Jim Willett

Jim Willett spoke 286 times across 1 day of testimony.

  1. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I'll swear on the Bible.


  2. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    My full name is Jimmy Willett, J-I-M-M-Y W-I-L-L-E-T-T.


  3. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Good morning.


  4. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's correct.


  5. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That is correct.


  6. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  7. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  8. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, I do.


  9. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I do.


  10. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I did, yes.


  11. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I do. When we talk about the police presence in the village, I mentioned the fact that there were around six police cars that I saw the first day, and then the next mention I made of police was when the group moved in on the 1st or 2nd of February. Actually, there was a police presence growing all the time in the village. It didn't go from 6 to 50 in one day, three days into the protests.


  12. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    There was a build up, yes.


  13. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, that's correct.


  14. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's correct, yes.


  15. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    The last census had us at 224.


  16. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That is correct. All of the major things that you take for granted in a larger community we have to go to Milk River for, doctor, pharmacy, dentist, hardware store, any of that kind of thing, grocery store.


  17. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Eighteen K.


  18. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's correct.


  19. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  20. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, it became a gathering spot, yeah.


  21. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  22. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's our connection, yeah.


  23. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, it was.


  24. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well, a lot of it, yes. Yes.


  25. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  26. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It was actually her yard. The -- I wasn't there when all of this part of the world was developed, but when the highway was turned into a four-lane major thoroughfare, things changed. An access road runs along to the south of that highway and ends at a farm there. A local family rented the farm. Then they continued their road around their house, and it connected to the street, to -- I forget what that is, Fourth Street I think, in Coutts. And with permission ordinarily, you'd let Patty Joe know that you wanted to take a load of whatever that way to miss the scales. Can I say that? That you were going to be going through her yard, and you'd drive through their yard and that was an alternate route, as it were. It suddenly began carrying a whole lot of traffic. And they got -- it got to the point where they couldn't use their home really.


  27. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well, it allowed you to miss the blockade and you could go up to -- close to the rail crossing. I don't have -- there's a county road there and it goes out onto the highway just at the rail crossing, around the curve from what we're looking at here. And so it allowed people to drive through there and miss the blockade and go on up to Milk River.


  28. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It would have except it's not really a truck route, and if somebody came in driving, there's no reason that they couldn't have cut through Coutts and then through Patty Joe's place, but you'd have to know. If you're a local, you know. And, yeah, that -- you could get around, yeah.


  29. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Oh, yeah.


  30. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, everybody knew it was there and you could go that way.


  31. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, they did. We talked - - I talked with Curtis, Corporal Curtis Peters, who was my contact, and let him know about the road. He wanted to -- they made some communication. And what we wound up doing -- what they wound up doing was making a square. The ground was frozen and so they were able to run straight ahead from the street, make a right at the end of Patty Joe's property and go down that way, so you didn't have to go through her yard. And so it became an unofficial exit point. In fact, they took trucks through there later.


  32. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's correct.


  33. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  34. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Four to five.


  35. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, you'll see this is assigned Kelly. She's the assistant in the office to my CEO, and she received a phone call.


  36. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    They were just giving us a heads up that they were going to be coming and doing a slow roll around the entrance to the country. And as you can see, it says that they won't be blocking any residents from using the entrance and exit.


  37. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  38. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, it is.


  39. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It was on a bulletin board out of Lethbridge. My wife spotted a link on the Lethbridge and Area How are the Roads. It's a Facebook post that obviously gives traffic reports and there was a link there, and we followed that link to this particular document.


  40. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Very much so.


  41. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    We had been slammed by snowbirds, of which if you don't live there, that may make no sense at all, but we -- the 18th of November, the U.S. changed the border crossings to allow fully vaccinated people to enter the States. And all of the people who ordinarily go south for the winter down to Arizona in their RVs and so on decided they had to be there at midnight in order to be the first to cross the border. And we wound up with the largest demonstration anybody down there had seen yet of truck blockages and so on. And we had a highway blockage that ran across the tracks and on off over the hill. And they came into the town and double parked everywhere, blocked both entrances to the village, so that in the event that we needed to get our firetruck out or something, we wouldn't have been able to do it. So we had experience with the blockage, and I had visions of what was going to happen here as well.


  42. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I did a lot of protesting, but, no, it wasn't a protest.


  43. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's correct.


