Trudeau Invokes Emergencies Act: Power Without Responsibility?

Yves here. Yesterday, quite a few readers participated in a lively, and sometimes heated, debate over Trudeau’s activation of the Emergencies Act to remove protestors, most important, truckers and their trucks, after police sat pat. Although some argued strongly otherwise, citing the view of relatives and friends in Canada, most Canadian-connected readers seemed to think that the Emergencies Act move was a political plus for Trudeau. Polls show little support for the truckers. Readers also contended that the Emergencies Act was not a stealth Patriot Act, a measure that would be renewed ad nauseam. They strongly felt there would be a big backlash if it didn’t expire after 30 days, which I believe is the inertial course of events.

This post argues the reverse. And interestingly, the staunchly neoliberal Financial Times also speculates that Trudeau’s crackdown may exact more of a political cost than is fully apparent now. From its Justin Trudeau ends Canada’s trucker siege but leaves bitter divisions:

Its predecessor, the War Measures Act, was used by Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, to put down a violent rebellion in Quebec in 1970. It could bring up bad memories in the francophone province, which is a crucial source of support for Trudeau.

The Liberal prime minister’s opponents in the Conservative party, many of whom backed the “Freedom Convoy”, cast the measure as over-reach, while scholars questioned whether the high bar for its use — a serious danger to lives or safety that cannot be tackled by existing laws — had been met. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is taking the government to court over it.

“I think the use of the Emergencies Act overall is not going to damage Trudeau’s brand,” said Lori Turnbull, a politics professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. “Everybody in Ottawa is so happy to have this out of here and if a government can’t protect its own capital, then that raises really frightening questions.”

She added that “this is not going to be the ballot question” at the next general election but that the Liberals should be wary of “looking too excited about it”.

The issue prompted chaotic scenes in parliament. After Melissa Lantsman, a Jewish Conservative MP whose grandparents survived the Holocaust, said Trudeau “fans the flame of an unjustified national emergency,” the prime minister accused the Tories of standing with “people who wave swastikas”.

Pierre Poilievre, the favourite to take over the Tories, praised the truckers and accused Trudeau of “vaccine vendettas”….

According to polling by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute prior to the act being used, two-thirds of Canadians felt Trudeau — who chided protesters as “fringe” — had worsened the situation.

However, 72 per cent said the truckers should go home, among them Trudeau’s core voters. “People have short memories,” said a Liberal insider, who said the prime minister was “communicating clearly and decisively” after weeks of inaction by all levels of government.

Now to the current post. Please welcome Professor Desai:

By Radhika Desai, Professor Department of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba as well as Director, Geopolitical Economy Research Group and President, Society for Socialist Studies. Originally published at New Cold War

After weeks of inaction against truckers paralysing life in Ottawa and across Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act and politicians and pundits went into overdrive trying to make sense of it. Not many succeeded.

Why Trudeau took this step was not immediately clear. Many supported it. Many others did so while berating him for the delay in taking the step: New Democratic Party leader, Jagmeet Singh, called the delay a ‘failure of leadership’. Others, however, questioned whether it was necessary or right. For the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), Trudeau had not met the ‘high and clear’ bar for invoking the Act: it should be used only where existing laws are inadequate. That they were not inadequate was clear since the Ambassador bridge, the most important of all transportation links between Canada and the US, was cleared of protesters and trucks with a mere court injunction.

The CCLA also objected that the Act applies only when ‘the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada’ is threatened. Do the protesters constitute such a threat? The element of menace is undoubtedly present in the so-called ‘Freedom Convoy’. It clearly leans to the hard right, contains white supremacists, Christian fundamentalists, Islamophobes, conspiracy theorists who declared their aim as being overthrow the government through non-parliamentary and electoral means. Such insurrectionism smacks of fascism. Moreover, the hacking of the GiveSendGo fundraising website revealed considerable foreign funding, with 52,000 US donors giving $3.62 million compared to 36,000 Canadians giving $4.3 million. This also raises the possibility that the US right-wing encouraging Trumpist, 6 January-style fascistic politics in Canada. What is not clear is how many protesters belong to the hard core of those committed to such objectives.

The real issue, however, is that the authorities are paralysed before the protesters. Will the Emergencies Act end that paralysis?  For weeks, the law remained unenforced and few arrests were made. Many asked whether law enforcement would have been so lax had the protesters been left-wing, Indigenous or non-white. There is evidence of considerable sympathy for the protesters among police forces across the country. Perhaps this is because the electorally insecure prime minister and provincial premiers are unwilling alienate the largely suburban, white middle class the protesters appeal to. Trudeau’s minority government cannot afford to lose that support.

Why did Trudeau act when he did? He may have been forced into action after his phone call with US President Biden. That the Americans are unhappy about the trade disruption the protests have caused is plain from much US commentary on the subject. Such motives had already forced Ontario premier Doug Ford, otherwise reliant on the same suburban, white middle class voters that made up the ‘Ford Nation’ set up by his late brother, to clear the Ambassador Bridge just days before.

While he was at it, Trudeau may also have taken the opportunity to put the opposition Conservative Party in a fix.  Erin O’Toole was replaced as Conservative leader for not supporting the protests by an interim leader who clearly supports them but the divisions remain. The traditional party of law and order is now home to a hard-right insurrectionist element that will oppose the Act in parliament while more traditional conservatives will support it. This division can give Mr Trudeau considerable political and electoral advantage.

However, any advantage Trudeau secures from dividing the Conservatives will fail to compensate when, as is likely, his melodramatic gesture falls flat or unfolds in a darkly farcical fashion. The plain fact is that the reluctance that Canadian authorities have shown in enforcing the law is not going to disappear simply because the Emergencies Act is in force. Many Western premiers have already refused to use it and are, instead, using the opportunity created by the protests in lifting more pandemic restrictions though the danger is far from gone. Since the ordinary laws of Canada were already adequate to deal with the protesters’ infractions, what is worrying is what the increased authoritarian powers will be used for.

The only really useful element of power that the Emergencies Act gives the government is the right to use anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing mechanisms, particularly the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). However, the protesters can use crypto currencies, long left deliberately unregulated by monetary authorities. As for FINTRAC, as a critic noted some years ago, it has ‘been called out … for weak laws and half-hearted enforcement.’ Much financial skullduggery hides behind privacy laws and these groups are bound to exploit it

Canada appears a long way from Trumpist fascism. However, one should recall that fascism does not storm bastions of power; it is let into power’s corridors by those in charge.

Today, Canada’s leaders appear as prone to do that as any others. Yesterday’s invocation of the Emergencies Act could come to count as Mr Justin Trudeau’s worst political decision.

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  1. Michael Ismoe

    As of this morning the authorities have towed 76 trucks out of Ottawa. If a country needs emergency powers to clear out the equivalent of a small Nebraska truck stop, it says a lot more about the country than the protesters.

    Trudeau ought to pilloried for never bothering to meet the protestors or a representative. If he was American, he’d be a Democrat.

    1. Cocomaan

      In the US, I remember it took a single conference call of mayors to raze most of the occupy encampments and send everyone home. The protest movement was over in a week or so.

      This was multiple cities spread over thousands of miles and many jurisdictions. The patriot act was in full force at the time too.

      1. Radhika Desai

        Just to be clear, I am not supporting the use of authoritarian policiing or emergency powers. What I am saying is that the authoriteis, Liberal and conservative, are willing to use quite effective policing against left, Indigenous or non-white protesters but not such blatantly illegal protests.

        1. Cocomaan

          I don’t know enough about Canadian responses to those protests but yes it seems to me that nobody did any policing to stop this.

          The same thing happened on 1/6, which was a telegraphed set of protests that somehow took police and intelligence agencies completely by surprise and rendered them impotent.

          Where my concern for Canadians is now is that this will all be pretexts for further draconian measures, which makes you wonder whether people who like power let this get out of control.

          1. jabalarky

            The police in Ottawa (and elsewhere) were sympathetic to the protesters. We have numerous examples of police giving thumbs ups, high fives, hugs, etc. to convites, and we’ve seen that they happily allowed the protesters to roll into the city and set up fortified supply depots.

            The cops doing the enforcing in Ottawa are RCMP, from Toronto, or from Quebec.

            What needs to be examined here, among other things, is how much alt-right sympathy exists among the men with guns.

    1. Radhika Desai

      Yes, long left unregulated even though there is evidence that those engaging in it are addicted to it just like gambling.

  2. Gerd

    This wasn’t Trudeau’s responsibility but the buck stopped with him. As the article states above “The real issue, however, is that the authorities are paralysed before the protesters.”

    This issue should have been handled by the Ottawa police. But they were either too complacent or the cops on the ground were sympathetic. They couldn’t handle it.

    The next step was the Province of Ontario but the Premier there is somewhat a populist who was unwilling to take action.

    So the buck was passed up to Trudeau. He handled it but it should never have got to him.

    1. eg

      I believe that this is the correct assessment, Gerd. The “tell” is how quickly Premier Ford moved on the Ambassador Bridge interdiction after weeks of silence about Ottawa, a city also within his jurisdiction. For the distinction between the two, look no further than political calculations on Ford’s part, facing as he is a June election with a restive populace inflamed by two years of increasingly politicized public health restrictions.

    2. Nort

      Excellent take. Seeing the hashtag #OttawaIsInOntario on twitter, I could not fathom why Ford did not take a harder line on these protests. I am mixed on the use of the act but I view it as necessary to rapidly evacuate the occupation of hard-line right wingers from our federal capital city. The capitulation of the Federal Conservatives to these protesters disgusts me, even more than their policy of “elect us, Liberals are bad and terrible and we can do a better job because we are not them.”

      This looks bad on Ford, IMO. The question is will it be enough to remove him from office this summer.

      1. eg

        In my experience, first term majority Ontario governments rarely lose outright in their first election as incumbents. A reduced majority or a minority are the more likely outcomes.

    3. Radhika Desai

      Not quite: by authorities I meant Federal, provincial and municipal. All were reluctant and remained inactive for a long time…

  3. Gerd

    On a separate point….people look at the protest and see what they want to see.

    Its just a peaceful protest OR residents of Ottawa are being harrassed on the streets just for wearing a mask.

    The trucks dont honk their horns at night OR residents of Ottawa can’t sleep at night

    The protest is a front for the alt right OR there was only one or two nazi flags/alt right people

    The protest is anti mandate OR the protest is anti vax with mandates as an excuse

    Trudeau should meet with the protesters OR why would someone meet with people whose major demand is he resign

    The protest is legitimate, everyone has the right to protest OR protest is fine but blocking streets and border crossings is too much

    And so on……

    1. Radhika Desai

      Protest is different from occupation. Woudl a left wing or Indigenous or Black protest be treated with kid gloves as this occupation was?

  4. TimD

    It was an interesting mess from the start. Biden’s cross border trucker vaccination requirement went into effect 1 week after the Canadian government’s requirement. So the rules were pretty much the same for both sides. The right wing has been ramping people up to be hateful towards the ruling Liberals for years and this recent requirement was enough to get them moving. When the truckers got to Ottawa, they basically told the federal government it was illegitimate and they were staying until the government either disbanded or ceded to their demands. Some members of the loyal opposition were getting selfies with the truckers and offering support. About the same time it became apparent that the covid mandates were a provincial responsibility – not federal – so they were in the wrong place.

    The then Conservative leader got fired by his caucus, my guess is because he wasn’t pro-trucker and anti-mandate enough. Then an interim leader was put in as the protests spread to borders with the US. The blockade of the Ambassador Bridge cost companies a lot of money and they got an injunction against the blockade; after that all political parties fell in line. The interim leader told the truckers to go home – once that happened they were seen as being on the side of government.

    What was very interesting was that the Ottawa police chief got relieved of duty and a new chief came in. It is hard to say if the old chief was sympathetic towards the truckers – he kept saying he was powerless. The new chief credited the emergencies powers legislation to let him carry out the needed operation to clear the streets. The law is currently being debated and it looks like it will pass. The conservatives and a right-wing party from Quebec are opposed to it, but it is more for show because they could not get the protestors to stop and the whole country was tired of the protests/occupation. They are still against the emergency law on principle – but then again so is every party.

    This is very much Canada’s J6. People who are frustrated were turned into projectiles, aimed by the right wing and fired at some target. They felt like victims and that their concerns had more legitimacy than the government did. The economic system keeps generating people like this – frustrated people who feel they are losing out. The Democrats in the US and Liberals in Canada are too busy selling neoliberalism to do anything other than see them as a problem. The right-wing in both countries are learning how to weaponize them.

    1. eg

      A fair and excellent summation of a complex situation, TimD. While the incident in Ottawa is over, the fault lines it reveals still remain. I agree that the neoliberalism which has eaten policymakers’ brains is what prevents us from achieving real and lasting solutions.

    2. Radhika Desai

      Thanks, Tim. I think we are on roughly the same wavelength. The key is to see the contradictions in the situtation. Only that will allow us to get an idea of how this will unfold. The freedom convoy may have been persuaded to go home (did they need emergency powers for that?) but we need to understand that is not the end of the story and given how authorities have behaved so far, it does not bode well for the defence of the rule of law or constitutionality.

      1. TimD

        Yes, I agree – we are pretty close. I learn from the differences and appreciate when we can have a consensus.

        I imagine a situation where we all own an equal share of the organizations we work at and have people who we elect to represent us nationally that meet at a central location to make rules. We decide that the measures for social distancing, wearing masks, reduced capacities of indoor places, passports to show compliance and getting vaccines is a good idea to protect our society from Covid so we pass rules to that effect.

        Then a group that decides not to get vaccines feels like second class citizens because the don’t want to follow our democratic rules. Their next step is to converge at that national central location, try to top it from doing work by blocking the streets, blockading the borders to disrupt economic activity and demand that the government step down. I would communicate to my representative that these people are flaunting our rules and acting like they have special rights – when all they have is the freedom to complain without undue disruption and the freedom of living with their choice of not getting vaccinated. Their legal due process is to make their case at the local level so that we agree with their course of action.

        In my imaginary scenario, one that is a cooperative economy, I get the same result as what is happening. Now if the Liberals act like Nazis – I will be out on the streets. So far they aren’t. I heard that the police took a softer stance because of their G20 actions in Toronto – if not there is a good reason to push against right wing bias. Cheers,

    3. Canadadanac

      Hello again TimD.

      Your claim that the convoy protest “is very much Canada’s J6” caught my eye. Could you provide some supporting evidence for that claim? On January 6th, 2021 a very large group of protesters entered the Capitol Building in Washington, DC with what is generally considered to be ill intent. Did the trucker convoy protesters do the same with the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa? Or are you making a false equivalency between the trucker convoy protests and what some describe as an insurrection attempt in the US?

      1. TimD

        From what I know of J6 they were right-wing, did not see the elected government as legitimate, and acted like they were entitled to be in the capitol building. The “truckers” are largely right-wing, don’t see Justin Trudeau and his liberals as a legitimate government and see their rights as somehow more important than others.

        What I did find interesting is that almost 1/2 the money raised through GoFundMe came from the US, Donald Trump and most of the US right wing were very supportive of the truckers. I also heard that a Republican congressperson wants to offer the truckers asylum in the US. The interim Conservative leader called them patriots in her time to go home speech – Trump, and America’s right-wing saw the J6 people as patriots as well.

        What the truckers were fighting was a government’s ability to pass laws to keep Canadians safe from Covid. They were not protesting for native rights, or women’s equality or anything that would make Canadians better off. They just thought if they got loud and aggressive they make the government see the light.

        1. Canadadanac

          Hi TimD.

          I’ve asked for supporting evidence and you’ve provided none, instead you’ve deployed the guilt by association logical fallacy and you’ve built a strawman. And what an ugly and frightening strawman it is. Let’s stick a domestic terrorist sign on it, invoke the Emergency Measures act, and extrajudicially freeze it’s bank accounts and cancel it’s credit cards.

          As I’ve said in my other comment, if you care about native rights and women’s equality then you should be appalled at the Emergency Measures act being invoked here. Instead you are celebrating the lowering of the bar to deploy what is effectively the “nuclear option” when it means that if some future government which is hostile to native rights and women’s equality comes to power they can now cite this precedent to use the act to suppress your right to protest their retrograde policies.

          1. TimD

            Woah, where did I use the word terrorist?

            I care about native rights and women’s equality. I also supported Quebec getting more rights. But I didn’t support the bombing, kidnapping or murder of the FLQ. I told you the information I used to base my opinion – I am free to have one, aren’t I?

            If the truckers would have just marched up and down Wellington I for an afternoon or two, I would be fine with that. I would also tell them that mandates are a provincial responsibility – not federal. At what point does freedom of speech become limited by the needs of society to operate? Is it an absolute? If you don’t like a speeding ticket can you throw it in the trash and tell the government it is illegitimate?

            1. Canadadanac

              No you didn’t. And I’m glad to see you don’t seem to think it should be used in the context of the trucker convoy protest. You’ll be shocked and appalled, then, to discover that the Canadian Government now has expanded the scope of the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act to go after donors who contributed to the convoy via crowdfunding platforms!

              This article has dropped off the NC main page. It looks like we’re the last ones left in the room. Please turn off the lights on your way out. I’m glad we could end our discussion on a point we agree on.

              1. TimD

                I would agree that the truckers are some type of proto-fascist movement manipulated by the right wing to so dissension in the country.

  5. Carolinian

    Trumpist fascism

    A dose of knee jerk TDS here IMO. Indeed I believe Trudeau himself tried to compare the truckers to Jan 6 and “insurrection” thereby falling in line with Biden’s and the Dem’s assumption that all objectors on the right are “terrorists.” But could this situation instead be an example of creating the thing you claim to fear even as Biden creates a crisis in Ukraine so he can pose as freedom fighter for American values? Fascism–the real thing–was heavily dependent on top down propaganda “making the lie big enough”:to justify almost any kind of tyranny. And historically middle class people are often supportive of authoritarians because they too feel their position threatened by the rabble. In the bigger picture it may not matter whether the truckers are “right” or “left.” It’s the ones with the power we have to fear. And at the moment that looks a lot more like the Bidens and Trudeaus of the world than the conspiracy theorists of the right.

    1. lance ringquist

      well said. i gasped when the author called this fascism. fascism is when the state always acts in the interests of corporations.

      when that bridge was blocked, i predicted the free traders would go into over drive and do what ever was necessary to unblock the bridge.

      the fascist trudeau would not even speak to them, which tells volumes where his loyalties lay

      the real fascists used government power to placate the corporations. next time trudeau will use raw brute strength just to make sure canadians know where their futures lay.

      canada has had a long line of really bad leaders, but canada finally got their nafta billy clinton/empty suit hollowman obama, and the same dim witted type of voters love him, as the look down at the deplorable.

      to bad the dim wits cannot manufacture a economy that works. they have manufactured a economy that works for a tiny few, but thats not sustainable, as we see today that the pillage and plunder of russia, and seizing bank accounts is about all the growth policies they have left

      1. TimD

        I am not sure what Trudeau would talk to them about. The requirement for truckers to be vaccinated to go to the US came from Biden’s administration and the mandates on masks and passports are provincial jurisdiction. The federal bit was having non-vaccinated truckers quarantine upon return. The truckers chose to not get vaccinated and then didn’t like that there were consequences to their choices.

        I have the freedom to express my opinion. What they were saying was that they had the freedom to choose which law they would obey and enforcement of laws they didn’t like took away their freedom.

      2. HotFlash

        I would remind people that a very slight change in route by truckers would work fine. So, instead of crossing at the Ambassador, they could continue on I75/I96/I96 from Detroit to Port Huron, MI, then cross at the Blue Water Bridge. Straight shot to London, where the 402 meets the 401 from Windsor and Bob is your uncle. Extra time? Approx 15 minutes, according to Mapquest, less if the PH bridge customs is less congested, which it usually is b/c two bridges, not one. Works in reverse, too (doh). So, someone please explain to me what is/was the problem with the Ambassador Bridge ‘blockade’?

        1. eg

          Lots of local auto manufacturing in Windsor — I’m not sure that your 15 minutes of extra time by going via Sarnia instead of over the Ambassador Bridge works for that industry (not to mention the difference in capacity at the two border crossings).

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? Prof. Desai states that there are hard right wing elements among the protestors and it is an open question as to how representative they were. That’s hardly TDS. That is acknowledging the mainstream depiction of the protestors and saying it is a known unknown as to how accurate it is (as in there is some not dispositive evidence).

      1. Alex Cox

        But the author concludes with the term ‘Trumpist fascism’ as if that were a given, with which all reasonable people agree. This is hardly so.

        Fascism, as its inventor Mussolini declared, was the merge of the corporations and the state. So the clearing of the bridge by the armed forces of the state to benefit GM and the Ford motor co would seem to be a classic example of fascism in practice.

        1. Radhika Desai

          on the questin of fascism: My use of the word fascist is not casual, it was very careful. I understand the distinctiveness of fascism, as opposed to other ‘exceptional’ forms of bourgeois rule such as, say, military dictatorship, to involve the deployment of parastate agenies of violence, such as the black shirts and brown shirts in Italy and Germany. The existing repressive apparatus of the state is not enough or is perceived to be not enough. Orgazations marshalling the energies of lumpen or other youth exist. They their service and, at some critical points, the normal ruling classes – those who call themselves liberals or ‘old style’ even patrician conservatives, take that offer.

          I have said the insurrectionist politics smack of fascism. I have said there is an attempt at fascistic politics. I have said that fascism succeeds when established powers let them into the portals of power. There is also the implication that the sort of reluctance we have seen of various authorities, including Liberal Trudeau and the sort of smpatny we have seen in Conservative premiers of provincies, shows that there is greater deference to the freedom convoy type of force than to any others. Left, Black on indigenous forces would not be treated with kid gloves as these folks have been and they are likely to be back.

          All this is not only true but, according to me, what makes the chain of events from the convoy to the belated and unnecessary invocation of emergenc powers worrying. Capitalism may be bad enough, fascism is much worse.

          1. Carolinian

            Apologies if I misconstrued your intent but I object to a phrase that I feel is far too casually used by others if not by you. It sheds more heat than light and should perhaps be confined to its place in history.

            One need hardly point out that in the 2016 campaign there were claims that Trump had a copy of Mein Kampf by his bedside and other reports that seem quite silly if you pay any attention to Trump, who barely seems to read any books at all (his was written by someone else).

          1. Basil Pesto

            the corporations + state per Mussolini definition of fascism has had an airing here before but when it is discussed in comments it’s pretty thoroughly repudiated as sloppy history,
            possibly iirc related to a mistranslation. At any rate, a definition clearly remains elusive and there’s no point pretending otherwise, although I like Paxton’s definition which has been discussed at length here in longer posts by Lambert.

      2. Carolinian

        I did say IMO to the phrase I quoted–in my opinion–and would say the same about any casual linking of the words “Trump” or Trumpist and “fascism.” I think this is an-historic. Others may disagree.

        You get this phrase on Counterpunch all the time

        And actually the thrust of my comment is the further suggestion that state sponsored propaganda is a much more telling sign of fascism than Trump’s supposed racism (probably true) since racism is something you find in almost any government or culture. But that too is IMO.

  6. voislav

    I think that the real turning point was the border blockade. While protest was isolated to Ottawa, the establishment seemed content to let it go on. Once they started blocking the Ambassador Bridge, things turned very quickly.

    This may be the reason we saw police and Ontario authorities come alive at last, there are commercial interests that have a direct line to all major actors, including police officials. So initially Ontario and police authorities were inactive due to tacit support of the protesters agenda and the pain inflicted on the Liberal government. As soon as the commercial interests started hurting they would have been pressuring the authorities to act.

    Invocation of Emergency Act seems to me more of a fig leaf cover for the local and police authorities to be able to say that they had no choice but to act. So they avoid the political inconvenience of having to suppress their own supporters, while resolving the issue facing their corporate interests.

    1. Radhika Desai

      Thanks, Voislav. I think it’s entirely possible that the border blockade was the turning point. Biden called Trudeau and gave him the marching orders. Trudeau had to do something and did, invoking the emergency powers to make it look like it was the thing that would make things happen when, all along, he and the other levels of governmetn had plenty of power to act, legally and materially.

  7. eg

    Precisely — you have nailed the motivation underlying Ford’s otherwise inexplicable inaction on Ottawa compared to the Ambassador Bridge. Follow the money and it will lead you to the politics.

  8. TimD

    Yes good point. The Ontario premier Ford started talking about $100,000 fines and jail to help clear the Ambassador Bridge at least a week before Trudeau put in the emergency act.

    Conservatives like Ford and Kenney (Alberta premier) were okay with the truckers until they blocked the borders.

  9. Canadadanac

    Long time reader (going back to the GFC), first time commenter and huge fan of you, and the work that you and your team do. I am compelled to abandon my reclusive abode in lurkerdom. Yves, as a Canadian I was dismayed to read your comments on this topic.

    The state of Canadian public opinion on the truckers convoy and/or the invocation of The Emergency Measures act in Canada is simply irrelevant to critical question – is the invocation of The Emergency Measures act warranted and justified or is it completely unjustified and being used to perpetuate an egregious violation of civil liberties that sets a terrible precedent and dramatically lowers the bar for future governments to invoke the act to suppress what, up until now, is the legal and protected right to free speech, protest and dissent in Canada.

    Please be aware that Canadians who made completely legal, small-sum donations to support the convoy (free speech) long before it reached Ottawa are today waking up to find their bank accounts frozen and their credit cards cancelled – with no judicial oversight and no recourse. The government is targeting independent media for covering the protest and freezing their bank accounts as well. Police are currently preventing independent media for accessing the “secured area” (the fortified and heavily guarded area around parliament where the protest took place) but allowing state media (CBC) unfettered access. This is the stuff of authoritarian dictatorships, not progressive liberal democracies.

    Every Canadian citizen is entitled to a fair trial before punishment. Instead we have the government and police in collusion with the big banks deciding, with no oversight or recourse for their victims, to punish people who who have not even been charged with a crime. Whatever your view of the trucker convoy protest you have to understand they’re coming for you next. Want to protest the latest Neo-liberal government agenda? Emergency Measures! Domestic terrorist! You’re now impoverished and banished from society. No need to bother with pesky laws. What’s this… Protesting in favour of indigenous people’s rights are we? Emergency Measures! You’re a white supremacist! (I know, doesn’t make sense – artistic license to portray the Kafkaesque nature the current situation). If the government can suspend our rights and freedoms whenever a situation is not to their liking then we simply have no rights and freedoms at all.

    Who do we turn to, to help us wrestle with this question, but avowed Marxist Dr. Radhika Desai. Dr. Desai is the editor of “Revitalising Marxist Theory for Today’s Capitalism“, “Twenty-first-century capital: Critical post-Soviet Marxist reflections“, and other Marxists works. It’s fine that Ms. Desai is a Marxist… it’s a (purportedly) free country. But don’t expect her to give what she evidently believes is a right-leaning movement a fair hearing. Her pejorative assessment that the convoy is comprised of “white supremacists, Christian fundamentalists, Islamophobes, conspiracy theorists who declared their aim as being overthrow the government through non-parliamentary and electoral means” is nothing but extreme-left, woke-tribe dog whistling and is a practically verbatim regurgitation of what left-leaning the Canadian Liberal government and the very left-leaning official opposition (NDP) are saying in parliament. This message is faithfully echoed by the subservient, bought and paid for Canadian MSM. These media companies have a failed business model and were circling the drain when the Liberal government recently bailed them out to the tune of $600 million dollars (chump change in the American context, but a massive sum here in Canada). The new Canadian MSM business model is simple – qualify for the next government bailout. The media here will not bite the hand that feeds them.
    (“fact check”? methinks the lady doth protest too much)

    The characterizations of the composition and intentions of the convoy protest by Dr. Desai, the Canadian government and the Canadian MSM are outright lies. There were numerous livestreams from the protest (sometimes 20 or more live at once) with thousands of hours of collective footage still available on YouTube today. Check out some of the most prominent YouTube livestreamer channels – Viva Frei (Jewish and hardly a white supremacists), ZOT and Ottawalks for example – and you will see a completely different story from what MSM has been portraying. Racists? Look for yourself and you will see a multi-racial group with many black people, Asians, indigenous people and Sikhs. Christian fundamentalists? Again the many Sikhs present at the protest would beg to differ. Islamophobes? In the dozens of hours of livestream footage that I watched I did not hear Islam or criticism of Islam mentioned once. Overthrow the government?! Again, never mentioned in any footage I saw. Instead I heard people talking about peace, love, unity and a sense of hope after what we can all agree has been a very dark and difficult two years. With all the thousands of hours of publicly available footage of the protest where is the evidence to support the smears against the protesters?

    We all have our opinions regarding COVID-related mandates, but’s let’s please agree that there is plenty of room in our liberal democracy to disagree on topics without attempting to Other those with opposing views and irrevocably crush and destroy them. Going down this path is cultural suicide.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Your comment is post is tantamount to going to a Japanese restaurant and being annoyed that you can’t get pizza.

      This post is explicitly about whether Trudeau will face blowback for his Emergencies Act overreach. Prof. Desai argues he will, which is a far harsher conclusion than most commentators reach. She even says this is the worst decision he has ever made. But that’s not enough political bloodlust for you?

      We already wrote a critical post on one aspect of the Emergencies Act, the money heist, which you have pointedly ignored.

      This post is not assessing the legalities or the morality of this move, but was picking up on the discussion yesterday among Canadian and Canadian-knowledgeable readers. In case you missed it, we in the US have had an enormous erosion of individual civil liberties, starting with Obama getting rid of habeas corpus and our Patriot Act. We have also had erosion of the rule of law, as illustrated by the chain of title/foreclosure crisis, where literally millions of homes were foreclosed upon when the servicer did not have the legal right to do so, and even worse, in most cases, a mortgage modification would have produced better financial outcomes for mortgage investors and the borrower.

      Neither we nor Prof. Desai never “othered” the truckers. This is entirely your projection. She said it “contained” the elements she listed, which is entirely accurate, without stating how representative they are. It is still not well known how significant the far right representation was, the very same way antifa/Black Bloc presence (which most who were involved thought was not very representative) served to allow Occupy Wall Street to depicted as more anarchist/destructively radical than it was.

      Like it or not, there were neo-Nazi images at the protests which allowed the protesters to be tarred as fascists. We’ve actually not allowed through many many comments that depict them as fascists with no evidence, so your criticism of this site is totally out of line.

      And as for “othering,” you do that with Prof. Desai, by accusing her of being “woke” when she is merely including utterly mainstream tropes about the protestors in her discussion. You attempting to make her including mainstream depictions of the truckers (and like it or not, those conventional views are very powerful in shaping political outcomes) into a statement of her politics is sheer projection.

      While I do not know for sure with respect to Prof. Desai either way, Marxists in general (see WSWS and Adolph Reed in particular) very much see the world through class and financial power first, and other lenses at most second. Many like Reed explicitly opposes wokeness as an elite divide and conquer strategy towards the working class.

      1. Canadadanac

        Hi Yves. Thank you for allowing my comment to pass moderation even though you clearly have some, justifiable I now see, issues with it. I take your point regarding portions of my comment being inappropriate for the post. Sorry about that. Should I speak up in the future, I’ll try not to make that mistake again.

        I think Dr. Desai went a little further than “merely including utterly mainstream tropes about the protestors” and simply saying “it ‘contained’ the elements she listed“… she calls it a “so-called ‘Freedom Convoy’” and she said that “It clearly leans to the hard right“. My speculation as to why she has this bias may have been inappropriate considering as I have no insight into her state of mind or her motivations. However the bias is there and I wanted to point it out.

        In contrast to her representation of the protest if one watches the livestream footage one won’t see “the hard right” instead one will see a broad group of people from all walks of life, from all socioeconomic classes, from a broad spectrum of ethnic backgrounds and from the left, the right and everything in between. The protesters came together galvanized by the concepts of freedom and liberty, and put aside their differences for that common cause.

      2. Alphonse

        I think this is the objectionable passage:

        It clearly leans to the hard right, contains white supremacists, Christian fundamentalists, Islamophobes, conspiracy theorists who declared their aim as being overthrow the government through non-parliamentary and electoral means. Such insurrectionism smacks of fascism. Moreover, the hacking of the GiveSendGo fundraising website revealed considerable foreign funding, with 52,000 US donors giving $3.62 million compared to 36,000 Canadians giving $4.3 million. This also raises the possibility that the US right-wing encouraging Trumpist, 6 January-style fascistic politics in Canada. What is not clear is how many protesters belong to the hard core of those committed to such objectives.

        I don’t think it is at all clear that it leans to the hard right, as you say yourself. I know of breakaway left-wing groups that align with the protesters.

        Right from the start, government and media spun a far-right narrative. There was one man with a Confederate flag, who was soon called out by other protesters, and a couple of photos of a Nazi flag during the first couple of days – it never resurfaced, and no-one was able to discover who carried it. Trudeau’s government and the media stuck to this claim, and it became common sense among many Canadians that these were Nazis. Anyone who watched the protest knows that it is not representative of the overwhelming majority, for whom the issue is covid restrictions.

        It is true that some of the most prominent voices among the protesters do have right-wing connections. You have documented this. The media particularly focused on Pat King, who seems to be a straight-up white nationalist. He looks to me more like a self-promoter elevated by the media. Of the two main leaders, Dichter is a Jew who has made anti-Islamic comments. Some among the truckers made absurd demands for the Governor General to remove the government. The main protest demands, however, were what you would expect: an end to covid restrictions and support for small businesses.

        My impression is that many of these people are Christian. Fundamentalist I don’t know – (are fundamentalists hard right?). A lot of are moms who are furious that little kids are stuck in masks all day. There are also civil libertarians, Christians who feel under attack by wokeness, and IDW types.

        Funding: the US has about 9x our population. There was tremendous widespread frustration online before the convoys. I watched the fundraiser go viral and people sign up. No conspiracy.

        There is one widespread conspiracy theory. The facts: The World Economic Forum is pushing the Great Reset. They promise a future in which “you will own nothing and you will be happy.” You will have no privacy and everything will be a service. In one video, Klaus Schwab boasts that graduates of the WEF Young Leaders programme have “penetrated” many governments – including Trudeau and half his cabinet. The WEF, EU, and others were planning to roll out digital IDs and digital currencies before covid. This is all documented fact.

        The conspiracy: Covid, and particularly vaccine passports, are being used as a justification for rolling out universal digital ID as the basis for a China-style social credit system. Trudeau’s extrajudicial suspension of bank accounts of protesters is an example of how dissent will be made impossible. This is often called communism or fascism.

        There is also a feeling of a culture under siege: Christianity is being replaced by wokeness. Masks and social distancing divide people, reducing empathy and human relationships. Children are growing up in isolation and are increasingly suffering from mental illness. We are being pushed into online interactions (Zoom, the Metaverse). Covid restrictions have devastated small businesses, while supercharging the likes of Amazon. The extreme parts of the trans movement essentially say that we are not our bodies – the body is just a material thing to be transformed to suit our consciousness.

        All of this throws into sharp relief the traditional conservative belief in human nature, contrasted with the extreme left idea that people are entirely socially constructed. (Wokenss is a pure distillation of this.)

        You distinguish between PMC liberals and the class-conscious left. That left is marginal. Fear of white supremacy and covid authoritarianism are assimilating what wokeness did not. A realignment is underway. The left has accurately named itself progressive: it believes in the progress of humanity and society through the conscious control of history, using the power of government and technology. Its convictions (even wokeness) are universal and globalist. It is in favour of big business (especially tech) working closely with big government.

        The right is shifting too. The libertarian love of free markets is giving way to an awareness that markets threaten communities and a suspicion of progress. There is a suspicion of technology and big business, and an increased focus on the body, health and on nutrition. The key divisions that remain are human nature, progress, the role of government, and (in many cases) religion. The class conflict, I think, is Piketty’s Merchants vs Brahmins, with the working class no longer owned by the left, but not entirely welcomed on the right either.

        I think white supremacy is a bogeyman. Opponents of immigration, yes; people who want to retain the traditional Canadian culture, yes; prejudice towards groups that have not “succeeded” (“lazy so-and-sos”), yes (a mirror image of the “get an education” attitude of the PMC). All of these are used to claim that white supremacy is a threat. It is not. It has never been weaker. These people do exist. The real problem is authoritarianism, not white supremacy. For as Stuart Parker (an honourable class-first leftist) said, wherever you stand, authoritarians stand near you.

        What did the protesters want? Men, women, black, Sikh, white, native – what they said they wanted, day in an day out on videos and social media. An end to Covid restrictions, especially vaccine mandates and passports. And to simply be heard by a government that never met with them. I think anything else is conspiracy theory.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          While on the whole this is very well reasoned, and I appreciate you unpacking your argument, I’m not keen about your comments on the WEF and digital passports. I had said the whole digital passport effort would fall apart and it is. If you want to worry about something, worry about 5G which allows for even more precise geolocation. But the flip side is that is being used to promote IoT, which will be another cluster.

          And as for technology being used to change property rights, Stoller pointed to this in an IBM document in a 2012 post and it was an old idea by then, even if it hadn’t gotten into the political realm. The big promoters are lawyers, just as it was lawyers who ushered in securitization, not WEF squillionaires.

          As for the left being marginal, did you miss Bernie Sanders, pre Covid, regularly pulled in more people at his rallies than any other Dem contender? And the Democrats had to pull every dirty trick they had to beat him? Although Sanders did partly sabotage himself in his 2020 campaign by getting a more “experienced” campaign team. They had enough Dem loyalties that they turned on him after the Weekend of the Long Knives, with more than half urging him to quit. That meant either they would quit or would at best not be very keen about the campaign. You can’t carry on if your staff is not fully behind you.

          1. Alphonse

            Sanders was great (or as great as is possible in the current system). He was robbed. The world is changing rapidly and I think it has moved on. It’s not what I would have wanted, but it is what it is.

            These people are accused of conspiracy theories. It’s worth knowing what that means and how credible or crazy it is. I’m not advocating for or against. I actually don’t think it matters much. I don’t think our lords and masters are very competent (Trudeau’s response was not that of a mastermind). Even without a conspiracy, everything can be explained by insularity, groupthink, conformity and class interest.

            The Emergencies Act is like a conspiracy come to life. But I see it as a dangerous path regardless of intent. Conspiracies tend to focus on the psychology of individual masterminds. I think the character of our institutions is what we need to worry about.

            I suggest, however, that this same scepticism be applied to claims about the truckers: the idea that a cabal of white supremacists and radical right wingers stage managing the whole thing is also a conspiracy theory. It’s not necessary. Just listen to what participants actually say.

            I think along similar lines to you that technocracy as a whole is the real danger regardless. Heidegger, the Frankfurt School, Jacques Ellul, Marshall McLuhan, Alasdair MacIntyre – even Uncle Ted: technological society has dangerous biases regardless of the individuals managing it.

