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The Nothing We’ve Learned

I’m a child of the 1980’s. Born in the very late 70’s, I grew up in that last decade of the Cold War and everything that came with it. I remember seeing maps and globes of the world with “U.S.S.R” emblazoned on it hanging in my classroom at school. Before I hit my teens, that U.S.S.R. crumbled, and the Cold War was over. I remember seeing the images of joy coming from the Brandenburg Gate, seeing the families being reunified after so long part in a divided Germany and the reactions of newly independent nations in the Baltics, the Balkans and across Eastern Europe.

I remember how it appeared that the gulf between the East and the West was coming together. We saw star athletes in flooding west. I vividly remember the saga of Alexander Mogilny defecting to Buffalo of all places  the arrival of the Russian Five in Detroit in the NHL. The silky-smooth play of Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Sarunas Marciulionis, Arvydas Sabonis and more changed the NBA game and became some of favourite players on the planet. These were the days before the internet, when we only saw these kinds of talents at rare international events, and it was hard to tell if they were more urban legend than real people. Yet there they were, thrust into careers earning life changing salaries that they only could have dreamed of before.

And for those in the East, the West started to come to them too. We saw in influx of media, music, movies and a much larger cultural exchange from the West that they had ever seen before. Vinal records and tapes that had to be smuggled into the country, at the risk of state punishment, were now just a part of everyday live. We saw the influx of other cultural influences come in as the people formerly hidden behind the Iron Curtain came to get a taste of what we had come to take for granted. Heck, we even saw this:

I’m sure there is some place in the cosmos where that Gorbachev Pizza Hut commercial is used to balance any karmic injustice that was created when Donald Trump made his own Pizza Hut ad years later. Anywho, what I remember of those days in my teens was that while there were still conflicts in the World and things to worry about, the big anvil of the Cold War that hung over our head was gone. It felt like there was hope for something greater on the horizon and surely, we would have learned from the previous 45 years of Cold War that gripped the planet and took us to the brink of nuclear annihilation too many times.

Yet here we are in 2022, and even though we aren’t even out of the second month of this year, it feels like this year should already be christened “The Year We Prove We Have Learned Nothing”. In the National Capital Region, we all just lived through that experience, proving we haven’t learned a bloody thing from what we’ve seen play out to our south for the past years. And within mere hours of ending emergency measures in that case, we have seen the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in a most malign and vicious way.

We’ve had over 30 years to reflect on the full lessons of the Cold War, and we’ve had almost 80 years to take stock of the same lessons that the Second World War brought us. Yet as we watch the invasion of Ukraine roll across our TV screens and social media in real time, I think many of us are left wondering if we’ve learned a damned thing at all. In the past two months building to this moment, and the last 72 hours of actions, any of that hope that I felt back in the early 90’s that remained disappeared. And maybe the most dispiriting part of it all, is that it all felt kind of inevitable.

The fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be exactly who we expected him to be is almost as comforting as it is frightening. We know his background, as a former KGB agent, as someone who has previously invaded parts of Georgia, annexed Crimea and more. He’s repressed his own people, jailed and murdered opponents, used vicious bioweapons on foreign soil in a G7 nation to poison those who stand up to him and again, more. He’s interfered in foreign elections, including in the United States and used cyber-attacks to upend his neighbours. He spent the last months lying to the World about preparing to invade Ukraine, all while visibly and easily verifiably preparing to do exactly that. In short, his actions are consistent with the person he’s always shown himself to be. Or to paraphrase the late, great Dennis Green, “He is who we thought he is”.

Yet too many political leaders around the World have spent the last decade or so, and particularly the past two months, acting as if Putin was some kind of rational actor that could be reasoned and bargained with. Part of witnessing this felt a bit like watching Neville Chamberlain working in real time, minus the signed paper and press conference on the tarmac as he waived it in the air. To be clear, I do believe that diplomacy had to be tried, but the more that we are seeing things roll out in Ukraine tonight, it is starting to feel like there wasn’t enough though given to what to do if/when that diplomacy failed. It feels like too many nations entered that diplomatic phase genuinely thinking they could talk Putin down, which has never been in his MO.

But to be fair to those political leaders, I can’t say that it could have been done differently. Clearly sending NATO forces into the Ukraine was never going to be an option in this case because of the risks that would come with that, so it’s not like world leaders had a full suite of options at their disposal. Yet it feels like they have been too timid in using the measures that they do have at their disposal.

Today was a great example of this, as countries across NATO and beyond put more sanctions in place against the Russian government, officials and people attach to Putin’s entourage. While some of those sanctions are serious, they still didn’t go right to the max. Russia still has access to the SWIFT payments system, the Americans have yet to level any sanctions directly against Putin himself and his oligarchs still have access and use of some of their prized assets. I’m left befuddled by that because I’m left asking this question as a result; what exactly will it take for NATO members to throw the entire sanctions toolkit at Putin? Bombing and invading an innocent, sovereign nation should have been a pretty clear red line, especially the invaded nation borders four different NATO members and the invading nation borders another four.

You would think that blasting through such a red line would trigger that approach, yet that didn’t happen. Russian banks still can move funds through SWIFT, continuing to benefit from a privilege that protects Russia from serious financial damage. Putin’s oligarchs still have access to properties, assets and privilege in G7 nations, like Roman Abramovich, the owner of one of the world’s best and richest football clubs, Chelsea FC. If the UK was truly throwing the kitchen sink at Russia to try to avoid war, Chelsea and other assets would be ceased by the state and Abramovich would not be allowed to enter the country. And of course, Putin himself remains untouched by sanctions.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that it feels like we are slow ambling towards a third World War, except this one with thousands of nuclear weapons in the mix. Nothing the West has done so far has spooked Putin, and I think its clear that half-measures never will. I agree that it can be a mistake to escalate things too quickly, but I would argue that the moment those missiles started to fall on Ukraine early this morning, that concern faded away. Putin is counting on the West not wanting to fight and he’s right on that front. He believes that there won’t be an unacceptable price to pay for invading Ukraine and trying to depose its duly elected government. Does such a price exist that doesn’t involve combat? There may very well be. But we won’t know until all those measures are used. The fact is that sanctions that worked in the case of Iran, like the move on SWIFT, remain unused. Again I ask, what exactly will it take for the remaining sanctions in the toolbox to be used? I guess the days and weeks to come will tell us.

