Canada

‘Freedom Convoy’ cost city of Ottawa $30 million: city manager

The ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests that took over downtown Ottawa streets for three weeks cost the city tens of millions of dollars, city council heard Wednesday, and that cost continues to climb.

“We don’t have an exact cost of what we’ve spent so far on the protest, but we anticipate the cost will be close to $30 million,” city manager Steve Kanellakos told councillors. “We will be seeking funding from the federal and provincial governments.”

The city manager later clarified to reporters that the $30 million figure he gave was a “soft estimate” and that costs are still going up, as the situation isn’t over yet.

“I threw out $30 million. That’s a soft estimate… but the costs are continuing. We still have extra officers and extra costs being expended during this week and into next and those costs will continue growing,” he said. “I’m hoping that heading into the week following this weekend we can start getting back to something that’s more normal and the checkpoints can be pulled back… But I can’t say at this point when it will finally be over.”

The estimate is based on estimated policing costs of approximately $800,000 per day and estimate city service costs of roughly $200,000 per day, Kanellakos said, but the influx of police from across Canada for the removal operation and current standby has been even more expensive.

“It includes overtime, it includes their accommodation, all their meals, and it includes any special equipment they had to buy. It includes anything they needed to expend for them to be able to respond while they’re here and to keep them here,” he said. “On the city it includes all the overtime costs, anything from fuel to salt, whatever maintenance they need.”

Kanellakos told council the city should have exact figures sometime next week.

He also said police are tracking all protesters and encampments outside the city, and that one that had previously been set up in Greely has been dismantled.

“Police are prepared, as is the city, to respond to any attempt to reconvene the protests or to enter the city again,” he said. However, he said, the city doesn’t have any information at this point that’s going to happen.

Kanellakos also told council that the local state of emergency would remain in effect until the upper levels of government end theirs. Emergency and protective services manager Kim Ayotte told council that the fines for bylaw infractions, which were increased to $1000 during the occupation, would return to their previous values when the state of emergency is lifted.

This statement came just hours before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revoked the Emergencies Act, saying the situation is no longer an emergency.

“We are confident that existing laws and bylaws are now sufficient to keep people safe,” Trudeau said.

The Ontario government announced minutes later that the provincial state of emergency would also end

Mayor Jim Watson told council he believes the worst is over.

“Although we remain vigilant, the worst, I believe, is behind us,” he said. “Now begins the difficult work of healing from that crisis.”

MEASURES TO SUPPORT DOWNTOWN OTTAWA

Council approved a slate of measures Wednesday aimed at helping the city recover from the three-week long anti-government protest that kept streets blocked with heavy trucks and caused many businesses to close for the safety of staff and customers.

The motions included:

A targeted property tax deferral program for eligible retail businesses and restaurants in the affected areas. The motion instructs the Chief Financial Officer to report back to Council on March 9 with a proposal to defer the interim 2022 property taxes for affected businesses in the areas impacted by the occupation. This motion was passed unanimously.

Funding to help the most impacted business districts program and market their destinations. This involves using $450,000 of reserve funds to provide financial support to BIAs, including $50,000 to each of the five downtown BIAs most impacted, $25,000 apiece to seven BIAs in areas outside the downtown core, and $25,000 to the Ottawa Markets Corporation. This motion was passed unanimously.

Support for the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC) to offer local musical performances in the impacted neighbourhoods. The city would provide $50,000 to OMIC to deliver an expanded City Sounds Series in 2022 to support ongoing economic recovery in the areas impacted by the occupation using what Coun. Jeff Leiper called some “kickass music.” The funding would come from city reserves. This motion was passed unanimously.

An expansion of the no-fare transit service measure that will include all routes that bring customers to and from the affected areas, including Line 1. The expansion of no-charge service would begin Friday and continue until 30 days after the city’s state of emergency ends. This would cost approximately $1.052 million, which would be covered by the transit operating reserve, with the city seeking cost recovery from the provincial and federal governments in the request for compensation from the occupation. This motion was passed unanimously.

No-charge parking for a month in the impacted areas. The motion initially included all on-street parking and city garages in the downtown core and the ByWard Market, but following debate, it was amended to include only city-owned street-level parking lots and city-owned garages in the downtown core and the ByWard Market. The amended motion comes with an estimated cost of $380,000, to be covered by reserves should it result in a net loss at year’s end. The free parking would be available from Feb. 25 to March 31. The motion passed by a vote of 16 to 7. 

Additionally, Coun. Catherine McKeneny brought forward a motion to keep a section of Wellington Street closed to cars. The motion directs staff to report back to the Transportation Committee on the feasibility and cost of implementing a temporary closure of Wellington Street between Bank and Elgin streets until the end of 2022, in consultation with the federal government, OC Transpo, the STO, and emergency services. The plan would be subject to review at the first Transportation Committee meeting in the new Term of Council following the Oct. 24 election.

The motion also directs staff to enter into discussions with federal officials regarding the transfer of Wellington Street into federal ownership.

The motion was carried with Coun. Rick Chiarelli dissenting. 

Several businesses downtown have reopened as police continue to shrink the size of the “secure area” around Parliament Hill. As of Tuesday night, it’s now an area bordered by Bronson Avenue, Wellington Street, the Rideau Canal and Laurier Avenue West. Sparks Street, which remains inside the perimeter, is open to pedestrians. Police and the city both are encouraging residents to frequent local businesses downtown that were forced to close.

The Rideau Centre’s reopening on Tuesday, however, was marred by a gun scare. The mall was locked down at around 12:30 p.m. on reports that a person may have been armed with a gun. Police have arrested and charged a 50-year-old man with robbery and several gun-related offences.

SECURE AREA

Secure Area Ottawa Feb 22

ONE WEEK SINCE HEATED MEETING

Last week, a special meeting of council became heated as a motion was moved to kick Coun. Diane Deans off of the Ottawa Police Services Board, where she served as chair. The motion also called for the removal of Coun. Carol Anne Meehan.

It came after news surfaced that the board had sought to hire a former Waterloo police chief to take the place of Peter Sloly, who resigned as Ottawa police chief the day prior. The hours-long debate eventually led to Deans’ replacement with former board chair Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, as well as the resignations from the police services board of Meehan (who survived the vote to replace her with Coun. Jan Harder) and Coun. Rawlson King, who was asked to remain on the board.

“I think it’s horrific and unbecoming of this council to pull this stunt today,” Deans said. “But we’ve been on this council long enough to know how this council functions under Mayor Watson’s direction.”

Speaking Tuesday on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, Coun. Jeff Leiper said everyone at city council shares some of the blame for what happened last week.

“Long-standing resentments, anger on city council itself was allowed to break through,” he said. “Residents, I think, have the right to expect that politicians would put aside some of the personal animosity that they may feel to one another, some of the resentments of a difficult term of council, and get down to work on the business that residents expect us to undertake in the middle of a crisis like the occupation.”

Offering to “take a mea culpa on that,” Leiper said residents have a right to expect better.

The Ottawa Police Services Board announced Tuesday that its next regular meeting on Feb. 28 has been cancelled because of the need to bring the new members of the board up to speed, but a special meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow to discuss the ongoing operation downtown.

RETURN OF CITY SERVICES

More city services that had been suspended during the occupation are coming back.

The main branch of the Ottawa Public Library will be reopening today at 10 a.m. after being closed throughout the demonstration.

The city will resume appointments for in-person counter services at its City Hall location on Thursday for both Service Ottawa and Building Code Services.

The city’s underground parking garage at Ottawa City Hall reopened Tuesday.

OC TRANSPO

Routes 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, and 18 will have revisions to existing detours to bring transit service closer to Centretown, Lowertown, and downtown residents and businesses starting today.

Routes 6, 7, 14, and 19 will operate via King Edward instead of Vanier Parkway and will connect with Line 1 at Lees Station. Route 9 will return to its regular route. Route 11 will be extended east along Somerset to O’Connor. Routes 15 and 18 will be extended west to Rideau Station, and the Centretown shuttle will be extended north to Somerset.

O-Train Line 1 is running the full length of the line from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair.

Fifteen bus routes serving downtown, as well as Para Transpo trips to and from Rideau-Vanier and Somerset wards, continue to be no-charge. This will be in place until 30 days after the City’s State of Emergency is lifted.

Road closures remain fluid. Check our interactive traffic map for the latest information.

INTERPROVINCIAL CROSSINGS

  • Macdonald-Cartier: Open
  • Alexandra: Open
  • Portage: S/B closed (except for essential workers)
  • Chaudière: Open
  • Champlain: Open 


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