  44. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, I received a call from the Solicitor General's office. I do not know the name of the person. I remembered the name Pilgrim and nobody by that name has ever worked for the Government of Alberta that I can find, so I'm not sure who I spoke to. Anyway, saying to the effect that I had woken everybody up around -- that they had been in contact then with the police of all flavours, and they were going to -- RCMP's on top of it, and we got it under control, basically, is what I remember.


  45. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, me and everybody in town were out to see what was going on.


  46. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well, about what I had expected. I'd seen convoy demonstrations by other groups on television and online. A lot of trucks, a lot of signs, a lot of honking, and it was a convoy; a parade of vehicles from half- tons to -- no monster trucks but large tractor-trailers.


  47. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, that’s Highway 500, and it’s a major crossing point that goes -- comes up from over the tracks out of the -- to the east of the village, and then makes a crossing there with Highway 4. So it’s the first place that you could really make a U-turn, or the last place, I guess, if you’re coming from the north. It’s the last place you could make a U-turn, either there or the next exit, and it was smaller. So the RCMP, I think, had decided this was the best place to turn everybody around.


  48. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, I think the RMCP told me 42 minutes, but it happened, yeah.


  49. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Again, there were -- there’s a lot going on, so I didn’t sit there and count, but I saw half a dozen vehicles. They escorted the convoy down and made sure that they made that U-turn. And that’s what happened; the vehicles started turning and going back up the road. So I saw maybe six, at the most, RCMP vehicles.


  50. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    The -- well, not ---


  51. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    --- in those terms, no.


  52. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I knew from what I was reading -- again, I spend way too much time online, but I knew from what I was reading on social media that there were other groups coming and joining up. At that time, I naïvely believed that it was all about the mandates that had been put -- well, the removal of the -- you’ll have to forgive me, I do this once in a while. I thought that it had to do with cross-border truckers having their permissions removed. For two years they’d been travelling back and forth, exempt from vaccination requirements and so on, and just when things were starting to loosen up -- I mentioned the 18th, people are starting to go across, everybody’s getting more normal feel -- suddenly the federal governments in both Canada and the US decided that you no longer have an exemption, you’re going to have to be vaccinated, and I think that was the tipping point. So I thought everybody was coming for that purpose.


  53. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Long question -- long answer.


  54. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well, at that 42-minute mark when the trucks drove into the median and across both lanes of traffic going both directions, it became obvious that nobody was in control. Nothing happened, other than flashing lights and talking to the guys, and it came to a standstill and that was it.


  55. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes. I have a vantage point in my house where I can see what’s going on on the highway, and we had been worried about these people sitting there, their loads, the refrigerated trucks, and observed them going along talking to them and some of the vehicles being let to leave.


  56. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That’s correct.


  57. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I understood her position, not just from texts so much, we had phone calls as well. She was working both sides; trying to talk to the people that organized the protest, and also with the provincial administration to get some kind of action happening. She’s responsible for -- or was responsible at this time for seeing that that traffic flow works; that’s our lifeline in Alberta. And so she’s pulling out all stops, talking to anybody she can. I know she talked to truckers, she talked to Marco to -- I have trouble with his last name, but he’ll forgive me. Anyway, with the contact people for the convoy, anybody that she could talk to. So knowing the Minister the way I do and the dedication that she shows for her position, means just what it says; she’s working on it nonstop.


  58. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  59. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  60. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No, she did not. She got as far as Lethbridge and didn’t get permission to come farther south.


  61. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    The provincial government.


  62. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Not -- no. No.


  63. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    We thought at the very first that it would be convenient because, as I said, she’s responsible for transportation and this is a transportation- related blockade. She thought that possibly she could come and talk to people and explain them that -- the importance of having that corridor continue and stop all the madness. Everybody was caught flatfooted and we were trying everything we could to get it going. So she was willing to come down and talk to whoever to make things happen to get it opened up.


  64. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    You would have had to stand there and watch to be able to tell. It would be open, we’d see a truck or two or three go through, and then the next time, you know, well, it’s closed again. And the -- the whole idea, I think, that it -- at this point that they were trying to do was to open up a single lane each way and keep traffic flowing, but it was -- well, you saw my mention here earlier they’re trying to find a leader. At that time, there were several different groups. It was mob rule, I guess, is -- I don’t like that expression, but that’s -- that’s the idea. There was nobody really able to just get everybody together and say, okay, we’re going to do this and everybody would go out and do it. And so that’s what was happening. We had traffic and we didn’t have traffic.


