Emergencies Act inquiry price tag estimated at nearly $19M

A line of anti-mandate protesters stands face-to-face with a line of police officers in downtown Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC - image credit)
A line of anti-mandate protesters stands face-to-face with a line of police officers in downtown Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC - image credit)

The price tag for the inquiry probing the government's use of the Emergencies Act hasn't been finalized yet — but it could be roughly $18.8 million, according to the Privy Council Office (PCO).

A PCO spokesperson told CBC News that while the total won't be known until the Public Order Emergency Commission completes its work, the federal government approved $18.8 million to cover its costs.

The government also has provided the commission with access to Library and Archives Canada facility in Ottawa to conduct public hearings, along with administrative and technical support.

The commission has been hearing from witnesses for the past several weeks and has yet to conclude its public hearings. It's due to table its final report in February.

The government is required by law to establish an inquiry to examine any declaration of an emergency under the Emergencies Act once that declaration is withdrawn or expires.

Funding helps cover costs of participants

Part of that $18.8 million is meant to cover costs for individuals or groups involved in the inquiry.

Participants were asked to apply for funding if they believed they didn't have the resources to cover their participation.

Commissioner Paul Rouleau, who is running the inquiry, reviewed those applications and submitted funding recommendations to the PCO.

According to documents on the commission's website, nine groups applied for funding. Rouleau recommended that six of them — including a coalition of Ottawa residents and businesses and a group of convoy organizers — receive funding.

CBC asked the PCO which groups were approved and how much each would receive. A spokesperson said the final numbers won't be available until the new year.

The funding recommended by Rouleau primarily covers the cost of lawyers' fees, according to the commission documents. The PCO said that funding is also available to participants and witnesses for other expenses, such as travel.

Blockades cost billions in trade

Earlier this month, the inquiry heard that Transport Canada estimates as much as $3.9 billion in trade activity was halted because of border blockades related to the convoy protests.

At various points in early 2022, protesters blockaded border crossings in Windsor, Ont., the small town of Coutts, Alta., Emerson, Man. and the Pacific Highway in Surrey, B.C.

The blockade at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor forced an estimated $2.3 billion in trade to a standstill, Transport Canada estimated.

Chris Ensing/CBC
Chris Ensing/CBC

In March, retail analysts said total economic damages stemming from the 23 days trucks and protesters occupied Ottawa streets could range from about $44 million to $200 million.

Estimates tabled at Ottawa city hall suggest city coffers took a $37 million hit due to the protests.

The RCMP spent more than $1.6 million on responding to the convoy protest in Ottawa, according to a CBC access to information request.

Documents also reveal the RCMP spent another $1.2 million on policing protests in Alberta, mostly at the U.S. border crossing in Coutts.