Ottawa convoy protest response costs $30m and counts, city manager says

Police move in to arrest participants in the truckers’ protest in Ottawa on February 18.BRETT GUNDLOCK/The New York Times

The City of Ottawa estimates the cost of responding to anti-government protests in the capital to be approximately $30 million and growing.

City Manager Steve Kanellakos told council Wednesday that many officers and support staff from police departments across the country are still in Ottawa following the convoy protest that virtually paralyzed downtown. for more than three weeks.

A heavy police crackdown to clear protesters and vehicles from Parliament Hill and surrounding streets, considered one of the biggest operations in Canadian history, took place on Friday and over the weekend. But city officials said they are not letting their guard down as more protests could still take place.

“We are still here on standby if it breaks out again,” Mr Kanellakos said.

Ottawa Police had previously estimated that enforcement efforts would cost around $800,000 a day. Mr Kanellakos said on Wednesday there was an ‘exponential growth’ in the amount as large numbers of officers were brought in before last weekend and need accommodation, food and transport, among other expenses .

“We expect the cost to be close to $30 million, for which we will seek funding from the federal and provincial governments,” Kanellakos said.

He said the costs will come from city budgets, the Ottawa Police and contributing police services. The federal government has indicated that it wants to discuss with Ontario an “appropriate cost-sharing arrangement,” he added.

“I’m very optimistic that the federal government will come forward and pick up these costs from my discussions with them,” Kanellakos said.

Ottawa drops invocation of Emergencies Act, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says

On Monday, federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said, without providing details, that the federal government was ready to help Ottawa with the general costs associated with the protests.

“I think the bottom line is that we’re going to be working very closely with the City of Ottawa to try to help them offset their costs, not only in terms of law enforcement, but you’ve heard the funds that have been introduced to help small businesses,” he said, referring to a federal program to provide $20 million to help Ottawa businesses that suffered losses during the three-week blockade. .

“We’ve been there for Canadians, we’ve been there for cities throughout the pandemic. We will continue to be there for the City of Ottawa following the illegal occupation here.

Asked about Ontario’s plans to provide financial support to Ottawa, Emily Hogeveen, spokesperson for Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy did not respond directly, but noted in a statement released Wednesday that the province is looking at options to help businesses and will have more to say in the coming days.

Mr. Kanellakos also told the council that the Integrated Command Center is still in place and that the Ottawa Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP are still working together. He said that would not change for the foreseeable future.

Since the protesters’ withdrawal from the convoy, a major concern for police has been out-of-town encampments, such as in Vankleek Hill, Embrun and Arnprior, Ontario.

Kanellakos said Wednesday that an encampment in Greely, south of Ottawa, had been dismantled.

Police are tracking all protesters outside the city, he added, and are ready to respond to any attempt to resume protests.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told council on Wednesday he believes the toughest times may be over.

“The worst, I believe, is behind us,” Mr. Watson said on Wednesday during an update on the situation.

Ottawa police viewed protesters who refused to leave the city after warnings, as well as large vehicles parked on downtown streets, as an “occupation” rather than a traditional protest.

The city has approved an independent review of how the response to the protests.

Councilor and candidate for mayor of Ottawa, Diane Deans, said Wednesday that a full and integrated judicial investigation was necessary. She said a local investigation was not enough because the protests were national issues and all levels of government were involved.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had invoked the Federal Emergencies Act in response to protests in Ottawa and at border points across the country. The law requires an investigation, with a report tabled in Parliament, when the emergency is over.

Some police checkpoints remained in place on Wednesday, although the secure zone footprint was reduced to include Laurier Avenue downtown to Parliament Hill, as well as Bronson Avenue to at the Rideau Canal.

Ottawa police said the measures will only last as long as “deemed necessary to ensure that unlawful protesters do not return.”

The Rideau Centre, a downtown shopping mall, was closed for three weeks and reopened on Tuesday, but had to close again for a police operation.

Ottawa police said in a statement Tuesday that the service received information earlier in the day about a “gunman” after a robbery at the mall. He said one person had been charged in connection with the theft investigation and no injuries were reported.

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Richard L. Militello