  65. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    At that time, yeah. There was no cohesive structure that I could see.


  66. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, I did.


  67. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I did. I talked to Alex van Herck, who turned out being one of the people that became a de facto leader, I guess, and the expression -- I’ve heard it used here before talking about other places, it was like herding cats, him trying to get some order out of the chaos that was going on. There’s video that exists of him talking to people and trying to get them to listen to him and being shouted down because that’s -- that was the nature of the beast at the time.


  68. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  69. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It’s quite possible. We had phone calls in here, but you’ve seen how good my memory is. I know we talked about it from time to time what could be done and what was being done, but I’m under oath and I can’t say for sure.


  70. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  71. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    The feeling that I was getting was that someone was building up hopes that things are going to happen on a provincial level very quickly and the Premier’s going to announce that all the mandates are off. We knew government doesn’t work that quickly. Premier Kenney was, the old expression, caught between a rock and a hard place. He’s definitely there because we know all the stuff that goes on. He was working to remove as many mandates as possible as quickly as possible, but a lot of these people were being told that there was going to be a caucus meeting and they were going to drop all the mandates. And I don’t know where that came from, exactly.


  72. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That’s correct.


  73. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    He’s our MP for the -- yeah, for that riding.


  74. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  75. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Again, it depends on the time of day and which way the wind was blowing. Sometimes it was successful. My son came down from Edmonton one day -- from Calgary, rather -- came down from Calgary one day and after he got through the checkpoint in Milk River, he drove into Coutts. He said there’s no trucks out there. So they were shifting and moving things around, so sometimes the road was open and sometimes it wasn’t.


  76. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That’s the word that I got, yeah, from talking to someone else, that they’d been expecting the announcement to come down that when all the mandates were off, and again, this is from misinformation they were getting from somewhere, and when they didn't they blocked the road again.


  77. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  78. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Not by then. As I said, they had been told and led to believe that everything was going to come off, and obviously it didn't. And so those people who chose not to understand how government works decided they were going to show us, so blocked it again.


  79. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  80. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No. At that time, there wasn't a great deal of interest in moving from the highway to a plot of land just beside the highway.


  81. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  82. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  83. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    For a long time. It looked like a unhoused encampment.


  84. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That is correct. I didn't hear until later in the afternoon that things were changing.


  85. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Sometime in the afternoon or early evening, I think it was my contact with RCMP, Corporal Peters, let me know that they had been notified the thing was coming to an end.


  86. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  87. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  88. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Sometime on the 14th, but I don't -- without pulling it up, I don't have the exact time. Well -- and I'm not sure times were on there or not. Yeah, we were in contact quite a bit that day. Jory, I still don't know his real position in the group, but he was doing a lot of videoing. He did a -- he had a blog online and so on called PB & J. Just a -- kind of a news summary of what was going on, and what they knew and what they didn't know. And he and I had established a rapport early on, and communicated back and forth, obviously nothing confidential, but talking about stuff. And -- so he had let me know that day, first of all, contacted me to know if I knew how to contact the person who had been arrested, and then we went on from there. And he talked about the guns, or the arrests and the guns. The guns were all fake, but the fact that people don't want to have anything to do with it.


  89. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, that's the feeling I got. I don't know if he actually said that or not. In my mind, at this point in the time, it's -- well, yeah, that's what he said, but I -- unless I see it in writing I'm not going to say it for sure. I got that feeling, though, that because of what had happened that the mood in the crowd had changed and they were going to depart.


  90. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  91. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I did actually, yeah.


  92. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No. On the night of the 14th, they lined up all their vehicles down the street. We have a auction firm out there called Ritchie Bros, they auction off from time to time a lot of agricultural equipment, and I said it looked like the biggest sale that Ritchie Bros ever had because they were all lined up down the... And it was mostly tractors. At that point there weren't a lot of trucks around. But anyway, they lined up down the street on the 14th, then I received the word they're going to go at 10, and at 10 o'clock they were gone. Well, they left.


  93. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No, that had nothing to do with it.


  94. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No. No, there was no -- I talked to Alex briefly in a back room, just off the main floor there, and I never seen a man look so haggard and beat as he did at that time. I don't know if I got there just after he had tried to talk to people. Marco says he was there, but Marco was avoiding me. So anyway, he's on video talking about "wish you guys would want to leave" and getting shouted down. So I don't know if I talked to him just after that or not, but no, there was no... I talked so long I forgot the question.


