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Police officers patrol on foot along Albert Street as the convoy protest reaches its 14th day in Ottawa, on Feb. 10.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The federal Emergencies Act was not needed to bring an end to more than three weeks of disruptive convoy protests in Ottawa, a retired Ontario Provincial Police official told the inquiry examining the act’s use.

Carson Pardy, who retired several weeks ago as OPP chief superintendent, said that while the act helped in some ways, it was not necessary for ending the protracted demonstration. For instance, officers already had the authority to tow and seize vehicles and prevent people from going into the protest zone.

Mr. Pardy led a team of experts from several police forces that created the plan used to end the protests.

“In my humble opinion, we would have reached the same solution with the plan that we had – without either of those pieces of legislation,” Mr. Pardy said in a hearing in Ottawa on Friday, referring to the Emergencies Act and Ontario’s emergency legislation at the time. He indicated that, without the act, police could have removed protesters within the same time frame as they did.

The plan was already formulated when the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, and Mr. Pardy said they added to it when the act came down.

Mr. Pardy also testified that former Ottawa Police chief Peter Sloly acted suspicious and hostile toward his team. Mr. Sloly resigned toward the end of the protests.

On Friday afternoon, the Ottawa Police Services Board named a new permanent police chief just days before a municipal election. Eric Stubbs, an assistant commissioner with the RCMP in British Columbia, will take up the role on Nov. 17.

The Emergencies Act inquiry, led by Justice Paul Rouleau, has heard about disfunction in the Ottawa police from several law enforcement leaders this week. The witnesses described the service as overwhelmed during the protests, yet with a leader – Mr. Sloly – who appeared unwilling to share power with other police services. While the Ottawa police planned for only a two-day protest, they had intelligence that the event could last much longer, evidence has also shown.

The inquiry, known as the Public Order Emergency Commission, has completed the first of six weeks of hearings. Its central purpose is not to examine whether the Ottawa police – or any other agency – erred in its response to the protests, but whether the federal government met the requirements for invoking the Emergencies Act.

Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said on Friday there has been no proof the federal government needed to invoke the act. The opposition leader told CityNews Ottawa he has heard “nothing at all” during the hearings to validate the use of the legislation.

He also said the Prime Minister could have easily ended the protests.

“Justin Trudeau could have brought an end to that protest in a couple of days if he had taken five minutes to sit down with some of the truckers. He didn’t have to agree with them,” he said. “Instead, he wanted to promulgate fear and division in the country, which is what he does.”

The Decibel podcast: What we’ve learned from the Emergencies Act inquiry so far

The integrated planning team Mr. Pardy led first met with Ottawa police on Feb. 8, according to the retired leader’s notes, which were tabled with the commission. The team included expert planners from police forces including the Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police, the OPP and the RCMP, and was not meant to “take over” from the Ottawa police, Mr. Pardy testified.

At that point, the commission has heard, Ottawa police did not have a plan to end the protest.

During the team’s first meeting with Mr. Sloly, on Feb. 9, according to Mr. Pardy’s notes, the Ottawa chief expressed doubt he would receive the additional police officers he had requested. He also suggested he had “sources in the ministry office” who indicated his requests were not being supported and “essentially, they wanted him to fail,” the retired superintendent’s notes read. The notes did not specify which ministry Mr. Sloly meant.

“Frankly, it was abundantly clear that our key obstacle was at the chief level,” his notes say.

Mr. Pardy testified that he expected his team to be welcomed, but Mr. Sloly was “very antagonistic” and “disrespectful” at that meeting – and did not appear to trust them. “It was very clear he had confidence issues in what we were there to do,” he said. After that meeting, other members of the chief’s command apologized for his behaviour, Mr. Pardy recalled.

Mr. Pardy’s team presented its plan to Ottawa police on Feb. 11 for approval. Yet, problems getting that approval persisted for several days, including communication issues with Mr. Sloly; confusion over whether an Ottawa police official other than Mr. Sloly could give approval; and the service’s “need to have their lawyer approve the plan,” according to Mr. Pardy’s notes.

With the protest entering its second week, the federal government was also eager to hear how police proposed to end the demonstration.

In a Feb. 7 meeting, federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told officials he was concerned about trucks and an industrial crane in front of the Prime Minister’s office, and asked about the police plan, according to meeting minutes tabled with the commission this week.

“With appropriate boundaries on operational independence – how is the convoy being broken up and disengaged,” Mr. Mendicino asked, according to the paraphrased notes. “Need to know the plan.”

The minutes indicate that officials from Ottawa police and the municipal and federal governments attended the meeting.

On Feb. 15, facing mounting criticism, Mr. Sloly resigned.

During Friday’s hearing, senior commission counsel Frank Au noted that Mr. Pardy had said in an earlier interview with the commission that the plan moved more quickly after Mr. Sloly’s resignation. “What did you mean by that?” Mr. Au asked.

“He resigned, and it was like, ‘let’s go,’” Mr. Pardy said, before adding a caution: “There were still barriers. I mean, we still had our issues. I don’t want anybody to think that it was just Chief Sloly.”

The plan created by Mr. Pardy’s team – to dismantle the protest “systematically” – began on Feb. 18, when more than 2,000 officers swept through the city.

When Mr. Sloly resigned, deputy chief Steve Bell became interim chief. On Friday at the news conference announcing his appointment as Ottawa police chief, Assistant Commissioner Stubbs called Interim Chief Bell a “true leader.”

Assistant Commissioner Stubbs joined the virtual news conference from B.C. because has COVID. He said he has read about the expectations Ottawa residents have of the new police chief, and does not take the role lightly.

When asked how he will rebuild trust because of the timing of his announcement and what has been revealed so far in the inquiry, he said he plans to build positive relationships internally with the police service and with people in the community.

“I think we can overcome any negativity or angst over the process,” he said.

With a report from Ian Bailey

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