I hadn’t planned on coming back to the keyboard again today to write, because with everything that is going on, it’s been hard to keep up. But now that we’re into Day 14 of the occupation of Ottawa, there has been some shifting on the ground. We’ve seen the Conservatives finally flip flop on their position on the occupation of the city, something that I think we can agree was a welcomed flip flop, if only being more than 14 days too late. But still, some progress, right?
Also we heard in Windsor that Mayor Drew Dilkins is going to court to get an injunction to open the Ambassador Bridge. It took Mayor Dilkins less than four days to do what Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson has apparently been able to do in over two weeks. But again, progress. One could have looked up those developments and felt a bit of optimism, which frankly has been in seriously short supply in these parts for the past little while. But while feeling that bit of good emotion today, I made a serious mistake; I tuned in to watch Question Period. And after about 15 minutes of that, all that hope and optimism fizzled out and disappeared, only to be replaced by a strong sense of foreboding. To give you an idea of how I ended up in that place, just check out this selection of interactions between the “leaders” in the House of Commons:
Okay folks, that felt a fair bit different and not in a good way. We saw the Conservative demanding firm, precise dates about when public health mandates would end. They said we needed to “follow the science”, while at the same time apparently ignoring the scientific fact that when it comes to public health emergencies, there are no exact expiration dates one could ever point to. Criteria to make changes? Sure, that can be said. But an exact point on a calendar? Nope. They even brought an Opposition Day motion today demanding a date that can’t be given while being responsible to the science. The personal attacks on Prime Minister Trudeau also continued, even though he is only personally responsible for a limited number of the policies in question. Par for the course for the blue team, but not helping a bloody thing.
On the Liberals side though, there was a marked change that brought about this sense of dread. The government has been conspicuously absent during much of this siege, leaving citizens feeling abandoned, with the Prime Minister himself having some of the lowest profile. Yes, he did have the bout with COVID in there, but that wouldn’t have prevented him for virtually helping or commenting. Yet as things escalated, we heard nothing from him. Granted, he couldn’t do certain things, like negotiate with the occupiers or that sort of thing. But he could have done a lot to help the local citizens suffering from this. He could have offered more direct communication to the other parties. Heck, he could have offered Ottawa the use of Canadian Forces heavy tow vehicles to get those trucks out of the way. In short, there is a lot he could have done in the past 14 days, so it’s fair to ask why he hasn’t.
But in response to that (and many other questions on the day), both the Prime Minister and his government didn’t offer explanations, or plans or anything of substance to help us all out of this. Instead he and his ministers leaned heavily on attacks against the Conservatives for their support and propping up of the occupiers. It was that, over and over again. It was part of their responses to MPs from the Bloc and NDP as well, even as both leaders called on the Prime Minister to exercise his powers and look for ways to find solutions here, instead of excuses. As NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pointed out, international borders are a federal responsibility, and when asked about that Mr. Trudeau offered a shot at the Conservatives for their support mentioned above.
With each reply invoking the Conservatives siding with the occupiers, it felt like the shark was being jumped over and over again. That screamed of “politics as usual”, and just didn’t help a damned thing. There will be a day for the Conservatives to answer in the public square for support of some of their members for the occupation and blockades we’ve seen, but this isn’t it. Now that they have found the light, we need to focus on tackling the matter at hand. Continuing the attacks on those Conservative sympathies does nothing to advance that matter or bring this to a positive conclusion.
This is a moment where leaders as supposed to lead, not just through their actions but also with their behaviour. In Question Period today, it looked pretty clearly like neither the government, nor the official opposition, had a leader in the room. We are in a moment of national crisis, and this is exactly when those leaders are supposed to rise to the moment, not sink into the mud. That’s not just because of some fine nicety that we would like that, but because of the stakes at hand for so many of us. The fact that this apparently needs to be pointed out, while we’re dealing with this at home and a potential invasion of Ukraine abroad, disturbs me so deeply.
While the Conservatives made a slight course correction today, they still have work to do to get on the right path. As for Mr. Trudeau, he clearly needs a course correction of his own, or at least when it comes to his attitude and approach. With his responses to serious questions today, he gave the Conservatives exactly the kind of political crap that they are accusing him of all the time. In doing so, he’s making it harder for the other opposition parties to work with him, especially when they appear to be the only adults looking for solutions on this day. PMJT needs to pump his breaks because if this becomes a habit, it’s not just his brand that will pay the price; it’s all of us. There is a lot riding on this dangerous moment and if these leaders don’t start acting like the leaders they claim to be, it’s the occupiers that win. Which means that we, and democracy, lose.