Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Emergencies Act will remain in place because of the continued threat linked to ongoing protests.
Parliament is to vote Monday night on officially authorizing the use of the legislation, though it has provided powers to police that, for example, facilitated weekend actions in Ottawa to clear away hundreds of protesters, who had blocked downtown streets with trucks for three weeks.
“Even though things seem to be resolving very well in Ottawa, this state of emergency is not over. There continue to be real concerns about the coming days,” Mr. Trudeau told a Monday news conference.
The Prime Minister was asked what’s in the act that makes its continued measures necessary to protect Canadians.
In response, Mr. Trudeau cited measures that compelled tow-truck drivers to help remove big trucks a measure that facilitated the removal of trucks parked in Ottawa as part of the protest.
He said the power of the act in this instance may be needed given trucks holding in other Ottawa-region areas, referring to Arnprior and Embrun, that maybe become involved in protest.
Mr. Trudeau also said the act’s power to designate critical infrastructure like border crossings as not just the actual border crossing itself, which is protected under current legislation, but approaches to border crossings has been helpful.
“This is not something we want to imagine continuing indefinitely in Canada.,” he said of the legislation. “We hope to only keep it in place for a number of more days. We will evaluate every single day.
Asked if the vote is a confidence vote, Mr. Trudeau said he cannot imagine anyone voting against the bill as expressing anything other than a deep mistrust in the government’s ability to keep Canadians safe “at an extraordinarily important time” but that he is confident the bill will pass.
The NDP is supporting the minority Liberal government in passing the act while MPs from the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois have strongly objected to the use of the act, and are expected to vote against it.
Under the legislation, the new powers take effect once invoked. However, the government must table a formal motion for confirmation of the declaration of emergency and other documents within seven days. The government tabled those documents on Wednesday.
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PROTEST LARGELY CLEARED IN OTTAWA - The protests against pandemic restrictions that blockaded downtown Ottawa for three weeks appeared to have largely dissipated after a massive police operation, as MPs continued to debate the Emergencies Act that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked last week. Story here.
TARGETING OF JOURNALISTS A CONCERN: GROUP- A group representing Canadian journalists says it is shocked by the level of hatred, verbal harassment and physical confrontations some news reporters have experienced while covering protests against public-health measures cross the country. Story here.
SENATOR SEEN ON VIDEO DENOUNCING OTTAWA RESIDENTS - A Conservative senator from Nova Scotia was seen on a video deriding the response of people who live in Ottawa to recent protests, saying he’s sick of their entitlement and “six-figure salaries and 20-hour work weeks.” Story here from CTV.
KENNEY ANNOUNCES LEGAL CHALLENGE OF EMERGENCIES ACT - Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said this weekend that he will launch a legal challenge against the federal government’s “unnecessary and disproportionate” use of the Emergencies Act to dismantle protests against COVID-19 measures – just two weeks after the Alberta government quietly asked Ottawa for help dealing with demonstrators at the Coutts border crossing to the United States. Story here.
JOLY CUTS SHORT EUROPEAN TRIP - Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has returned from Europe to Canada amid continuing tensions in Ukraine. Story here from CBC. Ms. Joly also says she will travel to Asia and elsewhere for some first-hand research before she releases the government’s much-anticipated new policy on China. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS - Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Feb.21, accessible here.
NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR TORIES - Wayne Benson has been named executive director of the Conservative Party. The former party secretary replaces Janet Fryday Dorey who, according to a party statement, has resigned after being director since August, 2020. Mr. Benson is a three-term member of National Council from Manitoba from 2013 to 2021, and had been hired, after the 2021 party convention as a staff resource officer for the party. Mr. Benson’s arrival continues a series of changes in the senior ranks of the official opposition since the recent exit of Erin O’Toole as party leader, including a new parliamentary leadership team and a new chief of staff in the leader’s office.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Private meetings. The Prime Minister, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and other ministers, delivered remarks and held a media availability. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to attend Question Period and chair a meeting of the Incident Response Group on the illegal blockades.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet attends Question Period and holds a news conference.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh held a press conference about the Emergencies Act vote.
No schedule released for other leaders.
TRIBUTE - Steve Fonyo, who ran across Canada to raise funds after losing his leg to cancer has died, aged 56. Story here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on why it is time for Parliament to end the state of emergency: “A week ago, the only significant and continuing incident of persistent lawlessness was the park-in on Parliament Hill. It was illegal and it had to be ended. But did it constitute a once-in-a-generation national emergency? Even that is now moot, the protestors and their trucks having been removed on the weekend. As such, the question before Parliament is not: “Was Canada facing an unprecedented national emergency, a week ago?” It is rather: “Is Canada facing an unprecedented national emergency, today?” Last week, there were arguments both for and against the Emergencies Act. But changed circumstances – the basic facts on the ground – have greatly strengthened the arguments against, to the point where they are overwhelming.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the need for a healer in the House after the trauma of the convoy protests: “Of course, Mr. Trudeau could not really have negotiated with this convoy. It was a patchwork that included some organizers arriving with arguably seditious and certainly conspiracy-minded rhetoric, demanding federal and provincial governments change policies or they’d blockade a city. But there were also ordinary folks among them, expressing frustration. Mr. Trudeau should have looked for ways to reach out to those in the country who shared their sentiments, and send them some signal of inclusion. That would have been better than sending the impression that the government of Canada dismisses them as a basket of deplorables. It still would be now.”
Robert Libman (The Montreal Gazette) on the merits of Jean Charest as a leader for the federal Conservatives: “Compared to the recent leaders, Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole, and any of the current contenders, Charest is certainly in another league, in terms of experience, intellectual gravitas, quickness on his feet, knowledge and understanding of Quebec. He was one of the stars of the 1995 referendum, whipping out his passport to make the point about being Canadian. In debates, he could easily outmatch the other leaders, including any potential successors to Justin Trudeau. Charest would also be likely to stand up to some of Premier François Legault’s overreaching nationalist policies, more so than the other federal leaders have done. Charest and Legault have had their share of confrontations in the National Assembly. Federally, Quebecers have historically voted for a native son. Charest would be the first Quebec premier to lead a federal party.”
Shachi Kurl (The Ottawa Citizen) on how the Ottawa trucker protest reveals the ugly side of federal politics: “The last month has taught us a lot. About how easy it is for long-simmering regional frustration over not feeling seen or heard on Parliament Hill to blow up over issues and in ways we least expect. About how fast and abundantly foreign dollars will flow when political actors in other jurisdictions smell an opportunity. And about how woefully unprepared our politicians and institutional officials were to adequately deal with any of it. The next lesson for us to learn is to better hold our leaders to account in the face of such an abysmal response. I wonder if we can.”