All tow-truck companies on contract with the town have refused to take out the large rigs that have gridlocked Ottawa’s downtown for the second week during a row, the city’s manager says.
Steve Kanellakos said the consensus among many of the businesses seems to be that they don’t want to try and do the work because the heavy truck industry is such an oversized part of their livelihoods and that they don’t want to wreck that part of their businesses.
The city has contracts with 10 companies, which are typically accustomed to towing vehicles during parking bans so city plows can remove snow. A number of the contracts cover towing services for city vehicles, et al. help recovers lost and stolen vehicles for police.
Kanellakos said Monday evening after a meeting to council on the demonstration downtown, “We’ve contacted all of them and each one, they’re all refusing as of today to supply heavy motortruck work.”
Pascal Loyer, CEO of 1 of the tow-truck companies contracted by the town, said his concern is for the protection of his employees and also the way forward for his business.
If he were to start out towing trucks aloof from downtown, he said “nobody goes to possess my back.”
The big rigs are blocking city streets and honking horns day and night in Ottawa since Jan. 28 in protest of vaccine mandates.
Towing away an enormous rig without the co-operation of a driver is dangerous, difficult, and time-consuming work, he said, and therefore the crowds downtown pose a degree of uncertainty.
If one of his employees got hurt, he may well be charged under the labor code thanks to the unsafe work conditions, he said.
Loyer said he wants to stay neutral within the conflict between the town and therefore the protesters and would love to work out a political solution that avoids putting private businesses like his and public servants in danger.
The city is reviewing the contracts to determine what recourse it’s during this unprecedented situation but the matter, he said, goes beyond Ottawa.
Ottawa’s mayor has reached resolute other large Ontario cities to work out if they will help, and also the city is looking for companies across Eastern Ontario.
The city has raised the problem with the provincial and federal governments but has found motortruck operators are reticent to urge committed protests across Canada.
The lack of tow companies willing to induce involvement has also hampered the efforts of the RCMP to get rid of trucks and other vehicles from a protest blockade in southern Alberta.
The operators they’ve contacted worry about long-term damage to their businesses should they assist police cart away protester vehicles, said Alberta RCMP Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki.
Including seizing vehicles and forfeiting them to the Crown and filing for a civil injunction, the province has other tools it could use if necessary, Sonya Savage, Alberta’s acting justice minister, says.
Kanellakos says the tow companies are still doing other work for the town of Ottawa, including towing regularly sized vehicles.
Steve Bell, Ottawa’s deputy police officer, said Monday the difficulty has cropped up in all told jurisdictions and has forced cities and police services to come back up with some “creative solutions.”
He opted to not share those solutions, citing “operation concerns” about showing their hand to the protesters they’re attempting to shoo from the city’s core.
On Tuesday, Bell said that some vehicles are seized and towed but matters have become even more difficult: some trucks have removed their tires or split their brakes to form them completely immobile.
“The immobilizing of the vehicles within the occupation area is extremely concerning to us,” he said at a meeting Tuesday. Luckily for people in California, companies like towing Santa Clara don’t have to deal with this kind of problem.