  95. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  96. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Oh, at that time, no. No, the feeling that I got was, from talking to a couple of other people in the crowd was, “No, we’re here until mandates are off.” That was…


  97. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  98. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    This is my understanding of that. I have no other -- we never talked about it otherwise.


  99. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That’s it. Yeah.


  100. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah. We had a meeting where we talked -- I talked for quite a bit, for 45 minutes or so. And one of the things I -- if you go back far enough in my history, bear with me, go back far enough in my history, I worked in mining in Northern Manitoba, was a steelworker, was a steelworker steward, went through wildcat strikes and so on. And there were always hardline guys, and then the guys that were there for a goodtime. You could have a wildcat strike and everybody is up and up and up and then it tapered off and you wound up with the core, and you might even find guys that you’d never seen before there. And we talked about how that was a danger and if something like this longer went on, the more the opportunity existed for outside elements to come in and cause disruption.


  101. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    And he agreed with that.


  102. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That was one of his concerns.


  103. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    The mood changed. I talked about, somewhere, it being almost like a big community meeting of all the farmers in the area. And this was -- don’t kid yourself to think this is a big trucker protest. This is mostly a farm protest.


  104. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah. And, you know, they had the kids there and it was just a family thing. As it went on, a lot of that attitude disappeared. Didn’t see a lot of kids playing hockey anymore. And just -- and if you follow their social media, they took a picture when it was all over, just before they left, which was handy for anybody investigating, but a picture of the whole group in front of Smuggler’s, and it wasn’t a large group at that time. It had gotten smaller. But to go back to my strike days, it’s the same thing. As -- the longer you do something like this and you go in expecting results right away and it doesn’t happen, the more disheartened you become, and then you start listening to other things about, well, if we only did this, this would happen, and so on. So it’s just -- it’s a typical demonstration. And while I didn’t have a crystal ball, if I had, it would have paid off, because what we feared seems to have happened.


  105. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Never did. No.


  106. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes. I got one death threat online. Facebook. Serious enough that the RCMP took it seriously. I’m not sure how good a threat it was, because it was sent from a personal page. But anyway. It was a death threat. And I received calls. Everybody gets phone calls. Just the phone and hang up, or phone and “You thought you wanted to be mayor, ha-ha.” You know? Like that kind of stuff. I had people out front taking pictures of my house and it was first time I’d done this, so it was a little nerve-racking.


  107. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No, we didn’t. Some of the protestors were staying in the motel across the road from where I live, and we saw from time to time them moving heavy hockey bags, and my wife said, “It’s guns,” but we had no weapons that I ever witnessed.


  108. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Not directly. Social media, I saw what was going on. But I never directly talked to anyone.


  109. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Never did. Other than see somebody at the post office or something. Some of them live there.


  110. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well just the way it sounds. As I said, we all got caught flatfooted. Nobody had expected this to happen. And the -- I’m not sure of his rank, but anyway, the answer to the question was, “We’re building the airplane as we’re flying it. We’re making it up as we go along. We’ve got tactics, and we’re trying them, and if they don’t work, we try something else until we find out how it works.” It was an education, I guess, for everyone.


  111. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I have done a mental survey and I think I had about a 70/30 split in the village, with 30 on my side and 70 supporting the protest, regardless of what it meant. The -- we still have neighbours that won’t talk to each other because of the protests. They didn’t -- they didn’t get out and -- we had a lot of collaborators -- not collaborators; sympathetic people in the village who figured it was our duty to feed everybody; if they need a room, give them a room. These are all good people and we should really look after them. As unneighbourly and heartless as it seems, my opinion was if you came down here and you blockaded the highway and now you’re not wanting to leave the protest, but you need your medication that you left at home, the road goes that way, go get your medication, instead of making a public scene about, “I don’t have my medicine, can you bring it to me?” “We don’t have food do,” you know? “You got food at home.” That what my answer to those kind of complaints. My neighbours being good, rural Alberta people figure somebody’s in need, you look after them regardless of how they got there, I guess. And there was a lot of sympathy over the -- and as I said, the driving force of the protest, the original cause had to do with cross-border vaccination and then it mutated into “My body, my rights, my...” -- you know, all of the different conspiracy things that were going on.


  112. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    And then people -- people didn’t let that go, and so it still exists to this day.


