City of Windsor still on the hook for millions in Ambassador Bridge blockade expenses

·2 min read
Anti-COVID-19 restrictions protesters maintain a blockade of the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, in Windsor, Ont., on Feb. 10, 2022.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Anti-COVID-19 restrictions protesters maintain a blockade of the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, in Windsor, Ont., on Feb. 10, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

The City of Windsor has not yet received word on whether the federal or provincial governments will be providing compensation for the millions of dollars it spent responding to the Ambassador Bridge blockade in February.

On Monday, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said that the city "needs to be made whole" for its expenses, which include policing, accommodation and the installation of jersey barriers along Huron Church Road.

"At the end of the day, it would be completely unfair for residents and the City of Windsor to shoulder the burden for a national economic emergency, and that's exactly what this was," Dilkens said. "And so we'll continue to push."

The city had asked the federal and Ontario governments to reimburse $5.7 million in expenses related to the week-long blockade at the Ambassador Bridge border crossing by pandemic mandate protesters.

The figure was included in a letter from Dilkens to Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister and federal finance minister, and Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy on March 15.

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Dilkens couldn't provide an update on the total expense incurred by the city.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Marco Mendicino, federal public safety minister, acknowledged that policing costs related to the blockades are a significant burden on municipalities including Windsor but did not directly address whether the city would receive compensation.

"We continue to work closely [with] the City of Windsor, Windsor police and an array of other partners — including conversations between Mayor Dilkens and Minister Mendicino and extensive engagement at the staff and officials level — to discuss how the federal government can best support them," said Alexander Cohen, director of communications for the minister's office.

The mayor's chief of staff said in a statement last week that there has been "radio silence" from Ottawa, but the provincial government has recently made inquiries about the details of the expenses.

In a statement to CBC News, the provincial government said it does not reimburse municipalities for local policing.

A statement from a spokesperson with Ontario's ministry of finance pointed to other funding and supports provided to the City of Windsor related to policing and the pandemic.

The statement noted that the province does not bill municipalities for the deployment of the OPP. Dilkens said that the OPP was one of several police services that responded — there were more than 500 additional officers sent to Windsor in total — and even though the city wasn't billed for the OPP, the city still had to pay for accommodations.

When asked about what he expects the provincial and federal governments to contribute, Dilkens said he doesn't care about the break down.

"It just shouldn't fall on the backs of the taxpayers of the City of Windsor," he said. "This was not a normal municipal policing response."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting