For weeks Ontario and the nation stood spellbound as an unfolding trainwreck that was the Freedom Convoy protests held in downtown Ottawa dragged on with no apparent end in sight.
Pleas from Ottawa citizens, police officials and elected representatives to the province (upon whose responsibility the bulk of maintaining peace and order, if not good government, falls) either went largely unheard or ignored as the premier went snowmobiling in cottage country and residents of downtown Ottawa were assailed night and day by the constant honking of massive rigs.
Meanwhile, the province’s deputy premier, Sylvia Jones, provided the public with what might appear to any normal human listener to be misleading information, claiming that 1,500 police officers had been provided to help quell the occupation. In fact, that number was an “administrative” tally, the province was providing a mere 130 to 150 officers a day—far below what the top police officials in Ottawa were saying they needed.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might claim that Premier Ford stood with the people of Ottawa during their nightmare, but from what we have heard so far from the Emergency Act Inquiry witnesses is that Premier Ford and his government were largely standing on the sidelines—in cottage country no less. It was the federal government’s nightmare seems to be the provincial government’s point of view.
What could help clear that perception from the public mind would be for Premier Ford to do his bit and testify before the inquiry to help the nation get to the bottom of the many questions being raised about the province’s response. Premier Ford has had little difficulty in tearing up government contracts and invoking notwithstanding clauses when it suits him, so hiding behind a parliamentary privilege to resist testifying comes across to a casual eye as somewhat disingenuous.
One of the challenges of being a populist politician is that so many of one’s proclamations made while on the hustings can come back to bite in a big way. Recall the promise to get on the bulldozer himself to push through the Ring of Fire development—easily said, not so easily done. But ongoing disingenuity is oil on the fire that consumes credibility and witless spin will only fan the flames higher.
Premier Ford should own up to his government’s responsibilities to provide Canadians with peace, order and good government and for politicians of all stripes and that calls for action, not simply welcome and reassuring words.
Premier Ford should waive his immunity from scrutiny and step up to the witness stand—after all, it isn’t as tall a climb as the seat of a bulldozer.