Outgoing Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson testified earlier than the Public Order Emergency Commission on Oct. 18, as public hearings continued into the invocation of the Emergencies Act to finish the “Freedom Convoy” protests.
During his look earlier than the nationwide inquiry, Watson acknowledged that the metropolis had misplaced management and wanted assist very early into the protests, and stated in his view there was “no query” that the authorities response to the protests was a failure in any respect ranges.
Watson’s testimony additionally shed new mild on inner metropolis machinations, in addition to how Ottawa corresponded with key provincial and federal gamers. One key revelation got here from a readout of a dialog Watson had with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that exposed Trudeau felt Ontario Premier Doug Ford was “hiding from his accountability… for political causes.”
Here are some highlights from his testimony and the paperwork referenced throughout his look earlier than the commission.
‘MANY FAILURE POINTS’ MAYOR SAYS
Perhaps the most telling trade on the mayor’s views of the complete “Freedom Convoy” debacle got here in questioning from a commission lawyer who—after hours of testimony indicating that the metropolis was conscious it wanted appreciable assist as early as the Monday after the first weekend of protests—requested Watson whether or not he thought it was “a failure in any respect ranges.”
His response? “Yeah there is no query that, , if you look again in hindsight on what occurred, there have been many failure factors alongside the manner. And, , whether or not it was the metropolis or the provincial or federal governments, all of us need to take accountability for the indisputable fact that we didn’t act quick sufficient, and that the individuals of Ottawa suffered the most because of the indisputable fact that we didn’t clear up that occupation for 3 weeks. It ought to have been accomplished sooner.”
Asked then what the metropolis might have been accomplished in another way, Watson pointed to policing and the want for added assist sooner, and stated assets have been “overwhelmed,” describing how officers have been primarily “treading water, making an attempt to maintain our head afloat.”
FRUSTRATED PM ACCUSES ONTARIO’S FORD OF ‘HIDING’
The most politically important revelation from Watson’s testimony was contained in paperwork shared with the commission that make clear how Watson and Trudeau have been feeling about Ford’s involvement, or lack thereof.
In a tough transcript of a name held between Trudeau and Watson—along with the prime minister expressing frustration over the mayor and then-Ottawa Police chief Peter Sloly sharing combined messages—it was revealed that Trudeau was pissed off with Ford.
“You can say sure the federal authorities might be there with extra useful resource [sic], however once more, factor that frustrates me… Doug Ford has been hiding from his accountability on it for political causes,” the doc reads.
It goes on to notice that Trudeau additionally stated it was “vital that we do not allow them to get away from that.”
In addition to this, Watson testified that then-Ontario solicitor basic Sylvia Jones “declined” to attend discussions between federal, provincial and municipal officers, regardless of efforts from the federal authorities to get her to have interaction. He stated related efforts to get Ford on the line have been additionally unsuccessful.
“I believe he felt it might be a waste of time. You know, when he stated that, I used to be fairly pissed off with them. He stated: ‘look, what’s it going to perform, a bunch of individuals sitting round a desk speaking and making choices?’ and I stated: ‘nicely, that appears like a cupboard assembly.’ And he did not like that,” Watson stated. “Now in equity to the premier, when he did interact, it labored… But this factor ought to have been resolved in week one, not week three.”
This notable component of the testimony comes on the heels of Ford—who shouldn’t be at the moment on the commission’s witness listing—saying that the province “stood shoulder-to-shoulder’ with Trudeau on determination to invoke the Emergencies Act.
FRUSTRATION OVER ‘DISINGENUOUS’ POLICE DEPLOYMENTS
During his look, Watson additionally constructed on testimony given on Oct. 17 by his chief of workers Serge Arpin concerning a sequence of frank textual content messages with a prime staffer in Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s workplace.
In the trade over what number of extra RCMP officers have been really deployed, Arpin instructed that the nationwide police power was “misleading” about the variety of officers deployed to help, as a lot of them have been despatched to guard federal officers or places somewhat than being in the thick of the protests.
Asked about the RCMP staffing, and what he referred to as a equally “disingenuous” declare about the variety of OPP officers Ontario had supplied up pre- Emergences Act invocation, Watson stated: “It was a bit irritating” as a result of as soon as the roughly 250 RCMP and 1,500 OPP officers have been divided out over varied shifts, it was “not a whole lot of officers.”
“We wanted the giant quantity… to get this case underneath management, and kick these yahoos out of our metropolis,” he stated.
Watson agreed with a commission lawyer who requested him whether or not he thought there was “a major delay” in the metropolis receiving OPP and RCMP backup.
Responding to Watson’s claims, in a press release the Ontario solicitor basic’s workplace stated that the province’s place was that politicians should not direct particular police operations and that Ontario’s focus was on offering instruments to police.
“Show me the Mounties,” Watson reiterated to the federal authorities on a name on Feb. 8, in accordance with a transcript entered into proof.
PLAYING ‘WHACK-A-MOLE’ WITH SECURITY CONCERNS
In an effort to color an image of the type of public security issues Ottawa had, Watson spoke about the basic chaos seen all through downtown Ottawa streets, from DJs’ sound techniques, bouncy castles and a pig roast, to the desecration of nationwide monuments.
“It was a little bit of a sport of ‘Whack-a-Mole’ once they form of resolved one state of affairs, one other factor would flare up. An excellent instance of that was the shack that was being constructed close to the canal and the NAC (National Arts Centre) and Confederation Park, this everlasting construction the place it was a meals distribution level and it was very, very unsafe. There was propane, open fires, gasoline all saved on this space, and our hearth chief and hearth service stated it is a tinderbox that might explode,” he stated.
During the testimony, Watson additionally acknowledged what was evident at the time of the protests: that the metropolis’s police power had “misplaced management” of the principal protest “pink zone,” citing swarming of police and bylaw officers in addition to the incapacity to chop off the circulate of gasoline.
The outgoing mayor additionally stated that wanting again, he would have “insisted that we have now barricades, blockading Wellington Street as a primary step,” so the protesters couldn’t have Parliament Hill as their backdrop.
“I believe it was symbolic on the a part of the truckers,” he stated.
WATSON ASKED PM FOR HELP ON JAN. 31
During his testimony, Watson stated that Trudeau was the first particular person he spoke to about needing extra assist, and that occurred on Jan. 31, the Monday after the first weekend of protests.
“The very first time that I had requested for added assets was with the prime minister on that cellphone name, and he understood utterly the state of affairs we’re in,” Watson stated. “He lives in Ottawa, clearly, and he was seeing firsthand the challenges our metropolis was dealing with. So he was the first person who I contacted.”
According to a name readout shared with the commission, Watson told Trudeau that he felt as if “these individuals had their time and want to maneuver on,” expressed concern that the protests had grow to be “so risky” and that extra assets can be wanted.
“That’s for positive,” Trudeau responded.
“We have to do that with a way of stability, these guys are simply on the lookout for a combat,” Watson then stated, in accordance with the doc entered into proof.