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The Trudeau government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act, nearly a week and a half ago, may have been a mistake. It may have been unconstitutional. It may have been an attempt to turn crisis into political opportunity, and it may have gone beyond what was required to keep the peace and uphold the law. For years to come, people will debate whether there was an emergency on Feb. 14.

But there can be no doubt that, by the start of this week, it was over.

As such, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did right by the country, and saved himself a world of political pain, by abruptly revoking powers his government had given itself nine days earlier, and which it had pushed through the House of Commons just 44 hours earlier.

Given the government’s insistence that a short, sharp dose of emergency medicine was the only way to stop the border blockades and get the trucks off the streets around Parliament Hill, the PM could have announced the end of the state of emergency as a victory – challenge accepted, problem solved.

Yet he emerged for a hastily convened press conference looking vaguely annoyed. The tone of the event was oddly deflated. It was no victory lap. Perhaps that’s because the PM’s decision to lift the emergency before someone else forced his hand – the Senate, the NDP in the House of Commons, the courts – was his only possible course of action. The longer the Emergencies Act remained, in the absence of an emergency, the less credible he looked.

And the credibility gap, already wide when the Emergencies Act was invoked, grew day by day.

The Ambassador Bridge blockade? Ended by police, using existing laws, before the federal state of emergency. The border blockade at Coutts, Alta.? Its more radical and armed members were raided by police before the state of emergency, and moderate protesters immediately announced they were going home. A blockade at the border in Surrey, B.C., was also largely gone by Monday; and on Tuesday, protesters in trucks and farm equipment near the border in Emerson, Man., agreed to move out.

Within hours of the invocation of the Emergencies Act, the only emergency the government could point to was the park-in and camp-out on Parliament Hill.

Was this illegal? Clearly: Try leaving your truck in the middle of a major road for three weeks and see what happens. Did order have to be restored, and vehicles removed? Absolutely.

But it strained credulity to imagine that a localized and largely peaceful (though not quiet) illegal street festival, a kind of right-wing Burning-Man-on-Rideau meets Letterkenny-throws-a-rave, constituted a national emergency.

And it beggared belief to claim this protest – however unruly, however outside the law – constituted a threat to violently overthrow the state. While the trucks sat on Wellington Street, in front of the Senate and House of Commons, those bodies continued meeting, without incident. MPs continued to calmly take questions from reporters as they walked up the steps of Parliament – 100 feet from the parked trucks. It was not Jan. 6. It was not the storming of the Bastille.

Once the streets around Parliament were cleared by measured and professional police action, the government was left in the position of claiming that the state of emergency had to be maintained, because baskets of deplorables with 18-wheelers were still out there, somewhere, hiding in the great beyond where nobody votes Liberal.

Now that the book is closed on the emergency, the law says there must be a public inquiry. It can’t come soon enough.

There are hard questions about whether police truly lacked the legal authority to take basic actions – the government claimed they would have been unable to block off streets or compel the services of tow-truck drivers – to clear the Ottawa protest. There are also questions about the legality, and the advisability, of some things the government did during the emergency, notably the freezing of hundreds of bank accounts without a court order.

Suspending habeas corpus under the old War Measures Act gave police the power to hold a person indefinitely without charge; that is no longer allowed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But what happened over the past nine days under the Emergencies Act was, in effect, a suspension of financial habeas corpus. It was and is deeply troubling.

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