In light of new police tactics to manage the ongoing trucker convoy, property managers in Ottawa’s downtown core are preparing for another weekend of protests.
The Ottawa police announced Friday that they will adopt a “surge and contain” strategy that will include a major deployment of officers and a hardened perimeter. Barricades and police presence will shut down roadway access to an expanded area downtown, not only diverting customers away from businesses, but potentially blocking access to employees and emergency vehicles.
Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly said the convoy has become an “increasingly volatile and increasingly dangerous demonstration” and that law enforcement is “absolutely committed to bringing this demonstration to an end.''
Dean Karakasis, executive director of Ottawa's Building Owners and Managers Association, told OBJ that his primary concern is the physical and mental well-being of citizens in the downtown core.
“Our members have been forced to impose lockdown procedures on many buildings,” said Karakasis. “Often tenants are unable to access buildings, some fearing their safety and others just being unable to access the front doors.
“The potential risk, should an emergency arise and access by response vehicles becomes compromised, creates an incredibly dangerous situation for many,” he said.
Bill Sioulas is also concerned about access to his buildings in the event of an emergency. Sioulas manages commercial real estate as director of Golpro Holdings Inc., including a building at 207 Queen St., a block away from the Parliament buildings. In preparation for this weekend, he said he has “beefed up” security around his properties.
Maintenance on hold
“We’re going through the extra expense of having someone physically there to make sure the tenant and retail spaces are safe and everything looks good, looking for any issues that may happen so we can act immediately,” said Sioulas, adding he's afraid that emergency vehicles would not be able to reach the building in time in the event of an issue.
Construction and maintenance at Sioulas’ properties have also been put on hold since last weekend, when the convoy first arrived, because trades workers, trucks and equipment could not access the building. The roadblock has delayed move-ins for tenants who are now left with only half of their belongings moved into the space.
“There’s only so much more these retailers can take after two years of a pandemic,” Sioulas said.
"There’s only so much more these retailers can take after two years of a pandemic."
A survey released this week by the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas showed the impact that the convoy has had on many businesses in Ottawa, from plummeting sales to concerns about employee safety. Seventy-four per cent of the 200 businesses that responded said they had lost sales because of the convoy, with more than half of those businesses saying they would not be able to recoup those losses.
“We have supported the call by OCOBIA for federal and even municipal financial assistance to the businesses that have yet again been forced to bear the costs of events that are beyond their control,” said Karakasis. “We believe the issues have been well spelled out by the demonstrators and it is time for them to head back home and end taking our city hostage.”
Ottawa police are expecting as many as 400 more trucks and up to 2,000 people to join the demonstration this weekend, including counter-protesters.