Towing companies on city contracts refuse to move convoy vehicles

The tow trucks operators on contract to the City of Ottawa are taking a hard pass on requests to haul vehicles out of protest areas.

City, police say finding willing tow truck operators is a Canada-wide challenge

There are between 400 and 500 vehicles illegally parked downtown, and the the tow truck operators on contract to the city won't move them. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The tow trucks operators on contract to the City of Ottawa are taking a hard pass on requests to haul vehicles out of protest areas, according to the city's top public servant.

"I've contacted them all and they're all refusing, as of today, to provide heavy tow truck work," city manager Steve Kanellakos told reporters Monday evening after a six-hour special council meeting

"Right now we're reviewing their contracts or standing offer, and reviewing what actions we can take to deal with this unprecedented situation."

    More than 400 vehicles are parked illegally in the downtown core, according to Ottawa police, the majority of them heavy trucks (and at least one crane). One of several challenges facing the Ottawa Police Service and the city is how to get them off the streets if protesters refuse to drive them away.

    The demonstrators, who began arriving in Ottawa more than a week ago, have said they will only leave after COVID-19 mandates are lifted. 

    This is proving to be a serious issue for city officials. Experts told the CBC towing a truck without the help of a driver is already difficult. It's impossible without towing equipment.

    WATCH | Forcibly removing trucks is almost impossible, experts say:

    Towing companies fear backlash of removing trucks parked downtown

    2 years ago
    Duration 0:49
    David Allen, president of Gary's Towing, says the political backlash and subsequent financial hit wouldn’t be worth taking the job of removing the trucks currently sitting in Ottawa’s downtown core.

    It's not clear how many towing companies have standing offers with the city, or the terms of their contracts.

    And it doesn't seem like Ottawa is having much luck outside city limits.

    According to Kanellakos, Mayor Jim Watson has reached out to his counterparts in other Ontario municipalities, but no dice.

    "Right now, the consensus seems to be that many of them — or most of them — don't want to do the work because … they rely on on the the heavy truck industry for their livelihood, and they don't want to damage that part of their business. That's the position they're taking, at least."

    Kanellakos said the city is speaking with federal and provincial officials to come up with a solution.

    Deputy police chief Steve Bell agreed that finding companies that will agree to tow protesters has been a challenge in "every jurisdiction that's faced this, and it's forcing us to come up with some creative solutions."

    He wouldn't elaborate on what those creative solutions might be, but said police are coming "toward a position where we're not going to let the tow truck operators … be an obstacle to ending what's occurring."