Thursday October 20, 2022
Emergencies Act inquiry spells trouble for Trudeau, Poilievre
To say this will be a political and media circus is an understatement. The list of potential witnesses includes key members of cabinet, such as Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and, most notably, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Convoy organizers including Tamara Lich, Pat King and Chris Barber are also expected to be called.
The most important part of this hearing may not be the testimony of politicians or convoy supporters, however, but that of the RCMP and intelligence services. How did they assess the threat to public safety? What advice did they give the government, or not? How was that advice treated once received? Was it exaggerated or misinterpreted in any way?
Canadians need clarity on the real state of the threat. If the government overreached for political purposes, then the Liberals will pay the price. Expect the Conservatives to try to find every opportunity to bring the government down before its self-imposed deadline of 2025. The Commission’s report is due by next February — in time for a spring budget and a confidence vote in the House that could plunge Canada into an election.
If the Commission finds that the government was justified in invoking the act, however, the shoe is on the other foot. Expect Liberals to start running attack ads featuring a smiling Poilievre and fellow Conservatives ferrying coffee to protesters. Trudeau could then either engineer his defeat over the budget, or simply dissolve Parliament and go to the polls. And if he doesn’t pull the plug in the spring, there’s always next September, when convoy leaders go to court on a number of criminal charges, and the whole circus starts again.
At a time when inflation is rampant, interest rates are rising, and the Liberal government looks increasingly past its best before date, Trudeau doesn’t have many cards to play. The one card he has is that the Conservatives failed to stand for law and order — one of the pillars of their party, no less — at a time of national crisis. And he knows that the convoy does not sit well with “the public” its proponents claimed to represent.
Polling done at the time of the protests found that a majority did not support the convoy protests, including in Alberta where 61 per cent disagreed with the goals of the protest and 67 per cent disagreed with the means. And a Nanos poll taken six months later found that 70 per cent of Canadians still take a negative or somewhat negative view of politicians who openly supported the protests. Another recent Nanos poll found that support for the convoy was one of the “negative” attributes voters held about Poilievre, together with being “too right wing,” divisive, and “similar to Donald Trump.”
Will “Memories of the Freedom Convoy” be the secret sauce that Trudeau uses to win a fourth term in office? Will the Tories founder over ill-advised Tim Hortons runs? Time — and testimony — will tell. (The National Post)