The City of Ottawa estimates the cost of responding to antigovernment demonstrations in the capital is about $30-million and growing.
City manager Steve Kanellakos told council on Wednesday that a lot of officers and support staff from police agencies across the country are still in Ottawa in the aftermath of the convoy protest that brought the downtown core to a near standstill for more than three weeks.
Heavy police enforcement to clear the demonstrators and vehicles from Parliament Hill and the nearby streets, considered one of the biggest operations in Canadian history, took place on Friday and into the weekend. But city officials said they are not letting their guard down because more demonstrations could still take place.
“We’re still here on standby if this flares up again,” Mr. Kanellakos said.
Ottawa Police previously estimated that enforcement efforts would cost about $800,000 per day. Mr. Kanellakos said Wednesday there was “exponential growth” in the amount as a large number of officers were brought in before last weekend, and need accommodation, food and transportation, among other expenses.
“We anticipate that the cost will be close to $30-million, in which we’ll be seeking funding from the federal and provincial governments,” Mr. Kanellakos said.
He said that costs will come out of the budgets of the city, Ottawa Police and police services that contributed. The federal government has indicated it wants to discuss with Ontario an “appropriate cost-sharing agreement,” he added.
“I’m very optimistic that the federal government is going to come forward and take care of these costs from my discussions with them,” Mr. Kanellakos said.
On Monday, federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said, without providing details, that the federal government was prepared to help Ottawa deal, in general, with costs related to the protests.
“I think the bottom line is we’re going to work very closely with the City of Ottawa to try and support them in offsetting their costs, not only when it comes to law enforcement, but you heard the, the additional funds that were introduced to help small businesses,” he said, referring to a federal program to provide $20 million to help Ottawa businesss that suffered losses during the three-week blockade.
“We’ve been there for Canadians, we’re been there for cities throughout the pandemic. We’re going to continue to be there for the City of Ottawa in the wake of the illegal occupation here.”
Asked about Ontario’s plans to provide financial support to Ottawa, Emily Hogeveen, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy did not directly answer, but noted in a statement issued on Wednesday that the province is looking for options to help businesses and will have more to say in coming days.
Mr. Kanellakos also told council the Integrated Command Centre is still in place, and the Ottawa Police, Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP are still working together. He said this would not change for the foreseeable future.
Since the removal of convoy demonstrators, a major concern for police has been encampments outside the city, such as in Vankleek Hill, Embrun and Arnprior, Ont.
Mr. Kanellakos said on Wednesday an encampment in the Greely, in south Ottawa, had been dismantled.
Police are tracking all protesters outside city, he added, and are prepared to respond to any attempt to reconvene demonstrations.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told council on Wednesday that he believes the most challenging time may be over.
“The worst, I believe is behind us,” Mr. Watson said on Wednesday during an update on the situation.
Ottawa Police considered protesters who refused to depart the city after warnings, along with big rig vehicles that were parked on downtown city streets, an “occupation” rather than a traditional protest demonstration.
The city has approved an independent review of how the response to the demonstrations.
Councillor and Ottawa mayoral candidate Diane Deans said on Wednesday that a full, integrated judicial inquiry is required. She said a local inquiry is not sufficient because the protests were a national issues and all levels of government were involved.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had invoked the federal Emergencies Act in response to the demonstrations in Ottawa and at border points across the country. The act requires an inquiry, with a report tabled in Parliament, when the emergency is over.
Some police checkpoints remained in place on Wednesday, although the footprint of the secured area has been reduced to include Laurier Avenue in the downtown core to Parliament Hill, as well as Bronson Avenue to the Rideau Canal.
Ottawa Police have said the measures will last only as long as is “deemed necessary to ensure unlawful protesters do not return.
The Rideau Centre, a mall in the core, was closed for three weeks and reopened on Tuesday, but had to close again for a police operation.
Ottawa Police said in a statement late Tuesday that the service received reports earlier in the day of an “armed man” after a theft at the mall. It said one person was charged in connection with the robbery investigation, and no injuries were reported.
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