Handwritten notes from one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top advisers shed light on conversations that took place between the federal and provincial governments just hours before Ottawa announced it would be invoking the Security Measures Act. urgency to end a series of protests against the pandemic.
A collection of notes from Deputy Chief of Staff Brian Clow was entered into evidence Thursday before the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is investigating the federal government’s decision to trigger the never-before-used law on Feb. 14. The notes cover Trudeau’s call with the prime ministers hours before invoking the Emergencies Act.
The Emergencies Act requires the federal government to consult with provincial and territorial premiers before triggering its emergency policing powers. The quality of these consultations has already been raised as an issue during the survey.
According to Clow’s notes, the premiers weighed in with various viewpoints.
He wrote that then-Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney described the situation in Coutts, Alberta, telling the room that intelligence showed a hardcore, violent group was willing to die for the cause.
For two weeks, anti-COVID-19 protesters used heavy trucks and other vehicles to block a major commercial thoroughfare between Coutts and the United States.
Clow wrote that Kenney said he didn’t “quibble” about using the law, but felt there were other ways to solve the problem.
The call came as Alberta police were trying to break the blockade. They arrested demonstrators, seized weapons and ammunition and negotiated with other demonstrators to remove them from the area.
In an interview with the national post On Thursday, Kenney confirmed some details of those Feb. 14 meeting notes, saying that if he objected to the use of the law, he was prepared to defer to the Ontario provincial government if he felt this would help end the protests in Ottawa.
According to the notes, B.C. Premier John Horgan said he supported the move but feared the introduction of emergency powers would embolden protesters.
“I worry [about] too heavy a hand,” Horgan said on the call, according to Clow.
The notes say Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe opposed the use of the Emergencies Act and feared the move would further inflame demonstrations. Clow wrote that Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston was also worried about provoking protesters.
The notes indicate that Quebec Premier Francois Legault told Trudeau and his fellow Prime Ministers that he strongly opposed the use of the Emergencies Act, while the Premier of New Brunswick’s Blaine Higgs said his province was able to manage the protest and he doesn’t want the law to apply in New Brunswick.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on the call that he strongly supports the use of the Emergencies Act, according to Clow’s notes. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey and Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King have also voiced support for its use to manage the protest which has paralyzed some parties. of Ottawa for three weeks.
The army is the “last resort”, says the Prime Minister on the call
According to Clow’s notes, Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane wanted to ensure that the armed forces would not be called in.
“I really don’t want to see any bloodshed,” she said, according to the notes.
Trudeau reassured the prime ministers that the military was a “last resort”, the notes say.
The Emergencies Act requires that all provinces “in which the direct effects of the emergency occur” be consulted before the law is invoked.
Counsel for the province of Saskatchewan argued during the opening submissions to the Public Order Emergency Commission that the federal government had already decided to invoke the law before the Feb. 14 appeal.
“The call was not so much about consultation as it was about communication,” attorney Michael Morris said.
The provincial government of Alberta shares this view.
“Alberta’s opinions were not sought until after the decision was apparently made, and they were essentially ignored,” said attorney Mandy England.