            In the end, I think we’re headed for decline and collapse along the lines laid out by people like John Michael Greer. Even a digital panopticon will not be able to survive the future. As David Fleming (Lean Logic) outlines, we can’t let political and policy myopia stop us from defending and building the sinews of community we will need to catch our fall. As I say in another comment, I think a wonkish focus on policy and ideology misunderstands what may be essential about the protest: a desire to recover community and togetherness from an alienated society.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Look, I have not been allowing comments through of the truckers = fascists sort.

              However, they were at best a loosely-led bunch. That means that they may have (initially) had a few right-wing extremists as members and attracted a lot more hangers-on who made a point of being disproportionately noisy about their other interests.

          1. eg

            I thought Evan Solomon had the best analogy to describe the composition of those at the Ottawa protest — the animals (participants) were varied in nature, but the farmers (the organizers) were all of the same retrograde ilk. Those claiming some heterogeneity among the participants, and it wasn’t terribly heterogeneous to begin with, are acting as apologists for the organizers.

    2. flora

      an aside: Philip Mirowski wrote about the traditional Marxist/left failure to understand the nature of the new neoliberal thought collective (NTC) which we’re dealing with, imo. His long essay ‘Hell is Truth Seen Too Late’, pages 8 – 15, gets to the point.

      “Let us start with the central term, “labor”. Historically, from Locke onwards, ‘labor’ was the human activity which both created and justified private property, and grounded natural ‘rights’. …. [In the NTC, however,] Rather than congealed labor, ‘capital’ gets confused with anything that can be priced, and is certainly never denominated in ‘hours’. In short, ‘labor’ ceases to exist as a distinct category [in the NTC], leaving the Marxist seriously at sea.”

    3. TimD

      Sorry but I checked your links and they didn’t really go anywhere. Conservative MP Mark Strahl made the claim on twitter, and that is about it. Same thing with Andy Lee, freelance journalist – there was one post. The article on Trudeau giving money to newspapers is from 2018 and part of a economic plan. I could not find anything from Dr. Radhika Desai on the truckers except that she is at the University of Manitoba.

      I think that even if the Conservatives were in government, they would use the act because the majority of people were very fed up with the protestors. Not just Ottawa but in pretty much every province. The protestors were met with class-action lawsuits and counter-protestors instead of the groundswell of support that they thought was coming. I could just imagine how well pictures of Conservative MPs with the protests will go over when they are running for re-election.

      1. Canadadanac

        Hello TimD.

        Thanks. Those are indeed the links I posted. Perhaps others will find them more useful than you appear to have, and take a different view than you have as to their implications.

        For reference here is the Emergencies Act:

        I don’t see anything in there about it’s invocation being justified because “the majority of people were very fed up with the protestors“.

        There are some, justifiably, very strict legal requirements to invoke the act. You haven’t made a case to support that any of those requirements have been met.

        1. TimD

          I think they used the great big hammer because there was no middle hammer or enough small ones. Is there a light version of the emergency act that I don’t know about?

          When people protest a law they get signs and meet at the parliament or some government building. They protest for a while and go home. If they make a good case and sway public opinion then the government can moderate its position. This last protest was nothing like that.

          The federal role in the trucker’s protest was truckers coming back to Canada after being in the US and vaccinations for federal employees. The US government required vaccinations for truckers crossing into the US, the provinces set vaccination passports, mask wearing, distancing and capacity limits for public spaces.

          They were protesting in Ottawa when they should have been protesting in Toronto or Edmonton or Victoria. They demanded that Trudeau remove all mandates or else, when he didn’t have jurisdiction. I don’t get it other than that they were trying to discredit the government and hope for a groundswell of support for their demand that the government be dissolved.

          What I do get is that some of the leaders from Alberta have been western separatists for years – they don’t see the federal government as legitimate. When they are rallying their troops, it is about the federales being evil incarnate and trying to ruin the lives of decent westerners. Covid was just a tool to get them ramped up. Lots of other people have grievances with the federales for other reasons, and they went to Ottawa as well. What they had in common was being angry people who aren’t getting their way. So they decided to bully anyone who got in their way.

          It over 2000 miles from the capital of Alberta to Ottawa. Some people drove from Vancouver, which is almost another 1000 miles. When they got there they acted like they had more rights than anyone else. I found it interesting that it went on for so long.

        2. TimD

          Sorry, I thought I had already replied. What I said earlier was that I didn’t know of any law that was half-way to the Emergencies Act. The government needed a hammer and that may have been the only one they had.

          Here is the other trick, if Trudeau kept doing nothing, he would be painted as weak and indecisive. When he pulls out the big hammer he is a tyrant. Most of the complaints on the use of it were from Conservatives that were initially supporting the truckers. As soon as the interim Conservative leader made the time to go home speech and it was roundly ignored; the conservatives showed that they didn’t have a leash on their dogs and it made it easier for Trudeau to invoke the emergency.

          The other part was that the border blocking in other provinces made it more national in scope and probably gave him a stronger argument to use it.

    4. lance ringquist

      thank you for your post. you now have in canada a full blown free tradin fascist, along the lines of nafta billy clinton, and empty suit obama, who will let nothing get in the way of their crank ideology, free trade.

      if you are a citizen you get this,

      bill clinton helped to create the patriot act, proposed building a wall against mexico, used the pre patriot act to attack muslims: The harm that Obama has done to devastate some of the poorest, war-torn countries on earth: Libya was the richest in Africa, and relatively stable until Hillary Clinton decided otherwise.

      Clinton was Secretary of State during Obama’s first term in office. In 2011, she craved for war. A ‘New York Times’ report citing 50 top US officials, left no doubt that Clinton was the ‘catalyst’ in the decision to go to war.

      FEBRUARY 9, 2017
      The Uncomfortable Truth: Are We Hating Donald Trump for the Wrong Reasons?

      if you are a country you get this,

      free trade is destroying the world: yugoslavia, free trade or else: Bill Clinton elaborated: If we’re going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world Europe has got to be the key; that’s what this Kosovo thing is all about… It’s globalism versus tribalism.

      Globalism’s First Victim. NATO’s War on Yugoslavia
      By David Orchard
      Global Research, March 27, 2018
      Region: Europe
      Theme: US NATO War Agenda
      In-depth Report: THE BALKANS

  10. lance ringquist

    this is a good over view of what fascism really is.

    Ask Prof Wolff: Finding Common Ground with Canadian Truckers

    A Patron of Economic Update asks: “I would appreciate hearing your thoughts about how this Canadian Truckers movement aligns with the international workers’ movements, if, in fact, you believe it does.”

    This is Professor Richard Wolff’s video response.

  11. Keith Newman

    Voislav, I think you have it right.
    Also many of the rank and file police were clearly sympathetic to the occupation as noted above in other comments and in many on-site media accounts.
    At the spontaneous Billings Bridge counter-demonstration that grew from 25 elderly ladies to a peak of 500 citizens at one time (probably 1000 total over the day as it was cold, between -15 and -20C, so people were coming and going constantly) that was clearly so. Calls of “whose streets? our streets!” were chanted. After some 25 trucks had been caught 7-8 hours by the counter-protest, a dozen police surrounded trucks to escort them out. This was not well received.
    In addition to commercial interests noted above, many regular citizens were becoming increasingly agitated by the continuing occupation and the police support for it. A counter demonstration was being organised to march within a few blocks of the Parliament Hill occupation. Given the number of people showing up to a spontaneous demo in normally sleepy Ottawa this could have led to a confrontation. It was cancelled because of the provincial and federal police actions to clear the occupation away beginning last Friday.

  12. Ottawa Observer

    Thank you lance ringquist for Prof Wolfe’s video on the truckers protest in Canada. While I agree with some of what the prof says I think he is unaware of many important facts. While I do support the truckers demand of no vaccine mandates I don’t support the protest itself. It has been co-opted by very conservative politicians and the trucker leadership has embraced that support.

