Chris Selley: ‘Young 20’ springs into action amid total system outage in Ottawa

The same bureaucrats who left the truckers alone must learn to leave us alone

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One of the most telling moments of Tuesday’s jaw-dropping special Ottawa City Council meeting involved City Manager Steve Kanellakos, who defended his bylaw enforcement officers against criticism that they weren’t enforcing the bylaws amid the ongoing chaos downtown: parking tickets, noise complaints, open containers, etc.

“We were criticized because a 20-year-old – and I congratulate her – took an injunction,” Kanellakos told advisers.

If that sentence sounds incoherent, it was. At first, Kanellakos seemed dripping with disdain for this arrogant, oversized teenager; then seemed to catch up and congratulated her…for doing the thing he’s clearly still annoyed that she did. I’m no expert on Ottawa municipal politics – and from what I saw on Tuesday, I don’t want to be – but this struck me as a slippery mask and bureaucrat-in-chief richly paid ($377,000 in 2020) showing Ottawans how little their government really thinks of them.

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The 20-year-old in question is 21-year-old Zexi Li, a downtown resident who on February 7 won a court ordering truckers occupying Ottawa to stop honking their horns all day and night. And wouldn’t you know it worked. The horns haven’t gone away, let alone the truckers, but by all accounts (including Li’s), life downtown has become much less unbearable overnight.

It’s a fantastic story. After a week of occupation, three levels of government still stared at her, gaping and gibberish, wondering why their haughty tweets and accusations of Nazism hadn’t cleared the streets yet. And then “something 20 years old” goes to court and gets satisfaction. It wasn’t until four days after Li won his indictment that the city finally sought one itself.

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It was a well-deserved humiliation for a clearly broken municipal government. And that was ironic given the well-deserved reputation of Ottawa by-law officers as fantastic assholes.

At the start of the pandemic shutdowns, the nation’s capital led the way among Canadian cities in terms of sheer bastardy. There was the officer who demanded that a man from Orleans, a suburb of Ottawa, stop and refrain from kicking a ball around an empty lot with his four-year-old son, or face a fine of $700. There was the guy fined $880 for walking his dog in Britannia Park, because the dog walked around the park rather than crossing it in a straight line. And there was the Syrian refugee fined the same amount for sitting on the grass in Strathcona Park while walking with his heavily pregnant wife. Settlement officers alleged that he had a picnic. It was April 18. The maximum temperature that day was 11 degrees Celsius.

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None of the above was in fact illegal under any law, permanent or emergency, at any level of government. The city established the “through, not around” rule for entire fabric parks. Nothing prohibited members of the household from kicking balls. It’s not just Ottawa, God knows. Toronto will always be the city that closed High Park in May 2020, lest the hoi polloi congregate too closely amid the cherry blossoms. But Ottawa seemed to be in a whole different league.

“Nobody signed up for this,” Kanellakos said of his bylaw officers having to wade through sometimes threatening situations during convoy protests to issue tickets. He might find it easier to drum up sympathy for these officers if they didn’t so often seem to have signed up for the sheer joy of harassing harmless people doing harmless things. It was National Capital Commission henchmen who shut down the lemonade stand of seven- and four-year-old sisters next to the Rideau Canal in 2016, but it’s clear the NCC and City Hall share the responsibility. same basic vision.

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  1. A protester shouts

    The inside story of the Liberal Emergencies Act ruling

  2. The trucker occupation and protests continue their 11th day in Ottawa on Monday.  TONY CALDWELL, Postmedia.

    Judge grants interim injunction against honking truckers in Ottawa

As troubling as a precedent for civil liberties in Canada is, the Emergencies Act invocation expires in at least 30 days – and it has at least prompted appropriate pushback, including a lawsuit by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. It seems sadly possible that the City of Ottawa could conclude from continued public outrage that its rule enforcement (and rule invention) department needs to get even more pretentious in the name of consistency.

This is not the way to go. Throughout the pandemic, Canadian governments have routinely mistaken their voters for reckless morons who shouldn’t be trusted to boil an egg, let alone take common sense measures to avoid viral infection. But sometimes, at least, pandemic necessity has been the mother of freedom rather than petty tyranny.

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A major, if not shocking, example: several provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, have made it legal — first temporarily, then permanently — for restaurants to sell alcohol with take-out orders. and deliver. It was a way to help the service industry reeling from an unprecedented crisis. But here in Ontario, restaurateurs have really run with the ball. Some are now essentially competitors of the LCBO, selling bottles they import themselves that are not available in government stores. The liquor section of Eataly, the upscale Italian market, now basically looks like Toronto, Manhattan and Chicago.

To say this was unthinkable before the pandemic is an understatement. No one who is not part of a public sector union has a problem with the new normal. Coming out of this pandemic, we should be pushing our governments for more harmless freedoms, not less. Perhaps Torontonians could be trusted to drink some of this non-government wine at a picnic. Maybe Ottawa could even find a way to live off lemonade stands.

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