If I am looking for any hope tonight, I can find it in a few places. You can see it in the streets of Russia, as everyday people truly risk their lives protesting against the actions of their President. You can see it in the resolve of the citizens of Ukraine. But you can also see it in the person of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This man was never a politician before he was elected. He was a comedian, who played the President on TV. In the short time he has been President of his nation, he’s been under constant aggression from Putin. He found himself being used as a political football by the previous US President, with whom because of their past television careers drew some comparisons.

Yet unlike that former American President, Zelensky hasn’t ridden or wilted in the face of this danger and aggression. He’s rallied his nation, pushed for the international community to support them and continued to persist. Tonight in an address to his nation, he clearly noted that he knows that for Russia, he is “target number 1”, and his family are “target number 2”. In the face of that, he’s not running away. He’s staying to fight for his country, even though the odds are not in his favour and his allies are only willing to go so far to back him.

There are two things about President Zelensky that just sticks with me in this moment of peril. First, he is a comedian, an actor. Just think of the invectives that are thrown at our political leaders in this country, having that kind of profession being used as a slur, as some kind of sign that they aren’t serious or worthy of the job they were elected to. Yet here is this actor, this person who used to play a President for the audience, acting like more of a true leader in this moment than any professional politician or diplomat out there right now. It shows that anyone, even the most inexperienced, can rise to the moment while those with the most experience can utterly turtle under the same pressure. Maybe the world might have been different if Neville Chamberlain had taken up acting instead.

But secondly, I can’t help but reflect on the fact that Zelensky just turned 44 this year. Later this year, I’ll turn 43. We were born a year apart and came of age in that same period of hope and promise post Cold War. Even though we experienced these things from different perspectives, I’d like to think that we all saw the hope of better days ahead of us and that we would never make the same mistakes that the past taught us. More importantly, as parents of children who are now around the same age as we were when the Cold War ended, I’d like to think we thought we’d hand to our children a world that would be better than when we found it. That period of hope might have been fleeting or maybe even a mirage, but it’s clearly gone as we have marched ourselves to this point. Things will not be the same after this, and the sooner our leaders in the West get their heads around that, the better the chance we’ll have of not repeating all of those past mistakes and avoiding some potentially worse new ones.

Sloly Out

The past 19 days in Ottawa have been awful for those who live and work in the city. To see the utter failure on the part of law enforcement for do the most basic enforcement of the law has left many shaken and undermined any confidence the citizenry that previously existed. That has fallen on the shoulders of the Ottawa Police Service and today we got some big news on a natural consequence to come from what we’ve seen:

All through this occupation of the downtown, it has been the Ottawa Police Service that has been in charge and given what’s happened, it was clear that some changes would need to come after this period passed. Chief Peter Sloly has been facing a lot of heat for the inaction of his department, and rightfully so. It’s been a clusterfuck of a mess and the piper was going to come calling for him eventually. So it’s no surprise that he’s gone. The surprise is that he left now, walking away from his job while leaving the downtown of the Nations Capital occupied by a group of people who express their desire to overthrow the elected government of this G7 nation. But more on that in a second. In the meantime, more details have come pouring out after this dam broke and a lot of them are as concerning as they are confirming of our worst suspicions:

Wow, where to start with this crap? First of all, this move appears to have had the knock-on effect of knocking the Ottawa Police completely out of the command structure dealing with the current situation. That may be a good thing, given how badly the OPS was dealing with this. But given the other details we have found out, it could be just as bad. The details about the OPP basically refusing to confiscate jerry cans and fuel going to resupply the occupiers is pretty damning. Because the OPP refused to do their part, OPS officers basically decided to follow suit and let this crap continue and allowing the occupiers to further entrench themselves right in front of Parliament. For the OPP this wasn’t a measure that could help push the occupiers to leave, oh no, no, no. They saw it as “an insignificant charge that would cause administrative headache”. Good grief.

But it’s not like Sloly’s management of this situation was amazing onto itself, quite the opposite. The leaks flooding out after his resignation make that clear. He apparently removed three incident commanders, who had lots of experience in exactly this kind of thing, from being involved at all. I’d be curious to know what that was, but that surely flies in the face of Sloly’s public pleas that he was using all of the resources at his disposal. Then comes the musings from former senior officers with the view that OPS officers were ordered not to engage with the occupiers. Is any of that shocking to those who live in Ottawa or who have been watching this? Not in the least, but it’s interesting to see that confirmed.

And then you can layer on top of that all of the issues that Sloly had with his own force that pre-date all of this. It’s a well-known fact that the Ottawa Police Service has had issues in the past, part of which Sloly was brought in to help clean up. So am I shocked to hear that some of his officers had a problem with that? Not in the least. But while the job of coming in to put the OPS on a different path is not an easy one, that doesn’t excuse the other things that have come out today. That doesn’t excuse Sloly’s alleged personal conduct, the alleged yelling and alleged bullying. In short folks, this is a total mess.

In the end, the current situation just wasn’t tenable. Something had to change, and Sloly exiting stage right could very well be that thing that needed to change. There is no guarantee here that this will make things better, but it’s an important chance to make things better. This change in leadership and command of the situation in Ottawa is the chance for the authorities to show they are serious, change their approach and show the occupiers the law will be enforced to the standard expected. If they don’t seize this opportunity to do just that, that failure will only put more wind in the sails of those who already think that they are above the law.

On a last note, today’s developments make one thing very clear that needs to happen after the occupiers and trucks are cleared out of Ottawa; there must be full public inquiries into what in the Hell happened here. The City of Ottawa must have a full public inquiry into the actions of the Ottawa Police Service and their failures in this dangerous moment, to get to the bottom of what went wrong and to try to re-establish any faith or trust from the citizens of Ottawa. The Province of Ontario needs to have a public inquiry of their own, to examine the roll of the OPP in this situation, their inaction in Ottawa, the incidents of OPP members aiding and comforting occupiers and the whole lot. And the Federal Government needs to have a public inquiry too, not only to examine the role of the RCMP here, the glaring holes in legal measures to limit foreign influence in such situations, how financing laws need to catch up to the times and to review how Emergencies Act was used and its effectiveness. Also Parliament needs to go back and re-examine the policing of the Parliamentary Precinct, re-open the discussions about how the area is secured and re-consider the idea of permanently closing off certain streets in the area to vehicular traffic.

