Ottawa-South Councillor Diane Deans turfed

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A political coup led by Mayor Jim Watson’s leadership core on council led to Coun. Diane Deans being turfed from chairing the Ottawa Police Services Board on Wednesday, which was Day 20 of the occupation crisis in Canada’s capital.

A whole term of acrimony that has been bubbling in council came to a head in the evening hours during a closed session of a special meeting and spilled over into the public portion. The “siege” of Ottawa, as so many people have described the “Freedom Convoy” occupation, has shaken city hall.

It was a meeting like none other during Mayor Jim Watson’s administration.

There was anger. Tears. Confusion.

A closed portion of the meeting broke out in bickering and screaming, away from the public’s gaze.

And when council returned to the open session, they continued the clash.

The target was clear: the leadership of the police services board.

Council, with a vote of 15-9, removed Deans from the board in response to its oversight of the police force during the protest crisis. The motion to change the board was presented by councillors Scott Moffatt and Laura Dudas.

Deans called it “ridiculously political” and she shot down claims that she breached conduct in leading the board.

An emotional Coun. Carol Anne Meehan, who was also targeted in the Moffatt/Dudas motion for removal from the police board, said she was “truly disgusted by the cheap political stunt.”

She narrowly survived the vote and would have stayed on the board, but right before the end of the meeting, she resigned from her position. Council didn’t decide on a replacement for Meehan on the police board.

In moving to replace Deans, the mayor and 14 councillors selected as their pick Eli El-Chantiry, who’s the former chair of the board. He’s been recommended to chair the board, though it’s up to board members to make that decision.

But that wasn’t the end of the drama surrounding the board and its work.

Coun. Rawlson King, the founder of the new anti-racism secretariat, resigned his seat from the police services board in the middle of the council meeting after he spoke in defence of Deans.

King said he was quitting the police board “since the mayor has a different vision of police governance in this city.”

Council appointed Coun. Jeff Leiper to replace King on the board.

Sandy Smallwood, the vice-chair of the police services board who was appointed by council, also tendered his resignation Wednesday. He declined to go into details about why he wanted off the board.

“The police governance model is set up for failure. And I think what this incident has done is brought it to the surface,” Smallwood said when reached earlier in the day. “It’s not set up to deal with an issue like this.”

Another former police services board member, Suzanne Valiquet, was proposed to take Smallwood’s spot.

Many on council seemed miffed that the board was angling toward hiring another interim chief from outside of the police force.

A city hall source said former Waterloo Region police chief Matt Torigian signed a contract for the top job in the Ottawa Police Service without a competition being held for the temporary position.

However, at the council meeting, Deans said it was a unanimous board decision to go with an interim chief and the move received support from the solicitor general.

Deans said the current Ottawa police executive command “is flying with one wing” and needs help, and fast, which is why the board accepted hiring a highly skilled interim chief. She said there would be consultation involved in hiring the next permanent police chief.

The police services board, not city council, has oversight of the police force and is in charge of hiring the chief and deputy chiefs.

Torigian, who couldn’t be reached for comment, became a deputy minister of community safety and correctional services in the Ontario government in 2014. He has been a distinguished fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs since 2018, leading an initiative on global policing.

Watson, who asked Deans to resign earlier in the day, said he didn’t agree with awarding a “sole-source contract” to an outside interim chief, one who Watson said would be “bringing a bunch of consultants with him.”

The mayor, who supports the leadership of current interim police chief Steve Bell, said he hopes the police board can somehow stop the hiring process.

Peter Sloly resigned as Ottawa police chief on Tuesday after another weekend of partying by occupiers at the foot of Parliament Hill, plus a continued encampment at the municipal baseball stadium’s parking lot on Coventry Road.

During the council meeting, councillors pressed Ottawa Police Service executives about how they’ll end the occupation, but the sensitive operational details aren’t being released publicly.

Police were ramping up for increased enforcement downtown ahead of the Family Day long weekend.

Bell warned council that techniques police are prepared to use to end the occupation aren’t what residents are used to seeing in Ottawa. He didn’t specify the techniques.

Bell appeared during the meeting before council duked it out over the leadership of the police services board.

Coun. Catherine McKenney, whose Somerset ward is one of the most impacted by the occupation, slammed the “gross negligence of what has happened in this city” and McKenney accused Watson of making a “power grab” for the police services board.

Kim Ayotte, general manager of emergency and protective services, said there have been 3,000 tickets issued in the “red zone” of the downtown occupation so far. He said more than 40 vehicles have been towed. He said the city has enough resources to handle bylaw enforcement related to the occupation.

Ayotte said bylaw officers “are ready and eager” to enforce the laws, but it’s a matter of doing their job safely.

City manager Steve Kanellakos recognized the work of city staff for “putting themselves in harm’s way” and not getting any recognition.

The council members who voted in favour of replacing Deans on the police board with El-Chantiry were Cathy Curry, Glen Gower, George Darouze, Jean Cloutier, Mathieu Fleury, Catherine Kitts, Allan Hubley, Jan Harder, Tim Tierney, Matthew Luloff, Keith Egli, El-Chantiry, Moffatt, Dudas and Watson.

The councillors who wanted Deans to stay on the board were Theresa Kavanagh, Riley Brockington, Rick Chiarelli, Shawn Menard, Leiper, Meehan, King, McKenney and Deans.

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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I mean rolling on the floor laughing here! Talk about talking yourself out of a job before you even have it!!

🤩

My overwhelming gratitude goes out once more to the wonderful CAPITAL freedom lovers that will liberate this monument of colonialism and re-traumatization that is the Ottawa bureaucracy and federal government of Canada.

The world loves u, freedomconvoy2022.org

don’t stop now hang in there

you are powerful !

Photo by Rocky Mountain Mick
Photo by D_tuner on Instagram
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