  113. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Depending on the person, how comfortable they were with driving past monster pieces of equipment. I think we heard Marco yesterday talk about how one tractor is intimidating even if it’s sitting still, if you haven’t been around them. When you get a whole row of them, some of them idling; you’ve got trucks, big pieces of equipment and you’re out there in your little Prius wanting to go up to Milk River to get groceries, it can be very intimidating. Other people; we have a lot of retired farmers; it didn’t bother them that much. Had one guy just the other day say, “You’re going to testify be sure you tell ’em we were never blocked in, could always make it up there. Had to drive through the field a couple of times but we weren’t really blockaded.” So it depended on the person and how they could handle it. And it affected some people -- I have a friend who is a veteran of Afghanistan and she has PTSD. She had -- they had to leave town because it triggered her PTSD and she just couldn’t take it. They’re back now. Older people; had one lady who would -- if somebody drove her out to -- for a doctor’s appointment or something, she would curl up in a ball -- I wasn’t going to do this -- but just depends on the person; how they grew up, what their situations are. Some people it really bothered.


  114. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    A couple, and you take it as -- you know, take everything with a grain of sand -- grain of sand; grain of salt. The -- had a couple of people tell me that they were coming back into Coutts and being stopped by protestors and saying -- they’d say to the guy, “Now, what do you think? Should we let these people through or not?” Or, “Should let this guy through?” And, you know, “Where do you think you’re going?” and that kind of thing. But nothing -- we had a situation where a neighbour -- someone decided it’d be funny to tell everybody that there were free showers at her house, so she had people showing up at the door, that kind of thing. But not a lot of -- there was no physical intimidation, and it was basically just the going through the gauntlet to get out of the village. Like I said, if you drove through and up the highway and through the ditch maybe, well, you could go, so...


  115. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    For the most part, no. When it first happened, it was like when we had the RVs there; the entrances, they said they wouldn’t block it. You have to understand, we depend on the ambulance coverage from Milk River, the medical clinic there. We have a volunteer fire department, we have volunteer EMS, and you’d have to understand AHS to note that -- health services to know why we have an ambulance that we can’t use. But anyway, we have one. We cover -- our fire department that is a rural fire department that covers everything out in the surrounding area, specially to the east. There’s only that road at 501, which is the road that crosses the tracks to get out to you there. That was one of my major concerns, was that we had egress quickly in the event of an emergency. And then that we could get an ambulance in. The RCMP ran an ambulance down the highway to test that and the protestors were able to clear it through quickly, so it was handled. But for the first few hours, there wasn’t any awareness on the part of the people. I said more than once, I got the impression that the protestors -- Coutts was an afterthought. They wanted to plug the highway and, “Oh gee, there’s 250 people over here and we kind of affected them too.” So it took us a while to work that out, but -- now, after everybody was made aware, things were fairly good.


  116. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  117. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Thank you.


  118. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Good morning.


  119. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Sweet Grass, yes.


  120. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  121. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  122. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I -- yeah, it’s the only 24-hour port, yes.


  123. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  124. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  125. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's correct.


  126. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  127. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  128. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  129. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, I did.


  130. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's correct.


  131. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  132. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    With the risk of giving too much away, a lot of people don't lock their doors. You might have a car that you know so-and-so needs to borrow, you'll put the keys in the car. We've got a almost zero percent crime rate because of our location and because of the fact that CBSA people live there and the guy that you broke into might have a gun. So the -- just people get very comfortable with -- it's typical small town Alberta.


  133. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  134. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah. It's -- like I told a lot of people, you're driving south getting ready to hit the border, you don't even know Coutts is there, and -- although we can watch and wave. The -- and if you've got a stranger in town word gets around. So, you know, there's a car going around and I don't know who it belongs to, and oh, that's so-and-so, they're visiting so-and-so, you know. The telegraph works very well. And all of a sudden we're going with -- the potential existed that we were going to have massive influx of people driving up and down the streets, and I just wanted everybody to be careful. "Don't let your kids to run across to the playground because somebody might be coming not looking for kids there. Everybody in town knows your kids there, but if they come in from out of town they don't." Just a heightened awareness, I guess, of your situation.


  135. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  136. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  137. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, I do.


  138. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  139. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  140. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Bear with me.


  141. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I can't place that exactly. It doesn't actually look like the Coutts end of it, it looks more like the Milk River.


  142. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, I think that's 501.


  143. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, but again, this is actually not a full blockade. They're doing a slow roll through that.


  144. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  145. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Okay, that's Coutts.


