BILL BLACK: Wildly inconsistent Tories allow Trudeau’s intolerance

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to seek differences between himself and the Conservatives. Why are they making it so easy for Trudeau to play his game?

There are opinion divided among expert observers, as well as within the Liberal caucus, that the Emergencies Act should be implemented to drive the protesters and their trucks out of Ottawa. Border closures in several provinces had been resolved, using provincial emergency powers.

The Prime Minister’s argument that a few dozen trucks parked elsewhere in Ontario posed such a threat that the statement had to be continued was ridiculous. Was he saying that the police would be unable to arrest them if they approached Ottawa? A few strips of spikes on the highway would do.

Perhaps her decision on Tuesday to end the emergency declaration was constrained by a private message from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh that he was no longer willing to support her.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill after police broke up a three-week occupation of the capital by protesters in Ottawa, February 21, 2022. – Blair Gable

As The Economist noted, this is part of a larger pattern of stifling free speech. A Liberal proposal would allow Canada‘s Human Rights Tribunal to impose heavy fines on those it finds to have used hateful language, while defendants would enjoy fewer safeguards than under criminal law. Another would allow individuals to lodge legal complaints against people preemptively, if they fear they are about to say something hateful.

The Conservatives should have a field day. Instead, they’ve been wildly inconsistent. Their responses to the protest have been everywhere.

It all started well on February 4, with a sensible statement from interim leader Candice Bergen that began: “Canadians want and need a peaceful resolution to this impasse.

She called on the Prime Minister to come up with a clear plan to end the situation. She asked truckers to be peaceful and to challenge and denounce acts of hatred, racism, intolerance or violence.

She concluded, “Now we must come together, as Canadians always do, and chart a peaceful path forward.

It would have been a useful theme for the party to pursue, but it showed no discipline. MPs filmed visiting the protesters often expressed no concern for the long-suffering citizens of Ottawa and did not deny the episodes of violence (in which many people would include the horn all night long), nor the few people waving nazi or confederate flags.

On January 27, Pierre Poilièvre tweeted: “People displaying evil Confederate or Nazi flags or disrespectful monuments are individually responsible for wrongdoing. They do not represent the thousands of legal truckers who are truly part of the protest and peacefully defending their livelihoods and freedoms. »

A few days later, he and others led a successful attack on Erin O’Toole’s leadership and he declared himself a candidate soon after.

In a lengthy interview with the National Post on Feb. 10, he struck a different tone. He said he was proud of truckers and those who support them, with no exceptions he noted in the Jan. 27 tweet. He blamed the negative impression many Canadians have on biased mainstream media reporting.

Yet on February 14, he said – and claimed he had always said so – that he was in favor of protests but opposed to lockdowns. Someone may have reminded him of the party’s spirited opposition to blockades of the TransMountain pipeline.

As things began to calm down after the protest dispersed last weekend, some appointed senators stirred things up.

Demonstrators stand in front of mounted Canadian police officers, as truckers and supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, February 18, 2022. - Lars Hagberg
Demonstrators stand in front of mounted Canadian police officers, as truckers and supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, February 18, 2022. – Lars Hagberg

The CBC reported a regrettably condescending statement from Trudeau-appointed Senator Paula Simons: frustrations and fears about the pandemic.”

Conservative Saskatchewan Senator Denise Batters defended anti-vaccine protesters as “friendly” and “patriotic” protesters who have been unjustly smeared by the “talkative classes”.

“I sensed in the discussions of the protesters in the media and among the talkative, privileged classes on Parliament Hill almost a fear of these working class people who had invaded the city.”

Nova Scotia Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald said “legal” residents of Ottawa were wrong to demand the convoy leave town. He praised protesters for having “the courage and decency” to protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

All three reinforce Trudeau’s divisive tactics. The Conservatives are the party of idiots.

They should learn something from Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston. On Wednesday, he and chief medical officer Dr Robert Strang announced that COVID restrictions would be reduced on February 28 and March 7, and completely eliminated on March 21.

Houston began by noting that Nova Scotia has done better than most provinces in handling the pandemic, crediting Dr. Strang for the choices that have been made. He went on to acknowledge that Nova Scotians had a wide range of opinions on when the restrictions should end.

Some feel this should have been done by now, as has happened in the UK and other countries. Others are more reluctant and would like the restrictions to last longer.

Houston carefully acknowledged the concerns of both groups and asked them to find a way to respectfully disagree with each other and trust the choices of Dr. Strang and his team. This is what it means to be inclusive.

As the federal Conservatives choose their next leader, they should be looking for candidates who seek to heal Canada’s divisions, not increase them.

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