Ottawa police board chair ousted in dramatic city council meeting
Council voted to replace the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board during an emotional council meeting that saw Mayor Jim Watson face angry criticism from councillors, including one calling for him to resign.
A three-hour debate focused on a motion from Coun. Scott Moffatt to remove Coun. Diane Deans and Coun. Carol Anne Meehan from the Ottawa Police Services Board, one day after Peter Sloly resigned as the chief of the Ottawa Police Service. Council voted to replace Deans with Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, while councillors defeated a motion to replace Meehan with Jan Harder.
Meehan surprised council colleagues late Wednesday night by resigning from the board.
Coun. Rawlson King resigned from the board during the meeting, and will be replaced by Coun. Jeff Leiper.
"I think it's horrific and unbecoming of this council to pull this stunt today," Deans said. "But we've been on this council long enough to know how this council functions under Mayor Watson's direction."
Deans was ousted after sources said she led an effort to hire a new interim police chief without a proper competition and without consulting with other councillors or the mayor's office.
Deans said she was "proud" of all members of the Ottawa Police Services Board, saying they have "done an outstanding job."
The long-time councillor told councillors "I have not had a day off", adding, "I have given it my heart and my soul."
"Go ahead and criticize me, criticize me all day long," Deans said. "We have worked in the best interest of this city."
The former chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board said she wasn't happy with the "slowness" in response by the Ottawa Police Service to the occupation, adding the municipal police service was "not prepared" for a national occupation.
Deans praised former Chief Peter Sloly, saying he tried to bring a new approach to policing in Ottawa which, "We sadly need."
"You know what makes the saddest of all today, you are un-seeding a progressive board that was bringing about important and progressive change in policing in the city of Ottawa, and you're going back to the 1950s," said Deans.
"You're going back to give Matt Skof and his police association, who I'm sure are popping the champagne corks tonight, to give them all the money they want for their old style law and order."
Coun. Meehan accused council of playing a "cheap political stunt" with the motion to remove councillors from the board on day 20 of the occupation.
During the debate, councillors took aim at the mayor for his leadership during the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration that has occupied downtown Ottawa for 20 days.
"I think the mayor of the city of Ottawa should resign tonight, because this city is in chaos and it doesn't need to be," Meehan said.
"Mayor Watson, I have lost all confidence in you as mayor of the city of Ottawa," said Coun. Catherine McKenney.
The comments came after councillors emerged from a 90-minute in-camera session to discuss the motion to replace two councillors.
"The word of the day is scapegoat and what we've scapegoated now is the first Black police chief in the city of Ottawa, only the second woman to ever chair the police services board," said McKenney.
The Somerset councillor accused Mayor Watson of a "power grab" by removing two councillors from the board.
"The gross negligence of what has happened in this city, the negligence that has put people's lives at risk, especially this coming weekend and moving toward, because there is no clear plan anymore, I think it's shocking that anyone would suggest we would need a few days or a week to pull ourselves together," McKenney said.
"The negligence goes far beyond any of us as a city council. Police services board, perhaps. Federal government, huge! Provincial government, huge. We all share in it, we all share in it. But what's happening tonight, this motion that we're debating tonight is political, it's a power grab by this mayor because why else would we be appointing Coun. Eli El-Chantiry."
McKenney says the city of Ottawa has failed one residential neighbourhood during the ongoing siege, alleging the medical officer of health, the city manager and general manager of emergency and protective services have not reached out to offer assistance.
"You do not care about the residents of the downtown," said McKenney. "I need stability in this city today; I need it to be stable. Getting rid of half of the board of the police services is not stability, it is not what we need today."
The Somerset councillor accused councillors of not caring about the residents of downtown Ottawa by looking to replace the Ottawa Police Services Board members on day 20 of the occupation.
"This is because you don't actually care. If you cared about the people living on Kent Street, if you cared about the people living on Bay, living on Lyon, living on Queen, we would not be having this conversation tonight," said McKenney.
"Instead at 7:32 now, we would be asking our police, we would be asking our emergency response, we would be asking our city manager and our mayor, 'What is the plan for the weekend?' What is the plan so that more people don't come back into this city.
"You don't actually care or we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. Mayor Watson, I have lost all confidence in you as mayor of the city of Ottawa."
Coun. Meehan accused council of playing a "cheap political stunt."
The first-term councillor sent a private message to Watson on Feb. 2 asking for the city to declare a state of emergency, but she said the mayor said no because it wouldn't give the city or police any new tools. Watson declared a state of emergency on Feb. 6.
"If they want heads to roll, do it at the ballot box in October and I think that this mayor of the city of Ottawa should resign tonight, because this city is in chaos," Meehan said.
Coun. Riley Brockington called the motion "100 per cent politics."
"Tonight we should all look in the mirror and look at our own failings, because we have all failed in one way or another," said Leiper.
"But Mayor, if your motion is going to pick out the police services board for particular failings I would ask you to look in the mirror. This isn't a good time to be scapegoating people, we've lost a chief of police."
Coun. Shawn Menard urged Watson to take accountability for the issues in Ottawa, referencing an interview with CTV News Ottawa after Sloly's resignation.
"You replied, 'At the top of an organization whether it's mayor, or a president of a company, or the chief of police, that's where the blame ends up.' And so the question has to be asked, when does that same logic apply to you? You've been mostly absent during this crisis and then you get your club to bring this motion forward," Menard said.
"Take your own advice and take accountability in this case. Do you not feel you have any accountability in this mess or are you willing to just push it off to everyone else on this council for your own political purposes?"
VOTES FOR OTTAWA POLICE SERVICES BOARD MEMBERS
Vote for Eli El-Chantiry to replace Diane Deans
Yeas: Curry, Dudas, Moffatt, Gower, Darouze, Cloutier, Fleury, Kitts, El-Chantiry, Hubley, Harder, Tierney, Luloff, Egli, Watson
Nays: McKenney, Kavanagh, King, Meehan, Deans, Leiper, Brockington, Chiarelli, Menard
Vote for Jan Harder to replace Carol Anne Meehan (Meehan resigned late Wednesday evening)
Yeas: Curry, Dudas, Moffatt, Gower, Darouze, Cloutier, El-Chantiry, Hubley, Harder, Tierney, Watson
Nays: McKenney, Kavanagh, King, Meehan, Deans, Fleury, Kitts, Leiper, Brockington, Chiarelli, Menard, Luloff, Egli
Vote for Suzanne Valiquet to replace Sandy Smallwood
Dissent: Menard, Chiarelli and King
Vote for Jeff Leiper to replace Rawlson King
Dissent: Fleury, Meehan