  146. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, those are both Coutts.


  147. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Hmm. It doesn't get any bigger?


  148. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, I don't ---


  149. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    --- for sure know where I am there.


  150. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  151. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  152. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That is correct.


  153. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah. The school bus driver was a little concerned with coming through the blockade, and so what she had offered as a solution was to come basically the back way on a county road up to Patty Jo's that we talked about. But the fact is that you have to drive either through there or through the field and she didn't feel comfortable taking the bus through there. So what she had suggested was that the people in town who had kids would bring them all out and meet her on the county road. And that's what that was.


  154. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's correct.


  155. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It was.


  156. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I’m sorry?


  157. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Oh, Bill Graveland. Yeah. He’s a reporter for Canadian Press.


  158. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well, unlike most of the people in the front rows here, I’m a Google lawyer. So it -- when I looked for the definition of a domestic terrorist, these people seemed to fit that bill, and yet no one ever labeled them that. And so I just floated the idea out there, one side to Bill and the other side to Minister Sawhney that maybe they should be called that to get a little more attention.


  159. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Because they were causing harm to the country.


  160. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  161. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  162. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  163. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, I have.


  164. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I think that’s right, yeah.


  165. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    As being?


  166. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Inciting? Yes.


  167. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  168. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  169. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  170. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That’s correct.


  171. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No, I did not. But you have to remember I’m the mayor of a small village. I’m kind of at the bottom of the ladder. So I was not privy to everything that was going on.


  172. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes. Yes.


  173. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  174. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  175. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  176. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  177. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  178. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  179. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  180. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  181. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well, some time. It happened on the 14th and they left on the 15th. Yeah.


  182. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Just barely, yeah.


  183. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah. Again, that was social media. But yes.


  184. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It is, yes.


  185. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  186. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  187. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Good morning.


  188. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    At that point, it seemed like we were not getting anywhere, and I was looking for somebody to do something to get the highway unblocked and get things happening again. So any kind of support would have been -- make them go away and make this end. I wasn’t in a position to say exactly who should do what, but somebody should appear to be doing something, and at this time it didn’t look like anybody was doing much.


  189. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Same story. We had the -- as I mentioned before, an Act that was supposed to give unlimited powers, basically, to protect infrastructure and remedy this exact problem, and yet it appeared to me nothing was going on. Now, I’ve seen the situation reports since then and it showed that there was action in the background, but I wasn’t privy to that, so where I was sitting in my office looking out the window, I didn’t see anything happening.


  190. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I guess it goes back to the statement that the RCMP made to me about building the airplane as we’re flying it. I understand that the Province was in the same situation; like, looking for tow trucks and that kind of thing. So probably my opinion is not as harsh as it was at the time. I believe the Province was doing more than was visible to me and most people. There were things going on that -- where if we’d gone a little farther down the road -- no pun intended, if we’d gone a little farther down the road there would have been actual physical action taken. So my opinion has changed a bit.


  191. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I don’t know if it was my ears playing tricks or not; can you do that a little slower, please?


  192. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  193. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    We were in contact all the time, yeah.


  194. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Correct, I understand that, yeah.


  195. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  196. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I did.


  197. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I think we -- when I talked to the Premier, we talked more in generalities. As I said earlier, he was kind of caught in a pinch-point between “Darned if I do and darned if I don’t”; we talked about that. He talked about the fact that he could only do so much because of the lack of surge capacity in the hospitals. He mentioned that he was going to be talking to governors in the northern states to see if they would put pressure on, on that side, because even if we did get rid of the provincial mandates, the federal mandates still sat there, and that was the thing that triggered the whole deal in the first place. So, no, it was more a generality thing. I did not hit him up for any kind of action.


  198. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    And again, I only caught about half of that. I'm deaf in one ear and I can't hear in the other one so.


  199. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  200. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It was not my suggestion. It was her suggestion. She thought that she could come and talk to people in the first day or two because she was getting feedback from the fact that there are truckers stuck. She wanted to come, and I don't know what she had planned to say, but it was her suggestion that she come down.


  201. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    The protestors were letting ---


  202. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, that's what Alex told me when -- the first time I made contact with the guys, the smugglers, he said at that time that it was like herd -- that's my expression, but that was the impression. He said he could get a group here and a group there and try and get them all together and they'd make a decision, then they'd walk out the door and forgot what they'd talked about. So he was very frustrated.


