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EDITORIAL: Leaders show up (Nov. 2022)

November 22nd, 2022 · No Comments

The Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) is reviewing Ottawa’s use of the Emergencies Act to break up the “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa and at border crossings last winter. Their work involves hearing the testimony of people involved, including senior civil servants. In the past, premiers have testified in such commissions, despite the fact that the commission’s mandate is to hold all levels of government to account for the events that led to Prime Minister Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act last winter.

Why didn’t Ford testify?

Back in June, he said he would. On Oct. 17, a CBC reporter asked why he was not at the commission, and he responded, “because I was not asked.”

According to the commission counsel, it appears that Ford was indeed asked to testify on Sept. 17 and several times thereafter. 

Ford lied to that reporter and to the people of Ontario. The POEC was left with no choice but to summon Ford to participate. 

He fought that in court and won arguing “parliamentary privilege” and said it would cause “irreparable harm to Ontario should he be away from the legislature.”

He’s also said that this is strictly a federal matter and a policing matter; that is a perverse interpretation of events. 

When Ford claims to have sent 1500 Ontario police officers to deal with Ottawa protestors, and the mayor of Ottawa tells the commission it was more like 50, that claim deserves some scrutiny. 

Ford is impeding the process; clearly, he just wants to put this mess, and his role in it, behind him. According to testimony at the commission, Ford refused to meet with the federal government or impacted mayors during the height of the conflict. 

He was AWOL and hoped the federal government would do the heavy lifting. It was cowardly of him to avoid confronting those who might vote him back into office.

The province of Ontario used its own emergency legislation, but unlike the federal rules, no postmortem is required here. Sujit Choudhry of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, a party which stated its objection to Trudeau’s use of the Emergencies Act, told the commission they wanted to ask the premier why he did not use all of his emergency powers under the Ontario Emergency and Civil Protection Act to address the Ottawa protests. It’s a pretty important question. If Ford, for example, had used all the powers at his disposal, like forcing heavy tow trucks (who are licensed by the province) to heed a request from police to remove trucks from protest sites, would the feds have needed to act at all?

We should all be asking Premier Ford this question, and we need him—at the very least—to show up.

Doug Ford has a moral and ethical duty to participate in this process. Other Ontario premiers before Ford have willingly testified at public inquiries and courts, including Kathleen Wynne, Dalton McGuinty, and Mike Harris. 

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said, “they did not have to go. People need to have trust in their leaders, and not showing up and not giving you reasons or explanations or being accountable for your decisions or those decisions you didn’t make is not what we expect from a premier.”  

Ford did not lead us during the convoy protest, and he is certainly not prepared to lead us in the aftermath. 

Until he shows some willingness to take responsibility for his part, we will not learn from him how we might respond differently and better in the future. 

That is what leadership is about Mr. Ford, and for better or worse, own it.


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