By Mike Blanchfield and Jim Bronskill
THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA-Federal cabinet ministers and Ottawa’s mayor met late Monday to find solutions to end the anti-vaccine mandate protest that has choked the Canadian capital for over a week.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said Tuesday on Twitter that he was joined by Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino in talks with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and city officials.
“The emergency situation in Ottawa remains serious and fluid and requires close and continued collaboration between all levels of government,” Blair tweeted.
“We all have a role to play to keep Canadians safe.”
The meeting came after Watson sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday asking for another 1,800 police officers in addition to his current contingent of 2,100 police and civilian members to “quell the insurrection” in Ottawa.
Demonstrations in the central core are costing Ottawa about $1.8 million to $2.2 million per day for police alone. Watson has said the city is keeping a tally of all extraordinary costs associated with the protest and will seek compensation from higher levels of government when the protest finally ends.
Meanwhile, a Liberal MP called out his own government on Tuesday morning for what he says is its divisive management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joel Lightbound told reporters that federal COVID-19 measures need to be re-evaluated and the public needs a clear road map for when restrictions will be fully lifted. He said that includes vaccination mandates for travellers and civil servants,
Lightbound said he is worried the Liberal government under Trudeau has set a tone and policies that are divisive and risk undermining public trust.
On Monday night, Trudeau told an emergency debate on the protest in the House of Commons that the demonstration in Ottawa is “trying to blockade our economy, our democracy and our fellow citizens’ daily lives.”
He said: “It has to stop.”
A new self-declared spokesman for the anti-vaccine mandate protest clogging Ottawa says he wants to form a “coalition” with the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc.
The declaration by Tom Marazzo was made at a late-night Monday news conference from an Ottawa hotel that was streamed online and widely shared on social media. Marazzo did not explain how an unelected person can sit with elected lawmakers and form a democratic government.
A memo being pushed by organizing group Canada Unity unlawfully demands Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and the Senate force federal and provincial governments to lift all COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccine mandates. It was initially sent to the Senate and Simon on Dec. 11 and did not mention truckers, despite the protest ostensibly being about a vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers.
Earlier Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said at a virtual news conference that meeting with the group of protesters “was not the right thing to do.” The NDP leader was sharply critical of their aims, including their memorandum of understanding, and tactics.
Ottawa’s city council voted Monday to formally petition the federal government to assume responsibility for public safety in the parliamentary precinct to free up Ottawa officers to return to protect residential neighbourhoods.
The letter to the federal and provincial governments came as an Ontario judge granted a 10-day injunction to prevent protesting truckers from honking their horns incessantly, which residents have argued is causing irreparable harm.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Hugh McLean said his order was temporary because he needs to hear more evidence, but that he heard enough to make this ruling as the protest against COVID-19 pandemic measures continues to paralyze neighbourhoods around Parliament Hill.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2022.