  203. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    At that point, there didn't appear to be.


  204. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Oh, by then they were off the highway, and I think at that point, traffic was being held up in Milk River still, but there wasn't any really physical blockading going on, on the morning on the 15th, possibly on the evening of the 14th. I couldn't do 24-hour coverage. But, no, the tractors were all lined up. They were just getting ready to leave as a group, and so they pulled them all in -- actually pulled them into the village and down that street and lined them up along there, so they were out of the way.


  205. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    When I went down the morning of the 15th to see what was going on, they were all lined up down the street. That's all I know, and I don't know exactly when. Like I say, I wasn't sitting, watching them 24 hours a day, so I'm not sure when they moved.


  206. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Thank you.


  207. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Good morning.


  208. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  209. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No matter where you are in Coutts, you're only blocks away, yeah.


  210. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It definitely is.


  211. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That's correct.


  212. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  213. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No, our police force, as you heard, is four or five officers stationed in Milk River.


  214. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  215. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  216. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  217. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, well, that's RCMP, so it's provincial and federal.


  218. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Sure, yeah. It would be nice. Dealing with hindsight is 20/20 but it would have been nice to have a plan, yeah.


  219. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, if we're talking about police response, they had response for certain situations, but this was a situation that was unique, at the time, to anything they'd faced. And so I'm not going to be an apologist for the RCMP, but I think they were doing well under the circumstances. I don't think it's fair to say they had no plan. They would have had plans for demonstrations and so on, just nothing of this magnitude.


  220. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  221. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  222. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Good. How are you?


  223. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  224. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Not personally.


  225. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I -- only on ---


  226. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    --- line.


  227. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  228. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I don't.


  229. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Sounds like something I would say, yeah.


  230. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That was part of the uniqueness of this whole demonstration, yeah.


  231. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Probably did.


  232. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    As I said earlier, probably 70-30.


  233. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    On a good day, yeah.


  234. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That would have been supporting the -- the protests.


  235. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    No, 70.


  236. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  237. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Majority of the town, was the feeling I got.


  238. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    A few, yeah.


  239. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Everybody has seen them. The Trudeau flags, the ---


  240. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  241. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Some of the Gadsen flags, the “Don’t Treat on Me”. A lot of Canadian flags, many of them inverted, which I wholeheartedly do not approve of.


  242. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah. A lot of U.S. flags. Yeah.


  243. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  244. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    In rural Alberta politics since I was elected to Council -- we had this discussion -- five years ago.


  245. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well, I’ll quote my CAO, “Trudeau hates us”, and that’s basically -- you could talk to anybody here. There’s a great dislike for the federal government on a high percentage.


  246. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Genetic. I don’t know how you -- I’ve lived in Alberta for half my life, which means a long time, and I’ve seen this “us versus them” thing grow, east versus west. I spend too much time on social media. But the feeling -- smarter minds than me have tried to figure it out. I really don’t understand the great dislike for the federal government.


  247. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I saw some of it.


  248. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, it’s -- I think I heard that, yeah.


  249. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I believe so. Mr. Motz would probably disagree with the part that they’re not represented because he has represented us very well from that area. But I think the -- just talking -- that is a problem that anybody that has studied politics or government will agree with the fact that you’ve got a mass of population concentrated in the east and you don’t have in the west, and if you do just by votes, it’s very difficult to feel like you’re swaying anything when all of the election returns come in and by the time you’re voting, it’s already been decided. So I can understand it.


  250. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I wasn’t aware of that, but it doesn’t surprise me.


  251. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  252. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Good morning.


  253. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That’s correct.


  254. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  255. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yes, they were, I believe.


  256. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Oh, I can’t give you that without it in front of me, but I don’t believe it ever went 24 hours. I know that it was increased considerably. I believe I read a number somewhere that percentage-wise, they saw crossings go up 917 percent or something like that, so it was -- it would have had to have been open a lot more, but I don’t have the numbers.


  257. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Not directly, no.


  258. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  259. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well, okay, I’m not going to say 100 percent. Somebody could have been faking it. But there were -- there were Facebook pages called “Coutts Convoy”, “Coutts Convoy Restart” -- I’m not going to name them all. But they were obviously followers or participants of the protest by the content that was posted, by things that they said, and...


  260. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That’s correct.


  261. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Anybody could. They are -- they were moderated sites. They would have to get past the administrator, but I don’t know -- I didn’t put them up there.


