Doug Ford dodges questions about Emergencies Act inquiry
On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford dodged questions about his refusal to participate in the Emergencies Act inquiry, arguing that the commission is a federal matter, not a provincial one.
During Question Period, the Prime Minister chose to answer a question about his decision not to testify before referring all remaining requests to Government House Leader Paul Calandra.
“From day one…for Ontario, it was a policing issue, not a political issue,” Ford said. « This is a federal investigation into the federal government’s decision to use the Federal Emergencies Act. »
His comment comes a day after Prime Minister and former Solicitor General Sylvia Jones filed court documents challenging a subpoena to appear before the commission, which is examining the use of the Emergencies Act during the occupation of Ottawa by protesters for weeks, as well as a blockade at the Canada-US borders.
The court documents claim that « the summons is inconsistent with the parliamentary privilege of MPs » and that their testimony is « not necessary for its commission ».
“Ontario is of the view that these protests were primarily inviting a police response and that police witnesses who testify can better provide the Commission with the evidence it needs,” reads an email from the lawyer for the Ministry of the Attorney General, Darrell Kloeze.
Multiple questions from opposition members were directed to the premier on Wednesday morning, but only one was answered by Ford.
Calandra spoke for him, using the same talking points as the day before, noting that deputy ministers were made available and Cabinet documents were provided to the commission.
NDP MP Marit Stiles asked why the Prime Minister is hiding behind parliamentary privilege.
« That’s hogwash and everyone here knows it, » she said.
Liberal Leader John Fraser went even further, telling reporters after Question Period that Ford’s decision not to testify was « cowardly. »
« He could win in court, » Fraser said of the premier’s legal action. « But he has already lost in a higher court, which is public opinion. »
He said several other Ontario premiers have been called to testify before a committee or public inquiry, including Kathleen Wynne, Dalton McGuinty and Mike Harris.
« They didn’t have to go, » Fraser said. “What’s so different about Doug Ford? Why is it different from the others?
« People have to trust their leaders and not show up and give you reasons or explanations or be responsible for your decisions for decisions you didn’t make is not what we expect from the Prime Minister or any member of this legislature?
Ottawa Center MPP Joel Harden pointed out that other politicians, such as the mayor and premier, have testified before the commission and that they are not police officers.
« Could someone explain to the people of Ottawa Center why these officials saw fit to respond to the call to testify before the commission, but that this Prime Minister and the minister responsible, the former Solicitor General, don’t do it?
Harden then offered to drive the prime minister to Ottawa if he changed his mind.
The Emergencies Act was invoked on February 14 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an effort to end the « Freedom Convoy » protests in downtown Ottawa.