A plan between City of Ottawa officials and Freedom Convoy organizers to relocate trucks away from residential areas was blocked by the Parliamentary Protective Service, not protesters.
Ottawa city manager Steve Kanellakos revealed this Monday in his testimony before the Public Order Emergency Commission.
Kanellakos was cross-examined about a text message exchange he had with convoy lawyer Keith Wilson regarding a three-day plan to concentrate trucks on Wellington St. with the remainder leaving the city.
“The truckers want to move 40 plus trucks tomorrow starting in the morning. They have the room on Wellington to fit,” Wilson texted Kanellakos on Tuesday Feb. 15. “That would just about clear out almost all of the residential areas.”
“We are working through some issues with Parliamentary Protection (sic) Services,” Kanellakos replied.
Freedom Convoy lawyer Brendan Myers Miller asked Kanellakos about a Feb. 17 call with Wilson in which Kanellakos apologized for the issues with the Parliamentary Protective Service, which is mandated to manage the security for the parliamentary precinct.
Kanellakos said he didn’t recall the specifics of the call, but was “disappointed that we couldn’t move more trucks out of the neighbourhood.”
The city manager said Wilson, as the convoy organizers’ representative, was communicative and engaged with the City of Ottawa in good faith throughout the protest.
During Kanellakos’ testimony, the Commission was also shown a Feb. 14 email from Parliamentary Protective Service officer in charge Larry Brookson expressing dismay over the truck relocation plan.
“Quite honestly Steve I am at a loss as to how this sort of agreement could have been worked out with a clear disregard to security,” Brookson wrote.
The plan to relocate the trucks came about through backchannel negotiations between convoy leaders and city officials, brokered by Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s former chief of staff, Dean French.
French viewed convoy leaders as “proud, big-hearted Canadians… standing up for a righteous cause” and had a good relationship with Watson going back to their time working together while French was running Ford’s office.
The City of Ottawa and convoy leadership agreed to publish two open letters – one from Watson, the other from Tamara Lich – signalling their desire to ease the protest’s pressure on Ottawa residents and opening the door to a more formal meeting down the road.
Watson’s letter demanded “clear evidence” of the departure from residential areas by noon on Monday, February 14.
“I look forward to your protest movement meaningfully delivering on these steps as a show of goodwill towards our community,” Watson wrote.