After a very long and frustrating three weeks, Ottawa’s downtown is finally getting back to a state of normalcy following the police enforcement operation that began a week ago today.
I would like to thank everyone who took the time to email me or call my office to share your concerns and thoughts related to the convoy occupation. We have received well over 1000 emails since February 3rd the time the convoy landed in the downtown core to its removal last weekend. Every stage of the occupation resulted in so many questions for which answers were continually changing. My team put together a timeline of the occupation which includes stats on arrests and by-law enforcement for your reference.
Today we start looking forward. We will be addressing hard questions that many residents have asked and deserve answers to such as:
- Why was the convoy allowed to enter and park on Wellington Street in front of parliament and the Prime Minister’s Office?
- Why didn’t the police deal with the Coventry encampment more quickly?
- What is the plan moving forward?
Both the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police Services will be conducting thorough reviews of the situation, and take all lessons learned to improve their ability to prepare for and respond to possible future threats. Options will be examined that will help ensure that this type of occupation doesn’t happen again. One option is to restrict vehicles from the parliamentary section of Wellington Street.
The City is in discussion with residents and businesses who were impacted by the occupation to ask them how it can best support them. The City will lobby the Federal and Provincial governments to provide financial support and continue to work with Ottawa Public Health to ensure that residents have access to the mental health services should they need them.
At this week’s City Council meeting I was pleased to support my colleague, Rideau-Vanier Ward Councillor Mathieu Fleury, by seconding his motion to support local businesses that have been impacted by the convoy protests. The motion asks that the Mayor write a formal letter to the premier of Ontario requesting the Provincial Government to match the Federal Ottawa Business relief program funding to cover fixed costs and sales shortfalls as a result of the occupation and that the Mayor write to the provincial and federal government on behalf of City Council, to expand the lost income programs (EI, CERB, others) as soon as possible to reflect the lost wages by employees during the time of the illegal occupation. This motion passed on consent. During the meeting council made several decisions to use property tax money to help restore economic activity downtown and in the ByWard Market.
Council reviewed and discussed closing Wellington to vehicles. I was pleased to support a motion from Somerset Ward Councillor Catherine McKenney asking city staff to talk with the federal government about taking this area over from the City. In addition, Councillor McKenney received unanimous support from council to have city staff consider closing Wellington Street to traffic between Bank and Elgin streets until the end of the year. Banning traffic on O’Connor and Metcalfe streets north of Queen Street was also part of the motion. To view this and other motions from the February 24 Council Meeting related to recovery after this Illegal Occupation you can visit the following link
Like many residents I am relieved that the occupation has been removed but angered that the Nation’s Capital could be so vulnerable to such an event. I worry that without changes to many factors such as intelligence gathering, integrated communications with our federal and provincial partners, and early action it could happen again. We, as a city, must remain vigilant. We cannot allow our residents to be put into this vulnerable state ever again. For our communities to heal, it is essential that City Council put aside personal differences and focus on working together to ensure a more stable environment for our residents moving forward.