All of those things must be done to show that there are consequences for such actions, but to also ensure that the mistakes that led to this clusterfuck are never repeated again. I pray that this occupation is over soon and peacefully. When that end comes, it’s time for our political leaders to stop the game of political hot potato that they have been playing for the past three weeks to our detriment. They need to put on their adult pants and clean up their own backyards, and they should expect the electors of Ottawa, Ontario and Canada to hold them to that the next time they come asking for their votes.

Taking Them at Their Word, Again

As the occupation of Ottawa goes into day 19, things appear to be hitting an inflection point. With the federal government’s move to invoke the Emergencies Act, authorities will finally have a greater ability to move on some of the funding of the occupiers and might actually move some of these people to go home. We’ll see how that goes.

But in the meantime, throughout this whole crisis, I’ve kept coming back to one simple line when it comes to what we’re seeing. Just a week I wrote a piece on this very simple statement; At what point do we finally take these people at their word? I come back to this again today, a week later, because it appears that we’re still having to ask ourselves this question because it appears that some of the authorities aren’t taking them at their word. As evidence, I bring forward the following that’s just been sitting out there in the public domain just in the past 24 hours:

As all the big news yesterday was playing out, we were seeing these pieces coming out. Firstly, we saw the evidence collected from the raid in Coutts, Alberta and the large cache of weapons that were collected. Included in that though you see clear evidence of accelerationist influences, with a patch showing it on the body armour. As the journalist Stephen Maher points out, that symbol has appeared prominently when one of their leaders in Ottawa does livestreams from downtown Ottawa, on the site of the occupation. I’d also point out that same leader was in Ottawa, despite having outstanding firearms charges.

Beyond being scary, that’s also noteworthy because of how the spokespeople for these occupations reacted last night to this news about this arrest in Coutts. First in Ottawa, where the former RCMP officer speaking on the behalf of the occupiers basically putting out conspiracy theories about what it would mean “if” weapons were found with the occupiers in Ottawa. He suggests that they would have planted there, and even makes suggestions around the recent theft of guns from Peterborough. Hey, no matter that the police have said it was a random theft and that the thieves didn’t even know that the truck had guns, nope. They aren’t interested in facts getting in the way of their conspiracy theories.

But let’s be clear what that kind of statement is basically saying without saying it directly; they’re basically admitting there are likely some kinds of weapons among the occupiers in Ottawa. If they knew there were none, they could have said that clear as day, “No we aren’t like the group in Coutts, we have no weapons here”. Instead they tried to create some kind of scenario that would “explain” the appearance of weapons “if” they somehow appeared. You know, wink wink, nudge nudge. As a result, they’re saying a lot while trying to say very little.

If that wasn’t enough, then came another video from “leaders” in Ottawa begging their fellow travelers in Coutts to stay in place. “Stand your ground, please don’t leave” they plead, adding that if they do “support from the “south”” is on the way. We know that’s not a bluff, because in his press conference yesterday the Prime Minister noted that CBSA has been “turning away non-Canadians at the border who are trying to come to Canada to join the protest.” And given the influences that we see on the American side of the border in these movements, how much do you want to bet that any Americans trying to come to “support” Coutts or anywhere else are going to leave their arms at home? If you believe that they’ll try to come in unarmed, well I’ve got some prime swampland in Florida I’d love to sell you.

Again, if you want more examples of these people telling us exactly what they want, look at the reporting of The Line’s Jen Gerson. She went down to Coutts yesterday and talked to some of this group. She asked one of the lead organizers a clear question during her time there; “What does winning look like to you?” That organizer named “Peter” responded with a clear and simple message; “Winning looks like getting our current failed government system out of power.” He went onto say that he would be alright with a government by “any party that is currently in place that is not attached to the World Economic Forum. And there are other attachments as well.” It should be noted that no political party in Canada has any attachment to the World Economic Forum, nor other attachments. This is conspiracy theory talk, being used to justify a coup.

Despite being told a week ago this group wasn’t interested in that after spending a month saying they were, they are now back doing what they’ve always been doing. And if you need that point driven home any further, the leaks coming from the GiveSendGo campaign supporting this group drives it home. I am not going to repost the names of people who allegedly gave to that campaign here, I’ll leave that to others. But what I will note the “notes” sections of those donations are littered with references what these people feel they are supporting. “Get Trudeau out of Parliament”, “Fight Against Tyranny”, “George Soros” and alike. These people know what they are supporting, they are seeing the same evidence that everyone else is seeing and is simply ignoring it. Instead we’re seeing them funding anti-democratic behaviour.

So again I come back to this question: At what point do we finally take these people at their word? If there was no excuse for being cause of flatfooted and lackadaisical last week, what exactly excuses ignoring what’s glaring at us in the face today? They aren’t hiding anything, they aren’t trying to be cute about what they’re doing, and they clearly feel no shame about any of this. So maybe now will finally be the time that our authorities treat this with the seriousness that the words and actions of these occupiers demands. We’ll see what happens in the moments to come but as of right now, our government and authorities have zero excuses for “not knowing” what was coming or what is happening. The longer they ignore those things and continue to discount their words, the more they will be emboldened. Now is the time for the authorities to act, and a nation is watching for that to happen.

The Full Doug Ford Experience in 24 Hours

Life in Ontario hasn’t been the easiest for the past four years under the Conservative government of Doug Ford. The past two years of COVID have seen some moments where Ford finally seemed to get the plot of things, only for him to follow that up with many more moments of either mismanagement of the crisis or simply being absent. With a provincial election coming in June, more and more of the Premiers actions are clearly being pushed through the lens of that upcoming event, which isn’t shocking.

