Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 27, 2022
Doug Ford can’t hide from the Emergencies Act inquiry
For the past 10 days Canadians have been watching as the closed doors that protect politicians and police from public scrutiny have been ripped from their hinges.
The inquiry into the federal Liberal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, headed by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Paul Rouleau, has been a gold mine for information junkies, with its fire hose release of documents, emails, handwritten notes and direct testimony into the fiasco that was the so-called Freedom Convoy in Ottawa last winter.
This inquiry has been illuminating, but it sure hasn’t been pretty. We have been offered an unfiltered look at clashing egos, duelling priorities and internecine rivalries. We have been privy to police infighting and dysfunction, charges of an “insurrection” against the former Ottawa Police Chief, Peter Sloly and repeated tales of intelligence and communications failures. We have heard from outgoing Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and await testimony from Sloly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior ministers.
But if Ontario Premier Doug Ford gets his way, we won’t be hearing from him. Transparency and accountability are nowhere on his to-do list.
The decision of Ford and his former solicitor-general and now Deputy Premier Sylvia Jones to refuse to testify at the inquiry is indefensible. It is also displays an astounding level of arrogance and political ineptitude.
The inquiry has already heard that, according to notes from a Feb. 8 phone call between Watson and Trudeau, the prime minister thought Ford was “hiding” from his responsibilities for political reasons. Ford is now hiding in plain view, no notes required.
Testimony so far has cast the response — or more accurately the detachment — of Ford and his cabinet in an unsavoury light.
Watson testified he felt it was “disingenuous” that Queen’s Park had claimed it had sent 1,500 OPP officers to help police the occupation. Watson put the actual number closer to 50 or 60. He testified that Ford thought it would be a waste of time to join other levels of government to sit around a table “talking and making decisions,” and federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, according to notes of a meeting, thought Ford was “worried about being visible” and facing questions about his response.
Ford has also been disingenuous — if not wilfully misleading — when he told reporters last week that he hadn’t been asked to testify. Indeed, according to the letter released by commission counsel Monday, he and Jones had many times been asked and they had many times declined requests from the inquiry to sit down for interviews. Those interviews would have been the first step before public testimony.
According to a provincial spokesperson, Ford was being truthful when he said he had not been asked to testify, only to be interviewed, and that the request for testimony came after his public remarks. That can only be described as “parsing,” and Ontarians — and Canadians — deserve transparency, not a surgical semantic dissection.
Ford has been outmaneuvered on all sides. He is rightly being pilloried at Queen’s Park for his evasiveness, but Trudeau already has what he needs from the premier — a public declaration that a Progressive Conservative leader of the largest province stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” with his decision to declare the Emergencies Act. That gives the Prime Minister a shield against the convoy-friendly Conservative opposition in Ottawa and its friend-in-chief Pierre Poilievre.
On Tuesday, Ford’s lawyers filed a notice of application in Federal Court citing “parliamentary privilege” as the reason neither the premier nor former solicitor general Sylvia Jones should be compelled to appear.
“The applicants make this application for … quashing the summons to witness issued … to Premier Doug Ford (and) … Minister Sylvia Jones dated October 24, 2022,” the court documents say.
“The summonses were issued without jurisdiction, pursuant to an error of law, and must be quashed,” the legal action continues.
We don’t yet know whether the invocation of the Emergencies Act was required. But this is ultimately a political question, not a policing matter. Which makes the behaviour of Ford and Jones even more puzzling. Both ducked as the legislature reconvened Tuesday, leaving House leader Paul Calandra to declare, “this is a policing matter not a political one.” Just one more disingenuous statement from the Ford government. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
From sketch to finish, see the current way Graeme completes an editorial cartoon using an iPencil, the Procreate app, and a couple of cheats on an iPad Pro …