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An Ottawa Police vehicle blocks off Kent Street in front of parked trucks during the protest in Ottawa on Feb. 6.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The City of Ottawa was warned three days before the trucker convoy arrived that protesters were planning to stay for more than 30 days and intended to block access to the city, the public inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act has heard.

But the commission also heard that police were planning for a protest that would last only one weekend or a few days more, despite being given the same warning as the city.

The new information raises more questions about the city and police service’s preparation ahead of the convoy’s arrival – and how they used the intelligence available to them. The inquiry, which is being led by Justice Paul Rouleau, expects to hear from 65 witnesses over six weeks of public hearings, as it seeks to determine whether the federal government contravened the law in invoking the Emergencies Act.

During hearings in Ottawa on Monday, an e-mail presented by the commission’s senior counsel Natalia Rodriguez showed that the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association warned the city about the convoy’s plans on Jan. 25. The convoy of anti-government, anti-vaccine-mandate protesters arrived on Jan. 28.

The hotel association’s president, Steve Ball, forwarded an e-mail from a convoy organizer to a director in Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s office. In that e-mail, the organizer told the association the convoy was looking for hotels for a “minimum of 30 days to 90 days,” with about 10,000 people staying in Ottawa.

Mathieu Gravel, the mayor’s office director, then e-mailed several top city officials, commission records show, and he explained the convoy organizer had told Mr. Ball that the convoy’s plan was essentially to “leave their trucks in place, chain them together, and attempt to block all accesses to the city.”

“What is our level of preparedness to respond to this, should it go on for many weeks or months?” asked Mr. Gravel in his e-mail to the city officials, which included city manager Steve Kanellakos.

Despite that, in witness testimony on Monday, Mr. Kanellakos told the commission that the police were planning for a protest that would end after the initial weekend – or midway through the next week, at the latest. Ahead of the convoy’s arrival, police publicly said they were planning for between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters.

The hotel association’s warning about the protests was also provided to police, Mr. Kanellakos told the commission. He said the city did not raise concerns with police that they were underestimating the scale and length of the protests because it’s normal for predictions around the size of protests to vary widely.

Mr. Kanellakos was the first witness to testify Monday, and he was followed by Mr. Watson’s chief of staff Serge Arpin. Over about eight hours of testimony the two senior officials detailed difficulty getting additional police officers from the province and federal government – without which both witnesses said the protests could not be brought under control.

Mr. Watson is expected to testify on Tuesday, with witnesses from the Ottawa police and Ontario Provincial Police appearing later this week.

Convoy protesters used big rigs and other vehicles to block streets in Ottawa’s downtown and other neighbourhoods from Jan. 28 to Feb. 20, when they were cleared out in a massive police operation that included multiple police forces. According to a City of Ottawa report, tabled with the commission on Monday, the convoy cost the city and the Ottawa police more than $62.5-million, which included several million dollars in lost revenue.

During his testimony, Mr. Kanellakos also spoke about challenges the city experienced in co-ordinating with the province.

On Feb. 7, 8 and 10, co-ordinating “tripartite” meetings were held, which were supposed to include all three levels of government, Ms. Rodriguez summarized. But Mr. Kanellakos said no elected officials from the province attended. Mr. Kanellakos said Ontario Premier Doug Ford declined to attend.

According to minutes from the Feb. 10 meeting, Mr. Watson expressed disappointment that the province was not at the table.

“Premier is telling me ‘anything you want,’ but then there is silence,” reads a summary of the mayor’s comments.

“I think the Province doesn’t know Ottawa is in Ontario. Might have to FedEx a map,” Mr. Arpin said to senior federal official Zita Astravas in text messages presented to the commission.

The minutes also describe federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino saying he thought the province should be at the tripartite meetings. On Monday, Mr. Kanellakos said it would have been helpful to have Ontario at the meetings – and that there was frustration that it was not.

Ms. Rodriguez also referenced a call that took place on Feb. 9 between Mr. Kanellakos, Mr. Watson and Ontario’s then-solicitor-general Sylvia Jones meant to facilitate OPP officers coming to Ottawa.

“I recall the minister saying that this was something the chiefs should be dealing with the OPP commissioner on and elected officials should not be getting involved in this,” Mr. Kanellakos said.

He also said that the province declined to look into potential ways to put pressure on the convoy that involved the truckers’ insurance or their commercial vehicle operator’s registration.

Mr. Ford has not been called as a witness at the commission but was in Ottawa on Monday for a separate announcement. He said his government “worked collaboratively” with the Ottawa mayor and Prime Minister and that he stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Justin Trudeau when the federal government invoked the act.

“I am so proud to stand here and back up police,” Mr. Ford said. “I’ll always support our police, they’re professional, they’re polite, and they ended up getting the job done.”

Evidence was also raised Monday showing that the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) took issue with the City of Ottawa’s plan to move convoy protesters’ semi-trucks out of residential neighbourhoods and onto Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill.

On Feb. 14, the PPS’s acting director Superintendent Larry Brookson e-mailed Mr. Kanellakos questioning the city’s decision, which he said resulted in the street being turned into “a parking lot of 200-plus trucks.”

In his testimony, Mr. Arpin, the mayor’s chief of staff, said there was “no downside” to the city negotiating with the protesters over moving the trucks, as there was “no end in sight” to the affair.

“There appeared to be no cogent, multijurisdictional plan to bring this thing to an end.”

With a report from The Canadian Press

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