Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is playing down the notion of a military response to the ongoing Ottawa protest against COVID-19 measures, saying that sending in troops is "not in the cards right now."
Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly said Wednesday that all options are on the table, including calling in the military, to end the ongoing demonstration that some city councillors have deemed an "occupation."
One must be "very, very cautious" about deploying troops on Canadian soil in such cases, Trudeau said at a news conference Thursday. "It is not something that anyone should enter in lightly."
In any event, there has been no such request to the federal government, Trudeau added. He said any formal requests for assistance from the City of Ottawa or Ontario will be considered.
"There are constitutional requirements on how we intervene in local jurisdictions. And that's why we are there to provide support as necessary, with the RCMP, with intelligence services."
The federal priority remains "being there for the citizens of Ottawa," he said.
Trudeau, who is harshly critical of the disruptions caused by the protesters, says it is time to give the people of Ottawa their neighbourhoods back.
Downtown streets were still clogged with trucks of all sizes Thursday and the steady drone of honking vehicles could be heard near Parliament Hill.
When asked if his government would be willing to sit down and negotiate with the protesters, Trudeau said the Liberals were elected on commitments to science and to protect people through the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Having a group of people who disagree with the outcome of an election, who want to go a different way and bring in an alternative government is a non-starter in a responsible democracy," he said.
"This is a time for responsible leadership, as well, for all politicians from all parties to tell these protesters, as I have, that it's time to get back to normal in the City of Ottawa."
Ottawa's mayor is calling on several Conservative MPs and a senator from Saskatchewan to apologize for praising the protest that has brought the capital's downtown to a standstill for close to a week.
A photo shows MPs Warren Steinley, Kevin Waugh, Andrew Scheer, Fraser Tolmie, Rosemarie Falk and Sen. Denise Batters grinning — some giving the thumbs-up — in front of one of the protest trucks, which have been barricading roads and honking horns in the city almost non-stop since Saturday.
On Twitter, Waugh said a few of Saskatchewan caucus members "went to show their appreciation for the hardworking, patriotic truckers who have kept our supply chains healthy and grocery shelves stocked for the past two years."
He added, "it's great to see Canadians championing freedom on Parliament Hill."
Mayor Jim Watson responded on Twitter by calling the action an "absolute disgrace," saying residents have been harassed by protesters and businesses have been forced to close.
Ottawa police said in a statement Thursday they have issued 30 traffic tickets and patrolled areas in the downtown and nearby neighbourhoods, adding that this enforcement will "continue daily."
Police said they also laid eight charges for unnecessary noise related to the honking of horns, and charges for other offences including driving the wrong way in one-way traffic, speeding and running a stop sign. One person was charged for driving while criminally prohibited.
Police estimate they have already spent more than $3 million to manage the protest and respond to emergencies. In comparison, the Canada 150 celebrations on Parliament Hill in 2017 cost Ottawa police about $1.5 million.
There have been calls for the more than $10 million raised by protest organizers on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe to go toward the costs of policing the demonstrators and reparations for their behaviour.
GoFundMe says it has paused and is reviewing the fundraising campaign to ensure it complies with its terms of service.
Jim Bronskill and Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press