  262. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I think that’s correct. I saw an interview with Alex van Herk that he did the evening of the 14th. It’s on YouTube, where he explicitly said that it was the weapons. It wasn’t the Act because they’d heard about it, but they were prepared to stay until it -- you know, that’s in Ottawa, basically, is what his sympathies were.


  263. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That’s correct. He’s been charged along with Marco, so I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to talk about it, but.


  264. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I did. Part of that might have been my misunderstanding of what they were doing. As I said, I wasn’t privy to the situation reports that were coming out every day until I saw them the other night. So there was stuff going on and there possibly are even charges still waiting for people over that Act. So ---


  265. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Yeah, go ahead.


  266. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I think they were doing it even as -- like, I know that there were violation tickets and so on being issued and that there possibly are still charges coming. So the process maybe doesn’t move as quickly as I would like it to, but I believe they were working under that Act, yes.


  267. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  268. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  269. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I’m not sure about the without a warrant, but I know they can arrest them.


  270. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  271. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  272. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I’ve heard that, yes.


  273. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  274. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I don’t know for sure. There might have been some owner/operators there. I didn’t see any name brand company vehicles parked there.


  275. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It’s possible.


  276. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I may have seen those numbers. I don’t know. I’ll take your word for it.


  277. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  278. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I believe he mentioned that there was a rumour they had been planted, even at that early date. And then I know that YouTube video I saw of Mr. Van Herk, where he also said he didn’t believe that they were real, but they were going to -- that was the -- that was what was being said, so it was what happened. But yeah, to answer your question, that’s what was said.


  279. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    That was not my assessment, no.


  280. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  281. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    It’s cold out there. How long can I talk? No, the situation that happened there, there were a lot of people that said that I was against the protest. And I wanted to make it perfectly clear, I was never against the protest. You have that freedom, that right to protest anytime you want, as long as you don’t break the law and interfere with my right to travel and so on. I mean, I -- in a way, I participated in their protest, because along with the other border mayors, we communicated with the Federal Government saying, “This is not right, to treat these guys, after the two years, as if they’ve suddenly become pariahs or something.” So the biggest problem that I had, and I still have, understanding blocking that highway, was who you thought you were damaging. You were damaging your neighbours. I had stock movers who couldn’t move cattle because it was blocked. That’s a whole part of a chain. People grow their stock, they plan for a particular date to deliver it to the feedlot, so they’ve got feed for X number of days. Now that’s backed up. Now they’ve got to try and find feed. Well, gee, the feed comes from the other side of the border. They didn’t take into consideration the fact that, yes, they made a big splash, but they were hurting the very people that they figured they were helping by getting the mandates off. We’re a very agricultural area. I mentioned that I’m the chair of a regional economic development initiative. Our whole emphasis is on helping to establish that Canada trade corridor and the food corridor with all of the potatoes, and sugar beets, and pulses, and all of those products. That’s our main emphasis. And when you cut -- you stand there with your foot on my throat and say, “You’re not going to go through here anymore,” and what you’re doing is you’re actually choking the livelihood of all your friends and neighbours. And even if they sympathise with you, when they go to the grocery store and there’s no fresh produce there because it’s on the other side of the border, it’s something to consider. So that was the main thing. And when the protest turned to an illegal blockade, they lost my support. And that’s it. And I did what I did as far as the village goes because I’m responsible for those people. And I’ll try and get through without breaking down here this time, but there were people -- it was literally - - people were literally physically frozen and not able to go through that blockade. And since everything is on the other side, it was a tough situation. But we’re not here to argue about that anyway. The feeling that I got, to be truthful, is -- which I have to be, right, is that the federal action had very little to do with the resolution of the blockade there. I think it was the police action, the finding of the undesirable element. I know that happened. I have -- I've talked to neighbours who saw the actual police action that night. It wasn't a carrying in weapons and planning them. It was a raid with SWAT-type vehicles. We had a field hospital set up at the fire hall and that kind of thing. So it was a very serious -- very serious situation. So -- and one last thing. I'm very complimentary of the police. The RCMP handled themselves very well. And I'm glad it's over. It's -- and I thank you for that opportunity. I'd ---


  282. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  283. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)



  284. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Weeks. Yeah, I don't know the exact number.


  285. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    I believe that most of that was people who had showed up for the secondary encampment and they just moved off the road because they had no where else to go.


  286. Jim Willett, Mayor (Coutts)

    Well, thanks, I think.