‘Freedom Convoy’ took over the street outside Parliament. Now the federal government wants to buy it
By Ben Mussett Staff Reporter
Fri., April 14, 2023
The federal government has offered to take over a stretch of Wellington Street, which runs past Parliament Hill, from the City of Ottawa in an attempt to keep cars off the historic roadway.
However, it appears the road will reopen to vehicles this spring.
In an April 4 letter addressed to Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek proposed purchasing Wellington Street and Sparks Street, a pedestrian corridor one block south, as a way to address “long-standing security challenges” and “reimagine this space as Canada’s pre-eminent civic forum for celebration, mourning and peaceful protest.”
The minister referenced capitals around the world, such as Berlin, Oslo and London, that have embraced “pedestrianization” for similar reasons.
The section of Wellington that runs from Elgin and Bank streets — through the parliamentary precinct, home to many of Canada’s federal institutions — has been closed to vehicular traffic since the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests of early 2022.
But in February, Ottawa’s city council voted to reopen the road to cars as soon as possible. On Wednesday, the city began installing traffic lights with the anticipation that cars would return a few weeks later.
In the minister’s letter, whose contents were originally reported by CTV News, Jaczek suggested establishing an “interim care and control agreement” to “address the immediate security imperative by maintaining the current road closures, while providing the city and the federal government time to establish a fair deal and launch planning activities.”
However, in his reply on April 6, Sutcliffe said the street’s reopening would go forward as planned, though he didn’t shut down the possibility of Wellington becoming all-pedestrian in the future.
“Wellington Street will be opened with one traffic lane and bike lane in each direction,” the mayor wrote, noting that city staff had already begun working towards the return of traffic.
Meanwhile, the findings of a traffic study on the impacts of closing Wellington Street won’t be presented to city council until 2024. ity staff are also undertaking an internal review to understand the implications of transferring control of the iconic street to the federal government, the mayor wrote.
Until that work is complete, he continued, “it would be premature to enter into an interim care and control agreement that has the explicit objective of maintaining the current road closures.”