New court documents from the province reveal some insight into questions the Emergencies Act inquiry has for Premier Doug Ford.
The documents, obtained Tuesday night by CTV News, outline the argument Ford and cabinet minister Sylvia Jones intend to bring before the courts to quash an attempt to compel then to testify before the Public Order Emergency Commission.
However, the documents also include a list of questions the POEC has for the premier and Jones, who was the Solicitor General at the time of the occupation in February. The questions are raised in a lengthy email correspondence between senior counsel for the POEC Gabriel Poliquin and the Ministry of the Attorney General.
“To be clear, these are questions the Commission wants to put to Premier Ford and Minister Jones directly; they are by no means exhaustive and they are not meant to be a written interrogatory to be answered in writing,” Poliquin wrote in an email dated Sept. 30.
Among the questions are, “What were the Premier’s intentions with respect to solving the Ottawa occupation prior to the blockade in Windsor occurring? What solutions did he have in mind?” and “Why did he decline to participate in at least 2 of the 3 tripartite meetings with the City of Ottawa and the federal government?”
Poliquin says the commission also wants to ask whether Ford believes Ontario could have dealt with the occupation without the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act.
The government pointed out that the POEC interviewed Ontario Deputy Solicitor General Mario Di Tommaso and the Ministry of Transportation’s former Assistant Deputy Minister of Integrated Policy and Planning Division Ian Freeman, both of whom are scheduled to testify. The commission, however, noted that Di Tommaso said he could not speak for the politicians on certain points, and he could not speak to Ford’s or Jones’s state of mind.
The government is citing Parliamentary privilege in its case to keep Ford and Jones from being compelled to testify, highlighting that the legislature is in session, but correspondence from the Ministry of the Attorney General also shows that the government did not believe Ford should need to testify.
“As discussed, we do not share your view at the moment that it is necessary or helpful to the Commission to have an interview with Premier Ford at this time,” Darrell Kloeze, a lawyer for the ministry, wrote on Sept. 21. “Any evidence about the allocation of resources and support provided by Ontario to municipalities in response to the protests, or about the actions taken by Ontario in its declaration of emergency made on February 11, 2022, will come out of your meetings with the two senior provincial officials who have already agreed to provide information to the Commission through their interviews.”
Several police officers are testifying before the POEC this week. Interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell spoke Monday and former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly is scheduled to appear.
The commission is examining the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act, which helped to clear the three-week occupation of Ottawa’s downtown by large trucks and protesters. Testimony is scheduled to continue into November, with findings expected by February.
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