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EDITORIAL: Ford should be first (Winter 2022)

March 14th, 2022 · No Comments

Policing is largely a provincial matter, but faced with massive trucks and bouncy castles clogging up central Ottawa, plus blockades at key border crossings, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to invoke the Emergencies Act. As usual, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was too focused on the next election to do his job, and he should have to answer for it.

Any invocation of the Emergencies Act requires Parliament to “check” the government’s action. This comes in two forms: a quick look by a parliamentary committee and an in-depth look that could take many months. Both reviews should subpoena Mr. Ford and ask him why Ontario required the federal government to employ powers beyond the scope of existing criminal law, provincial statutes and regulations, municipal by-laws, court orders, and the province’s own emergency powers. 

The longer inquiry should seek to determine the chain of events that led to the blockade of Ottawa and how the Ottawa Police Service allowed it to be established and failed to dismantle it even after three weeks. Ontario delegates powers to local police services who report to local police service boards appointed by municipal governments but these are all creatures of the province. 

At its core, this so called “freedom convoy” was nothing but a prolonged fit by those upset that the government is encouraging them to spend a little time and energy to help keep their own communities safe. They don’t have to get the jab, of course, but if they did not they have a duty to not risk harm to others. 

These people are not suffering, nor are they protesting some historical injustice against an authoritative regime. This protest does not compare to advocacy for abortion rights, indigenous rights, or equal marriage. In comparison, this convoy is simply an embarrassment. Social media and the power of rage gave these actions faux legitimacy and Ford was apparently afraid to confront it.

Ontario, like other provinces, is supposed to have a ladder of responses to emergencies. A local police chief who feels overwhelmed can seek help from the OPP commissioner. The OPP can, in turn, brief the solicitor general, and the solicitor general then briefs the premier and provincial cabinet. 

What is clear is that while all this was happening, Doug Ford decided to cajole Ottawa’s occupiers with, “come on folks, enough is enough, time to go home.” He also thought it would be a good time to relieve Ontario of the need for license stickers and dropped tolls on some highways. In other words: while the crisis rose to a boiling point, he sought to distract Ontarians with shiny objects.

One way that the Province of Ontario could have helped is to pressure heavy tow truck operators to heed the request from the Ottawa Police Service to help remove trucks. Apparently, these operators refused as it would adversely impact their future business relationships with truckers. Under his own emergency orders, he could have forced this provincially regulated industry to do its job. Ford instead waited until the situation in Ottawa had become an international embarrassment and let the federal government do the heavy lifting on the file. A leader he is not.

Our premier is focused one thing only: re-election in June. He wants to keep everyone happy including anti-vaxxers who reside in his base, perhaps especially them. Order and good governance are not his focus and perhaps never have been, Ford’s inaction on this file makes this glaringly obvious.  If Ford had done his job, it is doubtful that the Emergencies Act would have been invoked.


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