Tow truck

As tempers rose and patience wore out, a tow truck removed a tractor that was among those parked for three weeks in downtown Ottawa during last winter’s “Freedom Convoy” occupation. Invocation of the Emergencies Act served to clear the city quickly and polling found that two-thirds of Canadians approved. 

 

 

By Ian Pattison

In Ottawa, the Emergencies Act inquiry grinds on with the prime minister and members of cabinet still to testify in defence of their decision to invoke the most powerful tool at their disposal.

In the United States, mail-in vote counting plods on more than a week after the midterm elections that were supposed to sink Joe Biden’s Democrats in a hole deeper than Marianas Trench.

In both cases, those whose mischievous actions led to surprise endings are feeling heat.

For insisting they be spared the sensible public health measures meant to protect Canadians from a global pandemic that has so far killed 6.6 million people, 47,000 of them in this country, convoy ringleaders are facing jail time with many more participants under investigation.

For foolishly following dozy former president Donald Trump down a rabbit hole of really dumb conspiracy theories, his anointed lickspittle candidates and their obsequious supporters got a real jolt on an election night they were assured would see Republicans in firm control of both houses of Congress.

As it stands, Democrats took the Senate while Republicans on Wednesday squeaked out a win in the House of Representatives. The GOP “red wave” didn’t happen, not by a long shot, and now there is some reckoning to do.

Last winter, as the occupation of Ottawa dragged into a third week spawning supportive protests at key border crossings and elsewhere, police and the prime minister were being confronted with death threats. Some really bad guys were discovered hoarding weapons caches and online chatter threatened all manner of deadly response to being asked to wear a mask and get a vaccination.

So far, the preponderance of evidence seems to support the government’s decision to overcome police inability to restore fading order by launching the Emergencies Act which saw the protesters stand down within a day.

Some members of the Conservative opposition called Prime Minister Trudeau a dictator while most besieged Ottawans and two-thirds of Canadians cheered the move. The inquiry will determine who was right.

The act compelled tow truck drivers, reluctant to offend their road brethren, to hook nearly 60 big rigs out from Wellington and nearby streets. It saw police finally move in and arrest more than 200 people, some allegedly using their children as shields. One of the occupiers testified to the inquiry last week from his jail cell; others were there on bail while their cases head for trial on serious charges.

Some watching the inquiry say the threshold of a national security threat for using the act was not met. Others point to badly deteriorating public order and next-to-no police response as good reason for the federal government to head off the possibility of real trouble. Time will tell.

THE U.S. MIDTERMS, which usually serve as a way for voters to spank the party in power, instead saw a collection of close races come down to the wire. What is painfully clear is that millions of Republican voters staunchly supported a dizzying array of strange candidates hand-picked by Trump, fully expecting his blessing to propel them to power.

Thankfully – really, really thankfully – enough voters saw the ridiculousness at play to send many of these pretenders packing. Unfortunately – really unfortunately – enough voters saw fit to still believe Trump’s absurd complaint about a perfectly legal election being “stolen” by President Joe Biden and the Democrats.

Some 40 per cent of Americans and 70 per cent of Republicans actually still believe the big lie that Trump tells at every opportunity. Such is the power of seemingly-authoritative lies amplified on right-wing social media for consumption by gullible individuals. Thanks to the good work of Rep. Liz Cheney and the Jan. 6 Committee, more and more Americans are coming to see the ugly truth.

Big Orange may finally have run out of time and credibility. With evidence of criminal behaviours piling up against him and fact-checkers destroying nearly every claim he utters, his rambling 64-minute confirmation Tuesday that he’ll run again for president just sort of flopped. Enough sensible Republicans are saying, ‘No. Not this time. You’ve had your turn and your midterm endorsements cost us the Senate. It’s time for someone new.’

THE RADICAL RIGHT in general appears to be losing some support on both sides of the border. Deteriorating health care in the face of virus tides, vicious weather events spawned by an overheating climate, and financial desperation brought on by rising inflation and interest rates have people re-ordering their priorities.

Which is not to say the extremists are standing down. On the contrary, their rage is only growing. Mass shootings seem to be an almost daily occurrence in the U.S., where not even children are spared by young gunslingers intent on bloodshed and infamy.

Up here it is politicians, public servants and journalists who are most often targets of a burbling rage that the “Freedom Convoy” only hinted at.

No one comes in for more vitriol than Trudeau. With his perfect diction, increasingly “woke” priorities, snazzy socks and that condescending smile that comes at the end of non-answers to questions he doesn’t like, there’s a lot to dislike. But violence is not the way to respond. Ever.

During the 2019 federal election, Trudeau had 58 threats made against him in 40 days. Back on the campaign trail in 2021 the PM was routinely met by mobs screaming death threats and obscenities at him.

The RCMP said recently it does not have enough members in its protective detail to safeguard the growing number of MPs under threat.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre never wastes an opportunity to blame everything bad in Canada squarely on Trudeau, whether he deserves it or not. Stoking the anger of Canadians frustrated by their lots in life is as irresponsible as it is dangerous.

A persuasive speaker like Poilievre has the ability to move his listeners. But rather than marshal public opinion for the good of Canada, Poilievre seems almost solely intent on giving impressionable people every reason to detest Trudeau because he alone is responsible for whatever misery their lives involve. No wonder they’re angry.

Social media is a cesspool. The mess that is Elon Musk’s Twitter has some users swearing off the platform. Maybe turning off our laptops and phones altogether, at least for a few hours a day, and flipping past the posts we know to be provocative, will get us past the habit of scrolling, cursing and getting too wound up for our own good. Who needs it?

Ian Pattison is retired after 50 years of award-winning journalism at The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.