But the events of the past two weeks in Ottawa should have been very different for the Ford Government. I say should, because it was pretty clear very early in things that there were big problems here that fell clearly within Ontario’s mandate and jurisdiction. Yet Ford and his government have been all to happy to participate in the game of jurisdictional hot potato that has been going between Ottawa, Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill.

Remember, just over a week ago Doug Ford was giving relatively supportive comments towards this “protest”, saying that he understood their frustration and said “If people want to come down (to Queen’s Park) and protest, God bless them.” That’s a big change from his “bunch of yahoos” line for early 2020. And then we also learned that just yesterday Ford’s government declined to participate in a meeting of a trilateral table set up by the Federal government to deal with what’s happening for the third time. The cherry on top of this crap sundae was a quote that CBC News got from a source within the provincial government, saying that table “doesn’t accomplish anything”.

So after two weeks, Doug Ford’s government had done sweet little to tackle this problem, just as the Trudeau government had done just as little. People have been wondering where Doug Ford was hiding and when he was finally going to step up. Well we started to see movement last evening, which kicked off events that gave everyone the full Doug Ford Experience, in a condensed 24 hour period. First, here is what Ford’s government started to do:

Look folks, early pandemic Doug Ford re-appeared! Seriously these moves taken by his government, to freeze the foreign funds backing this occupation and then putting a state of emergency in place, are the right ones and I know that many Ontarians will applaud them. You can rightfully ask why this wasn’t done closer to two weeks ago, but still these are the kinds of actions that could actually bring an end to what the people of Ottawa and Windsor have been forced to live through. To his credit, Ford didn’t go with half-measures when it came to describing what we are facing. He kept referring to those occupying Ottawa as what they are; occupiers. And he said it, over and over again, driving home the point and communicating it all so well.

That was Doug Ford at his best, and that was the Doug Ford that should remind his opponents that you can’t underestimate his abilities to get the mood and tone right. Hell, I was nodding my head along with him as he kept hammering that home and for a moment, I was able to forget that he was over a week late in doing this. Yet it didn’t take even a minute for those words to leave his lips that the hammer dropping on the other side of the Doug Ford experience, and folks, it’s something:

I mean of course, of course he was. Instead of being at home or dealing with the nation’s capital and the busiest bridge in the country being, in his own words “under siege”, he was out sledding with his buddies at the cottage in the Muskokas. And clearly he thought so little about how people would care about it, because there’s photographic evidence that was sitting out there on social media, just waiting for him to get smacked with it square between the eyes. That smack came just as he was finishing announcing maybe his best actions taken in over a year. When faced with it, he didn’t deny it. He said he was calling people the whole time, creating a goofy image of Dougie bombing around the trails with his left hand driving his Ski-doo and the right somehow tucked under his helmet as he worked. I don’t doubt that Ford was taking calling and I doubt he was completely out of contact, but that’s not the bloody point. The people of Ottawa have been living through Hell for the past two weeks and you decide to bugger off to the cottage instead of focusing on them? That’s just terrible judgement overall, let alone for a guy whose been thinking about re-election and framing everything he does around that for months. How he didn’t manage to pass those terrible optics through that lens boggles the mind, but speaks to exactly the guy that Doug Ford is and has shown himself to be over and over again. That is the Doug Ford that is the worst enemy of that opponent the other which I just said we can’t underestimate.

Adding to the sledding stuff, right after the press conference the news broke that the Federal Government had been asking Ontario’s Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney to do exactly what Ford just announced today, but has been asking since Monday. And in response to that, Mulroney apparently refused. What seemed to break the logjam was a conversation between Ford and Trudeau. In the meantime, Ottawa remained occupied, businesses remained closed, people lost wages and more. All of that got worse and worse, as Mulroney refused. Of course, it should be pointed out that it’s equally bad that the Feds didn’t ask for this until Monday, which meant that Ottawa had been under siege for 10 days at that point. That doesn’t make the Trudeau government look like any heroes here, just not the slowest of the Johnny-come-latelys in this bunch.

But what this whole little stretch of less than 24 hours was show everyone the full Doug Ford Experience; the rhetoric and soaring language coming many days late (but good when it comes) only to be followed by the inaction and hypocrisy coming to light shortly after, torpedoing whatever good news that was just announced. If this was a joke, we’d call it “The Aristocrats”. But unfortunately there are no jokes here because peoples lives and livelihoods are at stake. We’ll see what comes of the announcements that Ford made today and I hope that they work because they are the right ones. The problem is that they clearly came after his government did everything they could to not act, which has only made this all worse. Or put another way, there’s nothing that Doug Ford announced today that he couldn’t have announced last week or even on Day 1 of the occupation of Ottawa. Some might say that it’s “better late than never”, but I know who have been baring the brunt of that occupation wouldn’t agree. But I will agree that now isn’t the time to litigate that part of things as we must focus on solving the crisis before us. There will be time after all of this is settled for Ontarians to get into those details and hold those they feel left them high and dry to account. Thankfully for Ontarians, that day will come on June 2nd, and we’ll see what judgement they pass then.

Leadership Missing in Action

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.

Balancing the Narratives

We’re into day 14 in the occupation of Ottawa and this morning feels different. That’s because I think we’ve reached a point where people genuinely are not sure where this will all lead or go. That’s not a comforting thought by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it’s a very honest assessment of where things stand. As we’re seeing increased actions in places like Windsor with the Ambassador Bridge, it’s clear that things are not in hand.

When it comes to the wisdom that appears to be going around in the Canadian media sphere, I’ve started to noted two tracks that are becoming dominant. They are very different paths, each with their own dangers, but quite irreconcilable. To demonstrate my point, I’ll cite examples of these two narratives below, coming from journalists I have extreme respect for, their work and their opinions. Let’s start with the first one, in this column in the National Post:

In this piece, columnist Terry Glavin lays out the case for everyone to calm down, turn down the temperature and remember history. He points to events in our past like the October Crisis of 1970, the Oka Crisis of 1990, various Stanley Cup riots and other protests. In that sense he’s right; we have seen crises in our past, so the idea that we would have to face something dangerous isn’t a new Canadian experience. He lays a lot at the feet of politicians in the centre and on the left (making no mention of those on the right) and journalists for pointing out what their eyes have been seeing. As for those occupying Ottawa, he says that those doing the occupying are not “well-polished people” and that they are not “yobs and yahoos, exactly, and the insurrectionist intent that might be attributed to them”. In short, he’s submitting the position this is not that big a thing to worry about on the national security level. It’s a position, and I’ll come back to that in a moment. To look at the other narrative, I point to these two pieces below:

These two pieces came out within hours of each other and revealed new details that give us the other narrative; this is deadly serious, government hasn’t taken this seriously enough and we’ve got a big problem on our hands. In Matt Gurney’s piece in “The Line”, he speaks to the first-hand experience of going to Ottawa and seeing all of this for himself. He points to the inherent contradiction in Ottawa; those who might fit Glavin’s description of the occupiers quite well, and those who are the polar opposite and quite dangerous. Gurney described his visit to the baseball stadium site in Ottawa, and how different and foreboding that experience was for him. He speaks about sources telling him that the police are “very worried about the presence of a hard-right-wing, organized faction that isn’t there to protest mandates and vaccine passports, but to directly create conflict with the government.” That group apparent includes non-Canadians, who should have nothing to do with this.

The CBC’s Judy Trinh also does a great job adding more details about what we’re seeing on that site, pointing former law enforcement and military members involved in the organizing of it. That includes a former RCMP officer who was on the prime minister’s security detail, who quit last year after refusing to get the vaccine and is now the convoy’s head of security. They refer to the political leadership of the country and the police trying to handle all of this as “the opposition”, which isn’t the kind of language I’ve ever heard used by peaceful protestors to refer to such authorities.

And to top it off, while Gurney’s sources disagreed on some points, they appeared to agree on this score: is two separate events happening in tandem. You have the “protesters”, varying across the range of influences and anger, and then you have this other group there too laid out above, essentially providing cover, who have the primary goal to “further erode the legitimacy of the state — not just the city of Ottawa, or Ontario or Canada, but of democracies generally.”

As you can see, it’s hard to reconcile these two narratives, despite some of the similar things they see. And the reason why I chose those pieces to make this point is because the writers are people whose work I hold in high esteem, even if I disagree with some of their work in the past, or even some of the assessments here. In particular in Glavin’s piece, while I agree that we have history to remember when it comes to dangerous events, there is no comparison between drunken Stanley Cup riots or even the pipeline protests from two years ago to this. The best comparison I would argue would be the October Crisis, and that’s only because of the motivations of some of those involved. In both cases, the similarity is that people involved wanted to erode the legitimacy of the state and hurt the very democracy of this country. We surely saw that in 1970 and you’re seeing that now, as Gurney ably lays out.

And to me that is the crux of my concern about these two narratives. The first essentially tells us this isn’t as serious as it may be, that those who are ringing alarms are being over the top & are doing so to advance other goals. The second is telling us the opposite, that there are serious things afoot here that we all need to be aware of to ensure that they don’t succeed, and all in the expressed hope that they pray that they are wrong. I don’t know how easy it would be to “split the difference” between the two, but I would argue you can’t.

Only in hindsight will we know for sure which narrative is right, but with all respect due to the writers above who made their cases, we don’t have the blessing of waiting for that hindsight to act. While there are parts of Glavin’s piece that I agree with, as I’m typically not one to overreact to things, I cannot agree with his assessment at this moment. I would argue that part of the reason why we find ourselves in this position is because officials who should have been prepared weren’t. Too many of them didn’t take what was coming seriously, didn’t take these people at their word expressed in public, and gave a foothold for things to spiral to the point of where they are now.

With that in mind, Gurney and Trinh’s new information, from experience on the ground, is enough to tip the scales for me. I firmly put myself in the camp of “I pray I’m wrong” because unlike the assertions of some out there on social media, no one likes what we’re having to deal with here. No one takes any joy in having to treat what they’re seeing with their own two eyes as what it is. And because of the current mixture in the crowd, there is no way around that. It’s a total clusterfuck, one that could have been avoided if those trucks had never been allowed to occupy Wellington Street longer than a few hours for a protest. In short, it could have been avoided if we took these people at their word when they told us about their intent from the start.

And that’s where I see the two narratives diverging to the point of being irreconcilable. The first essentially results in us continuing to not take those words at face value, while the second breaks that cycle, taking these people at their word and acting accordingly. Only in the end will we know who is right, but if given the choice, I choose taking the cautious approach the second narrative proposes. Only in that approach are we better able to ensure that our hindsight-based observations will take place in a democratic society where the rule of law remains intact. Hindsight that comes after the fall of our democracy will not be of any use, because then it will truly be regret for those left to live in the aftermath. Again, I pray that I’m wrong, but I’d rather be wrong in a democratic country, than lose that democracy because our guard was let down.

Taking Them at Their Word

It’s Day 12 of the occupation of Ottawa and things continue to evolve. Thanks to the courageous actions taken by a 21-year-old civil servant, the honking has stopped in the downtown core and has allowed residents the chance to get some rest and sleep. It should be noted that with her action, she has done more to put this to rest than any elected official in the City of Ottawa, provincial government or federal government have to date. That speaks a lot to how bad this situation has gotten.

But as the night turns into day in the Nations Capital, we’re seeing some more developments happen that are disturbing in their own way and kind of drive home what many of us have been saying now for days:

After these bits of news, can we put a few lingering tropes being used to defend any of this to rest. Firstly, for those who say this is not an anti-vaxx group or anything like that, just listen to their spokesperson from late last night. It’s right there, saying it clear as day as he veers into anti-vaxx conspiracy crap.

Secondly, let’s also put to bed this idea that there should be any negotiations with any of this group and their leaders. They’ve been clear for a couple weeks that they want to remove the democratically elected government of Canada and replace our representative democracy with something that is the polar opposite of it. And last night again we see a repeat of this demand, somehow appointing themselves as legitimate to force such a chance and wanting the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP to sit in a “coalition” government with his attempted junta. Again, they keep saying over and over they want to end our democracy, so why aren’t officials taking that seriously and taking them at their word?

That video from last night looked a bit different in light of the other video below it from earlier in the day, when the organizers told folks that they’ve had backchannel conversations with Conservatives. More specifically they said that “we’ve had people make overtures and reach out to us”. Seriously, what the fuck? These people keep telling everyone their anti-democracy desires for a coup of the government that was just elected six months ago, and the Conservatives think “hey, let’s talk it out with them”. That just dangerous crap, seriously dangerous crap. But more on that in a moment.

Aside for that, the final trope that we can put to bed for good is that the police have any control over what’s happening. Despite Ottawa Police Chief Sloly’s public statements to the contrary, fuel is still getting into the site in front of Parliament Hill, and it appears through some statements that not all police officers on the scene are enforcing what the chief is saying. What exactly is the point of calling in extra police resources if they decide not to do anything? That’s not a question I ask lightly, and I know that they are dealing with a lot, but when I see quotes like the one above, I ask myself what the heck is going on there. If anything, it’s not a clear sign that the police have any control over any of this.

In the meantime, we’ve got a situation that continues without any end in sight and spreading to the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit. We’re seeing more malign influences get in on the act, as far-right media in the United States continue to use this as a hobby horse for their culture wars (and fattening their own wallets) and now even more actors getting in the mix, like this:

Yes folks, that’s a screenshot of MPP Randy Hillier boasting about going on Russian state media controlled by Vladimir Putin himself, and then calling it superior to an actual free press like we have here in Canada. That goes beyond the usual “useful idiot” territory that Hillier normally occupies with glee and goes into danger territory of propaganda for a nation that is actively trying to squelch democracies around the world. Is that the kind of  “freedom” that Hillier, the group in Ottawa and crew want for us? I can’t help but think so because when you side with such actors, you can divine that kind of result.

And if anything should be echoing through the minds of people in government and for all citizens across the country, it should be this: At what point do we finally take these people at their word? At what point do we finally believe that they mean what they say and act accordingly? Most in Ottawa were at that point before the trucks arrived on Wellington Street, yet clearly the same isn’t true for the police, or government officials making any decisions around this. It’s getting clearer that too many MPs in one particular party haven’t gotten that message yet. Either that, they are choosing to ignore it, they see personal and political advantage in trying to exploit the situation or worse, maybe even agree with their goals. Thankfully more Conservative MPs are coming on the record in their opposition to what is happening, but that leaves us wondering about the rest. In the meantime, this occupation continues and the need for a resolution remains. It’s way past time for these people to go home because there is no way any responsible government official can entertain their demands for the overthrow of our elected government. That is a complete non-starter, and it’s about time that everyone gets on the same page and says it aloud.

The Only Legitimate Resolution

It’s the start of a new week in the Nations Capital and some things finally seem to be happening to alleviate the stresses and dangers the people of Ottawa have been facing. The police have finally started to enforce laws and by-laws, ticketing trucks, laying charges and forcing the removal of dangerous fuels stored in Confederation Park. There still is a lot that needs to happen, but I have to admit seeing sights like these brought a smile to my face:

I must admit the schadenfreude of the hotel on the site of the “staging area” for the occupation of Ottawa being filled by police was just a chef’s kiss to top it all off. Of course, it would make complete sense that would be the case though, as the RCMP has a major station directly across the street. But clearly no one in this group of alleged “protesters” thought about that. Anywho, it appears that things are taking a step or two forward. Or at least that was until this morning, when this piece of news came across my social media and left me shaking my head:

Leave it to Jim Watson, the guy who hasn’t even been keeping the councilors in the wards directly affected by all this crap in the loop as to what’s happening, to make one of the worst possible “suggestions” ever. In a normal situation, bringing in a mediator would be a logical idea and one that could work, but this clearly is no such situation. You’d think after 10 days of this crap, you might think that Watson would get that but clearly not. That lack of comprehension come glaringly clear when he was quoted live on national TV saying that “someone of great stature in our community and the country who can actually open doors” should be brought in to “mediate” here. If we were dealing with rational actors who respected such things as “stature in the community and country”, that might work. But this gang clearly don’t. They are calling the media “enemies of the state”, calling elected politicians’ “traitors”, are demanding the dissolution of our representative democracy and people in their group are threatening to execute people in all of those groups, including healthcare workers. To give you a taste, here is what Watson wants the Feds to try to “mediate” a solution with:

Seriously folks, how in the Hell do you mediate with that? You can’t, I’m sorry but you can’t. Yet Watson is in pure “cover my ass” mode, trying to pass off the cities failures on other jurisdictions and pass the blame to them. Sadly Watson is not alone in that, as we’re seeing Ontario try to do the same while the Federal government has gone totally silent. It’s far from our best moment and has forced residents to use the civil law to try to force an end to all of this. But I have to admit that Watson suggestion is one that particularly irks me. I’m someone who normally is predisposed to trying to find a negotiation solution whenever possible. But clearly this is different, not only because of what we’re seeing on the ground in Ottawa but an additional worrying layer coming from our neighbours to the South:

Ottawa Police Chief Sloly pointed out last week that we are seeing foreign influences, funding and organization getting involved in what is happening, which is part of what moved GoFundMe to cancel the groups page raising money with them. As a result, we’re now seeing Republican wackos openly supporting an attempt to overthrow the duly elected government of their G7 neighbour and biggest trading partner, all in an attempt to ride a way and get some political clout with their base. This is coming from prominent members of a party that just voted to declare the attempted violent overthrow of their elected government “‘Legitimate Political Discourse’”, which only drives home how far down their insane rabbit hole they’ve gone.

We’ve looked from across our border in horror at the crap that has been spewed in the United States, yet now these same forces are trying to inject lethal amounts of that same toxin into our body politic here, all of their own benefit. That is something that no Canadian should be supporting, let along legitimizing, at any point. But let’s be clear; the second the Federal government appoints a “moderator” to this situation, that is an act that gives this group the legitimacy that they so deserve. There is no way that any group demanding the overthrow of our elected government and the end of our democratic government should ever be given any legitimacy, ever, period.

That may seem like a harsh position to take, but there are limits to how far any government can and should go to deal with any situation. There are red lines that any government can never cross without doing permanent damage to our democracy, and this is clearly far beyond any such red line. If the Federal government were to acquiesce to Watson’s request, not only would there not be a solution that would satisfy this group that clearly respects no one, it would only give them rhetorical fuel and legitimacy that they should not get. Look at the Hell the people of Ottawa have had to endure for the past 10 days, between the noise, the threats, the assaults and the desecrations. Hell over the weekend we saw reports of an attempted arson in a residential apartment building, where those caught on video trying to do this even taped the doors to the building shut. They tried to burn that building to the ground, and trap the residents inside of it. And after that, Watson suggests that the Federal government gives this group legitimacy.

No, Hell no, a million times no. If they did that, it would just ensure that the lesson this group and others would take from this would be that occupying and taking a city hostage will get you results. It would open the door to others to take similar, extreme actions, putting more Canadians in danger and severely damaging the health of our democracy. That simply isn’t acceptable, even if doing so would help Jim Watson get off the hook before he walks away from the Mayor’s office. Let’s be clear, the solution here is for police to continue what they started to do last night; remove the fuel, remove the buildings, remove the trucks and if need be, remove the individuals. They have the resources and legal structures to do that and that is the path forward. Capitulating to the hostage taking of our Nations Capital and giving the hostage takers any legitimacy would be the worst move yet, and would only do more damage. That’s not acceptable and Watson’s suggestion just proves that it’s a good thing he’s not running again to stay at City Hall.

UPDATE: Monday February 7, 2022 @ 3:55 PM: As if to prove my point about how you cannot mediate with this group, the same organizer of the “protests” clipped above posted the following online just a short bit ago after an Ontario judge put an injunction in place against the blowing of horns downtown. Turns out this guy not only finds it so hilarious that people in Ottawa haven’t been able to get proper sleep for 10 days, he actually has the nerve to say that this approach of theirs is working. Keep that in mind Mayor Watson.

Conflict, Disorder and Whatever the Hell This Passes As

There are many saying and idioms that we have when we talk about Canada, our politics and just how we usually go about things. Some are cliches but others are usually held to a higher respect, even included in our founding governing documents. One such phrase is one that most Canadians usually wrap their arms around with pride and usually speaks to the good example that Canada sets. That phrase is “Peace, Order and Good Government”, and really there aren’t many other words strung together that tend to speak to what Canada is.

But this week in Ottawa, those words have become more of a joke than a mantra. I’ve had a fair bit to say about this topic so far, but things continue to escalate (or maybe better put, disintegrate). I mean, take a look at what has happened in the past couple of days in Ottawa when it comes to dealing with the self-called “respectful protesters” that have taken over the downtown core:

I have to say that I’m as floored by all of this as I am angry as hell. Firstly, this group of people are running around downtown Ottawa with impunity, making lives a living hell for law abiding citizens who actually call the city home. Thousands of people who depend on their service jobs in downtown Ottawa are either losing a week and more of pay because their places of work are shut down, or their forced to face maskless, anti-social buggers who threaten them with violence whenever they ask them to simply follow public health protocols. We’re seeing increasing evidence that not only are these “protesters” refusing to leave, and they are getting support from some local businesses who are more concerned with making a buck than the wellbeing of their neighbours, like the Holiday Inn noted above. And now we’re seeing images of folks like MPP Randy Hillier moving munitions and fuel, to support these same buggers.

Add to that situation is the complete ineptness of the Ottawa Police service and the City of Ottawa in this moment. They’ve molly coddled this group from the very beginning to the point where they are even being allowed to us city property outside of the downtown core as some kind of staging ground and resupply point. I’ve taken part in many protests in my day, but I never being a part of one that needed “a logistics camp” to support it. That’s likely because you only need such infrastructure if you are either occupying or invading somewhere.

So I have to admit I was taken aback when Ottawa’s police chief finally admitted what we all have known for days; that this is basically an occupation, that it’s being funded and organized to a great deal with support for foreign nationals, including from the United States and that these people have zero intent of respecting democracy or respecting the people who live in Ottawa. And to that end, Chief Sloly told all Ottawans yesterday that “there may not be a policing solution” to this current crisis. He’s now floating having to bring in the military, which is as clear an admission of his failure as anything else. This force has left these group to maraud, threaten, violate and desecrate this city and its citizens for almost a week while doing virtually nothing to oppose them, and then acts like Ned Flanders beatnik parents when he finds out that doing nothing hasn’t helped a goddamn thing.

Needless to say, that has left many in Ottawa beyond pissed off and at their wits end. That has led to sights like the following, the kinds of things I can honestly say I’ve never witnessed in Ottawa before:

Ottawa is usually a very sleep place, far from being as exciting as some might think. When I first moved to Ottawa in 2009 to start working on Parliament Hill, I was told that “If you want to have a fun time in Ottawa, you go to Montreal”. That joke has remained true for the most part, and frankly, it’s part of what endears me to the city. But seeing people pushed to their breaking points by this crap, I can see how it would finally lead to sights like those above. It’s one thing to see these kinds of anti-social protesters come into their city and disrespect them and it in all ways possible, but it’s something all together different to see City Hall and the Police basically sit idly by and let it all happen. Many in Ottawa have felt abandoned and completely on their own, which forces people to take actions like we’ve seen above.

There is talk that there will be a counter protest going into downtown on Saturday, something that could make matters worse, but I completely get where it’s coming from. Things never should have gotten to this point if the Ottawa Police had done their part here, or at least treated this group the same way it has other protests from the past that actually remained peaceful. Instead they are now paralyzed by a group of 250 people, leading that frustration to grow. But there is one last element in this mix that needs to be addressed, one that bothers me beyond all belief, especially given the events yesterday in the Conservative caucus:

Folks, I had my say about those Conservative politicians who waded into those crowds on Saturday and the implicit message they were sending to that group, and all that still stands. But you’d think that if they had learned a damned thing from the weekend, they would have stayed the hell away from these “protests” as best as they could going forward, especially on the very day we’re seeing photos of munitions and the police laying out malign foreign-funded support and organizing of this group. But instead nope, we get that group of Conservative MPs going down there, to give their unqualified support for all of this shit, all before they walked off Parliament Hill to go to their taxpayer paid Ottawa or Gatineau apartments to sleep for the night, assumably with ear plugs firmly in place. They do that while their sometime neighbours are left to face the brunt of the shit that they are supporting.

They aren’t even hiding it folks, they’re proudly doing it because they see this as being to their political advantage. Forget about the laws broke, their past bellows for the law to be thrown at Indigenous people when they legally protest, or any sense of basic decency. No, they clearly view their fellow citizens in Ottawa as some form of “the other”, not worthy of basic respect. This turn of events is also noteworthy because of what happened yesterday to Erin O’Toole. The far-right elements of his party managed to push him out the door. The Scheers of his caucus, who have been inflaming the rhetoric around this moment got their way, tossing aside any meager moderating influence O’Toole might have brought. They’ve decided to go full-Trumpy, and they were out on Wellington Street embracing it with full gusto (or at least shaking hands and taking selfies with it), all before the corpse of Erin O’Toole’s political career had gotten cold. When faced with a choice between siding with law-abiding citizens of Ottawa who are respecting democracy, and a group of occupiers funded by shadowy foreign money calling for the dismantlement of our elected democracy, Scheer and his colleagues decided to get behind the latter.

But all the being said, this is all a bloody mess that only promises to get worse before it gets any better, as some of this group who left the city on Sunday are planning to staycation again this coming weekend on Wellington Street. The people of Ottawa have already suffered more than enough, as has the standing and strength of our democracy. What exactly is it going to take for the Ottawa Police or a higher authority to finally get this under control and cleared away? Will we have to wait for one of those munitions that Randy Hillier proudly showed the world to be used against us? Will we have to wait for a full-on donnybrook in the downtown when the good citizens of Ottawa have finally had enough? It’s time for some true “Peace, Order and Good Government” to be brought to bear because right now, this whole situation is making a mockery of those cherished words and the solemn meaning behind them.

O’Toole Out

Well all of political Canada has watching Parliament Hill this morning, as all parties held their respective caucus meetings. With all due respect to all parties, we all know which caucus meeting we were paying the most attention to; the Conservative caucus. With the drama of the past 48 hours Erin O’Toole’s leadership of the Blue Team was being put up to a vote, one that was expected to be close and expected to tell us a great deal about the future of their party.

It was shortly after 1 pm eastern, the metaphorical blue smoke rose from out of the Conservative confab, and the result was as striking as it was surprising. Here is what came out:

Wow folks, it wasn’t really close in the end. Those trying to remove O’Toole only needed 59 MPs to make it happen, and they surpassed that by 14. It ended up being over 60% of the caucus that decided he needed to go, which is a much stronger mandate than I believe that most people expected. That tells us a few things in the end.

Firstly, it tells us that this disconnect went beyond just the core of social conservatives who are known to be the biggest agitators within the caucus. To put this into perspective, only 62 Conservative MPs vote against the government’s conversion therapy ban legislation in the last Parliament, an issue that continued to be a big problem within that caucus & was cited as a reason for moving on O’Toole’s leadership. It’s remarkable that 11 more MPs voted to toss him than on that significant vote last spring.

What that tells us is that the discontent when beyond those issues and clearly came to bother others on the other side. It takes a lot of work to manage to turn that many of your own caucus against you from all sides, and somehow it appears that O’Toole has managed to do it. Part of that clearly comes from the lack of ability or will to manage the caucus on the part of O’Toole himself. The entire episode around O’Toole’s move to let the new conversion therapy bill pass through unanimous consent in December was one that was very telling on this score. In order to do that, you can’t have a single MP offside because all it would take was one of those 62 MPs who voted against this last time to raise their voice to deny that unanimous consent. When that didn’t happen at the time, I knew that either one of two things happened; either O’Toole had worked with his caucus, spoke to those opposed and got them to stand down in that moment to allow his party to move beyond this issue, or he didn’t tell them a thing, sprung it on everyone as a surprise and effectively caught his caucus members off guard.

Now that we are seeing this today, it’s clear that O’Toole too the second path, not the first. That confirms what we heard earlier in the year when O’Toole released their carbon pricing plan, news broke that O’Toole told the public about this plan before his own caucus. As a result, many of his caucus members learned the news from the CBC of all places, which you know just added more salt into that particular wound. As someone who spent a decade working in a caucus on Parliament Hill and I can say for a fact that it’s normal for MPs to know of such big policy plans before they hit the media. When a leader is running a tight ship and is doing the work to connect with their caucus, no one is finding these things out in the media.

All of that builds up resentment, mistrust and eventually, problems. Another leader who might have had stronger leadership skills, or had a reputation that created credible fear within their caucus, could have likely survived such a situation. Stephen Harper wasn’t much a beloved leader as a respected (and somewhat feared) leader, and he could get away with moments like that. But he got to that spot through years of building relationships and a reputation, good or bad. He also got to that spot by having done the work of bringing the Conservative camp back together (something I’ll come back to in a moment). Erin O’Toole never had any of that and it’s starting to become apparent that he never really did the work to build that support. For all the reasonable critiques that can be made of the social-conservative elements of his caucus, O’Toole owns his own style of management.

But that is all now for historians and political scientists to study, look back upon and judge as time goes by. Now is a time for looking ahead and what all of this will mean for not just the Conservatives but Canadian politics in general going forward. When you look at this result, and how all of this has played out over the past days, I continue to believe that some things were said that cannot be taken back. Erin O’Toole is gone as leader, but now we’ll see what others decide to do. Those who tossed O’Toole today have done so under the premise that they should go further right, be more strident and given the language they’ve been using in this past days, likely more radicalized and more like the Republicans we are seeing to the South of us.

I’m personally not convinced that given the moment that we are in, with all the convoy crap we’ve seen in front of Parliament and the support of it from too many Conservative MPs, that reason will prevail and that all of their caucus will hold together. It feels like the gap between the social conservatives and social progressives in their party is getting too wide to manage, and that gap isn’t likely to get any closer. We’ll see where all of this leads, but today’s vote feels more like the first domino falling than the final act of this episode. The Conservatives have made a choice, and now come the consequences for them. The question remains if they are truly ready to face up to them in the weeks and months to come. Stay tuned!