    The broad context of the trucker protest is that after 40 years of neoliberalism the circumstances of increasing numbers of people have become precarious, feeding a growing sense of desperation. The Covid pandemic has made this worse. Anti-government sentiment, resentment against our liberal elite and their mainstream media have become more pronounced. The very right-wing forces whose actions in government were in large part responsible for people’s precarious circumstances now want us to focus on individual solutions and forget the idea of the public good. They focus on the self-centred notion of individual “rights” as unqualified individual entitlement, and oppose universal social programs and government regulation of big business.

    The context for the vaccines is that, while effective against disease symptoms, they do not prevent transmission of the virus nor last very long nor prevent new variants from developing. Boosters it seems will be required at least twice a year, indefinitely. And restrictions, well who knows? Many people are saying that after two years enough is enough.

    The truckers’ demands are for the elimination of vaccine mandates and passports. I agree with that demand. Why should people be forced to use experimental vaccines that produce serious side-effects in some populations and won’t put an end to the pandemic? While they do reduce strains on the healthcare system in the immediate term they are also theatre that allows our governments to appear to be doing something effective and provide a handy scapegoat for the governments’ failings: the unvaccinated. Instead of increasing the number of health personnel and expanding facilities, our governments continue to neglect the health system. They have also failed to reduce transmission of the virus by generously funding better ventilation, air filters and effective masks for our workplaces and schools.

    My problem with the truckers protest is that it focuses solely on narrow individual rights – no mandates, no vaccine passports. It so happens those demands coincide exactly with the demands of very conservative politicians whose prime focus is to oppose universal programs in healthcare, childcare, pharmacare, etc.

    This is illustrated by the fact that only the most conservative of politicians are supporting the truckers’ convoy protest, in particular Maxime Bernier who espouses the corporate libertarian line of having as little government as possible, the lowest taxes possible, and a zero budget deficit. The zero deficit policy is absurd and would collapse the economy as he well knows. It is very dishonest. Pierre Poilievre, an especially retrograde Conservative with a similar agenda, also supports the convoy protest.
    Their project for minimal government programs implies the slow elimination public health measures, Canadian Medicare, public and affordable long-term care, and the cancellation of the new and excellent national childcare program just being implemented. They are also totally opposed to broadening public health care to include prescription drugs, a plan supported by 85 percent of the Canadian population that would result in annual savings of at least 15% of drug costs across the country. These are not the people you want in charge if you have an even slightly progressive view of society.

    Then there are the puzzling actions of the Ottawa police. It is evident that a segment of the police force supports the protest by failing to enforce obvious violations of basic municipal by-laws. What is going on there I do not know but it is peculiar to say the least. This is the same police force that forcefully suppressed anti-globalization protests in the past.

    I contrast the support of conservative politicians to the truckers’ convoy today to their position on the students’ strike in Quebec 10 years ago. The students’ demand then was for affordable education, accessible to everyone and freedom from a lifetime of debt-servitude. Not a single conservative politician supported that protest.

    It is clear the truckers’ protest is being used by opportunistic conservative politicians and their supporters to advance their narrow policy goals. The convoy leadership could distance themselves from this parallel messaging by making a gesture toward improvements to, say, universal public healthcare, in addition to their demand for individual rights regarding vaccine passports and mandates. They have not done this.

    Further, I largely attribute this protest to the failure of normally progressive people, political organisations, and the labour movement, to strongly support workers who face the choice of vaccination or the loss of their job. Such support would have made the federal government much more cautious in implementing the vaccine mandate for truckers that triggered this whole thing in the first place. It is a manifestation of the weakness of any real left in the country. This is not unique to Canada of course. The ostensible left here has not seized the opportunity to understand the concerns of young and working class Canadians who generally support the truckers (Ipsos, Feb. 11, 2022). As an aside, Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of Labour in the UK, now excommunicated by Labour conservatives, is solidly against vaccine mandates, as is the UK labour movement.

    Lastly the federal government has declared a limited state of emergency to clear away the occupation in Ottawa and ensure border areas remain open. It’s an absurd over-reaction and worrisome for our civil liberties and I don’t agree with it. In fact the main thing that needed to be done, at least in Ottawa, was to enforce city by-laws. The Ottawa police didn’t do that for some reason. No other city has faced enduring encampments despite attempts to set them up.

      1. Ottawa Observer

        Thank you Radhika Desai.
        I would add that if you are a supporter of the truckers protest then what do you make of the counter-protest organised by the local labour movement on Feb 12? The “Community Solidarity March” involved several thousand people and supported workers and public health programs and measures. While I am very critical of the moribund Ottawa District Labour Council nonetheless it does represent many thousands of workers in the area and supports public services.
        So what is a person with progressive views to do? Support the individual rights, right wing backed, occupation or the labour movement supported march calling for more and better public services?

        1. lance ringquist

          if you think better public services is going to halt the destruction of the wests economy from the lunacy of free trade economics, you are ignoring whats going on in your own country.

          because south of the border we have little or no services, to americans canada looks like a paradise.

          the truckers have real grievousness, and by the amount of other workers joining them, others do to.

          this is a direct results of a lack of ability to create meaningful gainful employment in canada, as the idiot free traders running canada, engage in the lunacy of thinking that its more efficient to let canadas manufacturing leave the country.

          and the deplorable better learn how to code.

          i see that mind set has over taken just about the whole west today.

          more public services, a UBI, will not stop the deteriorating economies in the west. actually pouring more money into a system where its almost immediately siphoned off by wall street and the chinese communist party will only clog the ports more, make it even harder to support the trade deficits in the west, and raise prices even more.

          i am not against more services, or a UBI, but you better have a jobs guarantee that involves production, and the protectionism that’s needed to keep it from being under cut.

    1. lance ringquist

      what passes for the left nowadays is pathetic, and i am being polite here.

      nafta billy clinton, empty suit hollowman obama, tony bomb them blair, gerhard schroder, the light weight nit wit french guy that opened the door to macron, and now trudeau, among the many.

      oh and corbyn was a idiot, he embraced free trade when it was obvious that the labor voters had had enough of free trade. he lost a sure win! and could have mitigated withdrawal far better than boris lets party johnson.

      wolff is merely pointing out that if you abandon workers, you open the door to fascist.

      its easy to understand

      here is the economic lunacy of free trade economics that opened the door to the ultra conservative hitler: to restore economic equilibrium by a balanced budget, high interest rates and remaining on the gold standard — no emergency deficit spending. And the economy continued to slide

      center left government did this,

      “Brüning attempted to restore economic equilibrium by a balanced
      budget, high interest rates and remaining on the gold standard — no
      emergency deficit spending. And the economy continued to slide…….. ”

      “Perhaps one of the most interesting, if not frustrating parts of the rise of Trump is the inability to get Democrats to accept the idea that the economic policies of Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama set the stage for a man like Trump. I think that among the Clinton Liberals, the madness has reached the stage the Tea Party reached with its “Birther” conspiracies around Obama.”

      so instead of recognizing people do have concerns, trudeau used the heavy hand of government to make sure nothing stands in the way of free trade capitalism.

      what trudeau is doing, is what nafta billy clinton, and empty suit hollowman obama did, is to radicalize the canadian worker.

      playing right into the hands of the right.

      once you radicalize your people, its hard to get them back

    2. marym

      Re: ” My problem with the truckers protest is that it focuses solely on narrow individual rights – no mandates, no vaccine passports. It so happens those demands coincide exactly with the demands of very conservative politicians whose prime focus is to oppose universal programs in healthcare, childcare, pharmacare, etc.”

      Observing the protest from the US (somewhat random twitter accounts of Canadian journalists and activists) and trying not to project too much about what I see in conservative politics here, that’s also my general opinion of conservative, anti-mandate activism in the US right now.

      With some variations, the goal of ending pandemic restrictions, with no further demands for economic/social benefits is now the objective of both the conservative and the neoliberal elite in the US. Thank you for the detail about Canadian political and economic issues.

