PHOTO: In this file photo taken on March 24, 2022 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the press ahead of an extraordinary NATO summit at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. PHOTO BY KENZO TRIBOUILLARD /AFP via Getty Images
The past month or so has brought out a number of clarifications about what exactly transpired during this winter’s freedom convoy and what went on behind the scenes before and during the controversial invoking of the Act. And many of them expose how a lot of what the federal Liberal government was leading people to believe was just outright falsehoods.
The Liberals insisted that they only brought in the Act after police requested it (my colleague Lorne Gunter found at least six examples of Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino making this claim). However, at committee the heads of both the Ottawa police and RCMP said they never made such a request.
Then there’s Justice Minister David Lametti’s claim that malicious foreigners were funding the convoy. But testimony revealed that no level of law enforcement ever told them this. Finance Canada even testified that the convoy was mostly supported by small donations from thousands of average Canadians.
There are also more inflammatory rumours that some federal politicians were happy to amplify — like claims that convoy participants tried to burn down a residential building. They’ve been mostly debunked by now.
But here’s the thing: All of these damning revelations have occurred prior to the inquiry even getting underway. There’s been some confusion about this but the headlines about news coming from hearings into the Act is actually from a House of Commons committee looking into the matter.
This is just the warm up. The main event hasn’t even begun. And yet the Liberal government’s arguments are already in tatters.
That’s quite something, because this first committee is arguably the one rigged in Trudeau’s favour. During some of the meetings, Liberal MPs on the committee have interjected to try to stop tough questions from being asked and have lobbed softball questions to testifying cabinet ministers. These partisan stunts will be much harder to pull off under Justice Paul Rouleau, the inquiry’s Commissioner.
Trudeau has already attempted to politically interfere in the inquiry by trying to frame the terms of reference — saying the purpose of the inquiry is to probe things like funding and supposed disinformation. The Liberals refuse to acknowledge that a large part — arguably the main part — is to probe their very decision to invoke the Act.
It doesn’t matter though. Because it’s not up to Trudeau to define the scope of the inquiry. It’s up to Justice Rouleau, who is surely aware of how the Parliamentary committee has already weakened the government’s arguments in advance of his work commencing.
Things are looking so rough right now that if this was a court case, Trudeau’s defence lawyer would be pushing for his client to seek a plea deal rather than risk the potential colossal humiliation of going to trial.
There really is no way that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will come out looking good in the final report. He will come across as a leader who had an authoritarian hissy fit because for the first time in his tenure he’d faced serious protests against his leadership and so lied about what was really happening to attempt to justify an extreme over-reaction. This type of democratic backsliding is not a good look for a G7 nation.
What will the real repercussions of this be though? Probably very little and the feds know it. Like when Trudeau was found to have violated the Conflict of Interest Act (more than once), there’s very little punishment that comes with it. In fact, when the inquiry report eventually comes out, Trudeau might do what he often does when found at fault: try to flip it around and claim that it’s a teachable moment for everyone except him.
Will it work again? Is there a limit to the number of times Canadians will let themselves be duped? We shall see.