Two Fools On The Hill

Commentary, Role of Government, Brian Giesbrecht

The discussions held by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Premiers leading up to the imposition of The Emergencies Act will not be made public, but the results are obvious : All Premiers except one, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, told Trudeau not to do it. I’m sure that they all urged the Prime Minister to take the glaringly obvious, common sense step of engaging in dialogue with the truckers. I would guess that the Premiers told Ford to do the same as well. Ford – a very ordinary man – did not budge. He chose saving his own political skin over doing the right thing for the country. Ditto for Trudeau.

So, at the stroke of a pen, Canada becomes a dictatorship, much like the Communist China that Trudeau admires so much. And Trudeau becomes our Xi Jinping.

It seems extremely doubtful that Trudeau could have been able to take the drastic step of imposing the Emergencies Act if Ford had stood with the other common sense Premiers, and told Trudeau firmly that imposing such draconian action was foolhardy, and threatened the social fabric of the country.

The Premiers no doubt reminded Trudeau and Ford that two years ago the Wet’suwet’en protests had effectively blockaded Canada’s railway system for weeks, causing great economic damage, and massive inconvenience to thousands of people. Despite the disruption and economic damage, those protests were dealt with in a calm manner, with no drastic emergency legislation. The Prime Minister, to his credit, didn’t go into hiding when those protests began. And the Prime Minister, to his credit, never demonized and vilified those protestors. Instead, he talked to them. The protest came to a peaceful end.

The Premiers would also have reminded Trudeau and Ford that the imposition of what in essence are wartime emergency measures, with all of their liberty-crushing teeth and claws, would undoubtedly have many unintended consequences, including the high likelihood of the permanent radicalization of segments of the population. Honest working people, who had simply wanted to make a point, would be turned into enemies forever. Less principled groups would take advantage of this societal division. The smart Premiers knew that. They would have urged calm, and suggested that both Trudeau and Ford do what real leaders are expected to do – meet with the truckers, and actually talk.

Such discussions would not have been difficult. The truckers and others want an end to restrictions, such as vaccine and mask mandates. It is exactly those mandates that have already been dropped in most parts of the world, and are rapidly coming off everywhere else. Omicron has shown us that the virus is here to stay – but we can live with it. We should have protected the vulnerable, and learned to live with the coronavirus long ago. Now, that is our only choice.

Obviously, Trudeau and Ford cannot simply agree to any terms any particular protest movement demands. However, the lifting of pandemic restrictions that is occurring all around us is only a common sense step that both Trudeau and Ford would have taken, with or without the truckers. Canada is one of the few remaining nations that insists on keeping itself locked in a Covid prison. Even Trudeau and Ford must acknowledge that.

Perhaps, if they had taken the honourable step of meeting with the truckers, both men would have had to apologize for the language they had used to describe the truckers. To tell honest working Canadians that they are “racist” and “misogynist” people who “hold unacceptable views” is language that no Canadian Prime Minister should have used to describe his constituents in the first place. Ford made similarly drop-dead stupid statements. But both Trudeau and Ford hold themselves out as leaders, and surely they are big enough to admit mistakes.

But neither man’s ego apparently allowed them to take that obvious, common sense step. A little respect shown to the truckers, and an honest attempt at conversation would go a long way. The core of the trucker group are reasonable, decent and hardworking Canadians. These are not extremists. Instead, Trudeau and Ford decided to roll the dice, and rashly push us into an unknown future of Canadians yelling at one another – and worse.

Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. In fact, that’s the way the Liberals won the last election. First, stoke up the fear. Take a virus that is indeed nasty, but only deadly to the frail elderly, obese, and immuno-compromised. Then scare even the young and healthy. Next, promise everyone that vaccines will save them, and convince them that anyone who chooses otherwise is their enemy. When the vaccines and total government control are a flop, then double down on the fear and government overreach.

That’s a formula that has worked for Trudeau and Ford. But at the cost of dividing the nation – perhaps irreparably.

How would a real leader have handled things? Pierre Trudeau was a real leader. He has many critics – and he deserves them – but he was a real leader. He had the intellect and integrity required of a real leader. He is still criticized for imposing the War Measures Act in 1970. But – and I remember it well – it was a real emergency. There were bombs, kidnapping and a murder, and the real threat of worse to follow. The FLQ was a very determined and bloody-minded insurgency. They certainly had none of the bouncy castles, danceable music, or free Sikh food that will be the lasting legacy of the truckers’ time in Ottawa. The FLQ were not decent workers who drove big rigs for long hours on long, lonely roads. And loved Canada.

In 1970, the FLQ was a clear and present danger to Canada. In 2022 the truckers are a clear and present danger to Justin Trudeau.

Pierre knew, in 1970, that the country was in real danger. With his very big brain, he put politics aside, and made the best decision he was capable of. His goal was the preservation of Canada.
His son’s goal is the preservation of the son, and the Liberal Party’s power..

The fact is that slapping a vaccine mandate onto truckers, who are already overwhelmingly vaccinated, at a time when vaccines are becoming increasingly irrelevant, was pure politics. The truckers saw through it. It became glaringly obvious that after doing the work that kept the country alive – while the Ottawa crowd Zoomed at each other – Trudeau and his sidekick, Ford – were once again going to use the truckers for their own cynical purposes. The trucker had had enough.

So now we venture into a new authoritarian version of what used to be a wonderful country, where Canadians cherished their freedoms. Already, people who donated money to help the truckers are finding that they are being harassed, and treated like criminals for holding “unacceptable views”.

Already, the new authoritarian version of the Liberal government is moving to shut down independent media outlets that have those same annoying “unacceptable views”. These are exactly the tactics of the Chinese Communist Party that Trudeau admires so much. Controlling people’s bank accounts, and controlling what they watch and what they read are what dictators do. Not Canadian Prime Ministers.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party propaganda machine, namely, the CBC, as well as the Liberal government subsidized newspaper system cheers all of this on.

When Pierre Trudeau was asked in 1970 how far he was prepared to go to defend Canada, he famously said “Just watch me”. It is rather frightening that his Chinese Communist Party-admiring son seems to be adopting an authoritarian’s version of that iconic statement.

We don’t know how this will turn out. Sadly some hope Trudeau and Ford will have their way; the truckers will be crushed – perhaps financially crippled – and Ottawa will get back to doing whatever Ottawa does. Or perhaps it will end with a wannabe dictator Prime Minister seeking other employment. Time will tell.

But it does get one wishing for the days when Canada had real leaders. Pierre Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien, Harper. I’d take any one of them in a heartbeat.

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy