The streets of Ottawa are clear of protestors and residents of the city’s core can go back to sleep—literally– after three weeks of diesel horns blaring. The final week saw a kind of collective craziness sweep in to our nation’s capital. Mayor Jim Watson, aided by the former Doug Ford Svengali, Dean French, brokered a deal with the truckers that allowed them to concentrate more trucks downtown in exchange for them leaving residential areas–a move that greatly angered downtowners. . The mayor took the initiative apparently without consulting police. Police Chief Peter Sloly handed in his resignation after a publicly humiliating emergency meeting with his Police Services Board. He told the board he needed 1,800 officers to deal with the crisis, but it was clear they didn’t believe him. The spotlight then shifted to Deputy Chief Steve Bell who was appointed Acting Chief, but almost immediately Police Board Chair Diane Deans was secretly negotiating with a former Waterloo Police Chief to come to Ottawa to take over. That prompted Mayor Watson and his supporters on Ottawa Council to vote Deans out of office. Deans is running for Mayor later this year as Watson has announced his retirement. While all this drama was taking place, the outside police reinforcements that Sloly had said he needed, started to arrive—Quebec Police in riot gear, Toronto mounted units, a contingent from Hamilton, and police from as far away as Vancouver. By Friday they were ready to move, and by Saturday noon it was essentially all over. Two major pushes by police units—and the “liberty or death “gang melted away. It appears Sloly was right, and so was Steve Bell who now looks like a cool-headed hero five days after his Board tried to deep-six him. Journalists were hassled, although none were hurt. Police prevented representatives from Ezra Levant’s Rebel News from crossing lines, which was probably a mistake—police shouldn’t be picking and choosing which media to allow in. Even the august New York Times got caught up in the craziness, saying protestors were arrested at gunpoint when in fact guns were only used to cover cops who were opening and searching the trucks. The fact is there was very little violence—most of the 191 protestors arrested went quietly—there were only a few takedowns. The SIU will investigate an allegation that a woman was trampled by a Toronto police horse, but Chief Bell says pictures of the incident were photoshopped. Observing the extreme polarization exemplified by the protest itself and the almost-ignored debate in the House of Commons over the Emergency Act, John Ivison, writing in the Post, in an article headed, Do we need a new party for the politically ‘homeless’?, wondered whether it was time for a new, centrist political party, given that the Liberals and the Conservatives have both retreated to the political extremes.
Arguably, Sarah Hagl and many others made Ivison’s point.