    3. Alphonse

      I think universal programs vs market is the wrong frame. The real conflict is between technocracy and community.

      Wonks focus on policies so they expect others to think that way too. An emergent movement is never going to promote the policy mix you want. For it to do that, it would have to be led by a technocrat.

      You say that people like Bernier and Pollievre, free market types, have tried to co-opt them. They have failed. I have been following anti-mandate people on Twitter since before the convoys. Political big-shots are on the margins. Racists like Pat King are not seen at all. Do not silence them because you object to opportunist hangers-on.

      Their message is simple and comprehensible to a child: freedom. I don’t think they mean freedom to be deracinated neoliberal individuals. They mean freedom to members of their communities. Many of them are Christians – many of those have not been able to go to their churches because of mandates.

      If you want to understand what this is about, just look at what they do. They hug, they sing, they dance, they play, they celebrate. The protest has been a carnival. A celebration of community. It has been hell for some people in Ottawa to have a continuous party on their doorsteps. I have heard that’s what Tienanmen Square was like too.

      Forget policy and partisanship. That is your obsession, not theirs. They want it to leave them alone and let them live. When some of them make insane demands of the governor general, it shows how little they know or care about wonkery. The joy and camaraderie of the protest enacted the thing they are fighting for. It is about freedom – the freedom to be together with other people.

  13. JEHR

    Very interesting to hear Americans talk about Canadian politics. Some of the protesters and one of the leaders of the protest were talking about the Bill of Rights and 9/11 which are not of Canadian origin. Fancy that!

    1. flora

      The 2 countries pol estabs are so closely aligned on so many issues it’s not surprising Americans talk about Canadian politics that seem bound to affect US politics. For example: shortly after the RCMP announced a crackdown on crypto currency the US FBI announced a similar program. After enough “coincidences” like that, Americans are understandibly interested in Canadian pol actions that could indicate a quick uptake by American pols, and assess those actions from the US Constitutionality of any US uptake. This seems a reasonable outlook to me. (Canada pols also take up US laws. Example: B’s order about cross border vax mandate came shortly before Canada’s uptake of the law.)

  14. Jasbo

    At the end of the day, it’s Power vs. People. The People are still squabbling amongst and between themselves, while Power keeps growing longer and stronger tentacles.

    It reminds me a bit of fish arguing while inside a barrel. The real issue is the fact that they’ve been put in, and are living in a barrel in the first place. Everything else is a distraction unless it directly contributes to getting out of the barrel and into a life-filled ecosystem.

  15. Jonhoops

    Compare and contrast the police reaction to the G20 protests in Toronto. 20,000 cops mobilized ,months long infiltration of protest groups prior to the protests.

    Largest mass arrests in Canadian history, all under the freedom loving Conservative govt of Steven Harper.

    And let’s not forget that the Emergency Act is a product of the Mulroney Freedom loving Conservative party.

    Also to anyone watching Viva Frei, he in a former incarnation ran for office under the Banner of the far right PPC party. He is a very slick and experienced YouTuber so he knows how to produce effective propaganda. Of course you never see anything bad going on with all the huggable truckers in his livestreams, they are curated agitprop.

    1. eg

      I don’t imagine Frei’s videos include harassment of young women like my daughter on their way to work because they were wearing masks? Don’t buy all the happy talk of the protest supporters regarding their behaviour towards Ottawa’s citizenry.

  16. Michael King

    I don’t think this clip has been posted on NC. Here is Pierre Trudeau in 1970 justifying the use of The War Measures Act in response to the FLQ kidnapping British diplomat James Cross and Quebec provincial cabinet minister Pierre Laporte. The Wiki link gives a good overview. An excellent documentary about this period was produced by our National Film Board. There was also a dramatic recreation called Les Ordres. Both are highly recommended for those non-Canadians interested in our history and those Canadians too young to have lived through it.
    The WMA applied to all of Canada. I remember taking a train from Toronto to Kitchener to visit a friend in university. At Union Station there were soldiers and RCMP, heavily armed, checking IDs and luggage. I was only 17 and it was lesson in understanding the raw power that states’ can unleash.

  17. lance ringquist

    even a author at fortune has figured it out. but in my own humble opinion, the new deal, fair deal, and the great society would not have worked as well as they did, if it was not for smoot-hawley and GATT.

    can you imagine if hitler and musolinni had full free access to the american market, that the fascist nafta billy clinton gave to the world.

    the central europeon fascists would have flooded america during the depression, thus under cutting a lot of the new deal.

    “Americans feel powerless against elite forces blocking the proper channels to affect change. Legislation to shift economic and political power to working people is consistently mangled or killed. Many are losing faith in democracy as a mechanism to deliver solutions for their lives. Polls show Americans’ trust in government at 29%, Biden’s approval rating at 41%, and those who identify as Democrats at 28% percent.

    Democrats need solidarity with unions. Not only do they foster political literacy and engagement, but they’re also critical to a functioning democracy. It’s short-sighted to forfeit working-class voters to Republicans, who capitalize on feelings of betrayal with false populism and culture wars.”

    the frauds on the left make it easy for the right to harvest the votes of the deplorable. professor wolff made that plain.

    once you radicalize your people its hard to get them back.

    trudeau should have addressed the angst of the canadian worker, instead he is a product of the free traders, and he see’s everything as a nail.

  18. lance ringquist

    as predicted its all about the free trade.

    notice canadas GDP before nafta, then after nafta.

    now the fraudulent left got their wish, here comes the hammer,

    Mon, February 21, 2022, 11:36 AM

    “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier that the powers were still needed despite police ending the occupation of the nation’s capital by truckers over the weekend and police ending border blockades before that.

    Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the protesters were going for the “lifeblood of this nation, which is trade with the United States.”

  19. Altandmain

    I’m from Ottawa, so I do feel obligated to chime in.

    The polling is showing that support isn’t as strong as it seems.

    Page 9 of this survey.

    I suspect that Canada will be more divided in the immediate aftermath of this. The Conservatives may very well be the winners of this whole thing, unfortunately.

    Personally, I”m against the tactics used by the protests, but I”m also very weary about using the tactics that Trudeau did because it sets an awful precedent. This was nothing like the crisis the FLQ (a separatist group in Canada) inflicted, which actually resulted in a fatality and a hostage crisis.

    Those who cheer this should be very careful. It’s not hard to see a Conservative government doing this to the type of protest for a cause that supporters of the crackdown would agree with.

    1. lance ringquist

      any one with half a brain could see that the artificial construct trudeau tactics are aimed at no interuptions of the markets.

      dismal creatures like him only see markets as legitimate. no democratic control, no sovereignty for the people. the creatures that are a product of a idiotology look at the sky and see the future of mankind where markets right all the wrongs, and make all things bad go away.

      creature like trudeau who are ruled by idiotologies only see the future of mankind entering a whole new plane of existence, almost like a heaven under their idiotology, and are bound and determined to let nothing stand in the way of the human race entering nirvana.

      the smart left would understand a creature like trudeau, and say he did it to these guys, he will do it to us later on.

      the idiotology has driven the deplorable to the extremists, because they get only told what to do, under conditions that become ever more intolerable as the days goes by.

      its only a matter of time here in the u.s.a, that press gangs will start to operate, because the deplorable are getting into the way of the markets.

      the creature running canada might do it first, we shall see.

  20. DJ Forestree

    Quoting from the article: “…one should recall that fascism does not storm bastions of power; it is let into power’s corridors by those in charge.”
    That could not be more mistaken, and historically inaccurate. Remind me again, how did fascist Francisco Franco come to power in Spain? And please, take time to ask Chileans (who saw the army bombing the presidential palace in 1973) how was fascism installed in their country, via the puppet general Pinochet. Ask Argentinians, Uruguayans, and all of those in Central America who saw the American-supported fascist juntas, the military juntas killers of peasants, women, nuns and priests, how did the fascists came to power in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras…

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