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Recall Legislature to deal with worsening protests: Ottawa, Windsor MPPs demand


“It is truly hard to describe the anxiety and stress people have been living under,” Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden told the province’s select committee on emergency management oversight of the situation in Ottawa. “I have been troubled by the lack of legislative action.”

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Opposition MPPs from Ottawa and Windsor called on the Ontario government to recall the Legislature Thursday in order to bring urgent help to communities, residents and businesses affected by protest occupations and blockades.

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The call comes as protests that have shut downtown Ottawa are about to enter their third weekend and the fallout from a convoy blockade at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor was forcing companies to shut down and lay off workers.

“It is truly hard to describe the anxiety and stress people have been living under,” Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden told the province’s select committee on emergency management oversight of the situation in Ottawa. “I have been troubled by the lack of legislative action.”

During the meeting, Harden reported callers had begun flooding Ottawa’s 911 emergency line in what police believed was a coordinated effort, and that one trucker had called on supporters to drive around schools in the city.

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Harden said recalling the Legislature was crucial “given the alarming situation we are seeing in Ottawa in real-time.”

Among other things, Ottawa South MPP John Fraser said he wanted the province to declare a state of emergency, as Ottawa has done, to help bring in equipment — such as tow trucks — to end the protests.

MPPs expressed frustration about jurisdictional wrangling they say has hampered efforts to find solutions to the protests.

On Thursday, it was reported that Ontario had, for the third time, turned down an invitation to take part in trilateral talks with federal and municipal government officials over the ongoing protests, according to a provincial source.

Earlier in the day, government House Leader Paul Calandra told the emergency management oversight committee that Solicitor General Sylvia Jones planned to participate in the day’s meeting after missing the first two.

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But a spokesperson for the solicitor general said she has been in regular contact with federal public safety minister Marco Mendicino and emergency preparedness minister Bill Blair, as well as local officials from both Ottawa and Windsor.

“Our focus is on ensuring police have the operational resources they need to keep their community safe,” spokesperson Stephen Warner said.

“All three levels of government have been working together since the start, and we will continue to do so through existing channels.”

Warner added that: “Policing protests is a responsibility carried out by local police services across Ontario, who have the resources and authority to ensure their communities remain safe. Politicians at all levels cannot direct the police.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, said he had a long talk with Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday night about the issues, especially the protests blocking the bridge in Windsor, which has forced auto and other companies to temporarily shut down. Trudeau has also been criticized for leaving what are essentially national security issues to municipal police forces to deal with.

Ontario MPPs say the province needs to take more concrete action to bring an end to the protests.

“The word jurisdiction has become a four-letter word in Ottawa and it will soon be in Windsor,” Fraser said. “What people expect is for everyone to get in the room and solve it. It is everyone’s problem.”

Fraser wants the province to enact part of the Police Services Act that would allow it to bill people for excessive policing costs for situations such as these.

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Harden says the province should be taking action to suspend licenses and insurance policies for truckers who are breaking the law, something done in Quebec City where a truck convoy only stayed for a few hours.

“These are tools we have, are we prepared to use them?” he asked. “We are really concerned in Ottawa that the province is not acting with the power it has.”

Harden also noted Ford has not been to Ottawa since the protests began.

“It is day 14 and we have not seen Doug Ford in our city, we have not heard him say anything else other than ‘go home.’”

This week, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca visited both Ottawa and Windsor. Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath was scheduled to meet with affected Ottawa residents on Friday.

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Harden has met with affected residents and businesses.

Opposition parties also want immediate financial support for businesses affected by the convoy protests. Harden said he has met with business owners and affected workers who are desperate.

Calandra said the province has been in talks with the federal government about the border blockage in Windsor.

“We agree people have the right to protest, but this protest, especially what we are seeing in Ottawa, is not the type of protest that should be supported. I can’t say that clearly enough. The rule of law will return and the authority of the state will win out,” Calandra said.

“We absolutely understand the challenge this is creating on small, medium and large job creators. The people who work in the Rideau Centre, these are people who work very hard every day. They can’t afford to be without a paycheque.”

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