protective response during last fall's attack, when multiple security forces were in charge on the Hill.
Under motions in the House and the Senate, the RCMP would be solely accountable for protecting MPs and senators and their staff, and empowered to make decisions about all future security measures on the Hill, including weaponry and infrastructure. RCMP officers would not replace House of Commons and Senate security guards on Parliament Hill, but all of them would report to the Mounties.