I didn’t want to write about the Freedom Convoy, aka the yahoos who converged on Ottawa to protest the federal government’s truckers vaccine mandate (and everything else covid related) and created a blockade around Edmonton’s Legislative buildings and blocked the international border at Coutts. These bone heads don’t deserve any more airtime.
But then they danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrated the National War Memorial (the one where Cpl Nathan Frank Cirillo, a ceremonial guardsman, was gunned down in Oct 2014), raised Nazi and Confederate flags on Parliament Hill, called for the overthrow of the government, slung their offensive paraphernalia all over the statue honouring Terry Fox, and harassed staff and assaulted a client at an Ottawa soup kitchen.
The demonstration was a national disgrace. It must be condemned by everyone, particularly our political leaders.
Many, like Senator Paula Simons, issued a clear and unequivocal condemnation immediately. Others like Jason Kenney waited until the next day, tweeting his disgust late Sunday afternoon.
Why did Kenney wait so long?
Did he not understand how unspeakable these actions were? Or was he trapped by his own words and actions in the two weeks leading up to the demonstration?
On Jan 15 the Kenney government issued a press release saying 52% of Alberta GDP is delivered by truck (really?). The pandemic and BC floods demonstrated the fragility of the supply chain (true) and his government was doing everything it could to keep the economy functioning and growing (for the sake of argument let’s assume that’s true).
The government had heard from “transportation stakeholders” (whoever they are) and would “watch closely to monitor the effect of these new federal and US government vaccine mandates and take action as required in the best interest of Albertans.”
This press release is a piece of propaganda because (1) there’s no evidence that the truckers vaccine mandate is, in and of itself, materially impacting Alberta’s GDP and (2) even if it negatively impacting our GDP the provincial government has no jurisdiction over Canada’s relationship with the US so there’s nothing Kenney can do about it.
Never mind. The purpose of the press release was to signal to the unvaccinated truckers and other unvaccinated Albertans that Kenney has their back.
Kenney supports the Freedom Convoy
Kenney did three things to support the Freedom Convoy.
A week ago, Kenney retweeted photos of empty grocery shelves and declared the federal truckers mandate was “making a bad situation much worse”. He provided no evidence of when or where the photos were taken or why the shelves were empty, and he did not back up his claim that the supply chain crunch had been exacerbated by the trucker vaccine mandate.
Instead he created a false narrative: Empty grocery shelves are a direct result of the federal truckers vaccine mandate.* This was irresponsible.
He praised truckers who kept grocery shelves stocked (90% of them are vaccinated) and said everyone (read: the 10% who are not vaccinated) has the right to peaceful protest. He said he agreed with those who were protesting the trucker vaccine mandate. He said he hoped they’d disassociate themselves from anybody with extreme or hateful views, then acknowledged that in any big social movement there are going to be some people with “fringe views.”**
Kenney urged the federal government to use common sense, which in Kenney-land means abandon the vaccine policy to appease the 10% of truckers who do not want to get vaccinated. This is ludicrous given there’s no evidence to show that without the unvaccinated truckers our grocery stores would be empty.
Three days ago, Kenney announced he’d be attending the National Governors Association meeting in Washington DC where he would discuss the US and Canadian government’s policies impacting “many cross-border truckers, causing further damage to supply chains and higher prices for consumers.”
Once again, he would be urging Biden and Trudeau to use common sense. One can only hope his argument for common sense at the National Governors meeting will include more evidence than he’s presented to date.
A day after Freedom Convoy protestors desecrated monuments and statues honouring our war dead and Terry Fox, and harassed staff and attacked a client at a soup kitchen, Kenney condemned the desecration of the monuments. He was silent about the Terry Fox statue and the harassment and attack in the soup kitchen.
In his condemnation Kenney said he had said the organizers should disassociate themselves immediately from anyone involved in the convoy who hold or express racists, anti-Semitic, or bigoted views.
Unless Kenney is referring to a different media event, that’s not what Kenney said.
There’s a big difference between Kenney hoping someone will disassociate themselves from anyone with extreme or hateful views and Kenney telling someone they should immediately disassociate themselves from anyone holding or expressing racist, anti-Semitic or bigoted views.
The first is an ‘it would be nice if you’d…’ sentence; the second is a directive.
Given that Kenney is on record as supporting the Freedom Convoy and given that the protestors’ actions exhibited a shocking lack of respect for Canada’s war dead, Terry Fox and vulnerable Canadians, and a whole host of extreme positions, Kenney’s condemnation misses the mark.
Furthermore, he failed to deal with the Freedom Convoy protestors who blockaded the Edmonton Legislature and the border crossing at Coutts by invoking the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act which he passed to penalize those who lawlessly trespass or jeopardize public safety “by seeking to block critical public infrastructure, including roadways, railways, and other important infrastructure.” One would think the blockading the Edmonton Legislature area and the Coutts border crossing would qualify.
A responsible premier would determine whether the food supply chain problem is real. If it is real, he or she would develop a plan to deal with it. This plan would be transparent and would assure Albertans the threat of food shortages had been averted and there was no need to panic.
Instead, Kenney amplified Albertans’ fears by retweeting questionable images of empty grocery shelves. He supported the Freedom Convoy when he knew or should have known those with what he calls “fringe views” would hijack the demonstration and turn it into something ugly, and he issued a half-baked condemnation the day after the Freedom Convoy did exactly what everyone expected it to do.
Kenney painted himself into a corner and now he’s trying to blather his way out of it.
*Gary Mason Globe & Mail Jan 28, 2022, A9
**Kevin Nimmock CTV Journalist Tweet