Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during Question Period, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to appear today at the public inquiry probing the federal government’s decision to invoke emergency powers in response to last winter’s weeks-long ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during Question Period, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to appear today at the public inquiry probing the federal government’s decision to invoke emergency powers in response to last winter’s weeks-long ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Writer’s Block: On the Emergencies Act inquiry

The Free Press columnist Bill Phillips weighs in on the Emergencies Act inquiry

By Bill Phillips

For The Free Press

The inquiry into whether the feds were justified in invoking the Emergencies Act to, ostensibly, quell the Freedom Convoy folks is, thankfully, moving to the next phase.

We all wait anxiously (OK, only process nerds), for the report to be issued sometime in February. My money is a report that is thick and heavy, but ambiguous at best. There will likely be a few recommendations i.e. how police forces can work better together etc., but there will be no smoking gun condemning the Liberal government for invoking it or bells and whistles hailing them for invoking it.

And, sadly, I don’t think the weeks of testimony changed anyone’s mind. If you think the government was justified, you probably still do. If you think invoking the act was unjustified, you probably still do.

However, that doesn’t mean the inquiry wasn’t without its benefits. It certainly gave us a better picture of what was actually going on last February.

And the fact we had the inquiry at all is testament to how wonderful this country really is.

Where else in the world can you find a situation where the head of state willingly subjects themselves to being grilled by lawyers, in public, about decisions they made regarding the governance of the country.

Does anyone actually think Donald Trump will ever testify before the January 6 Capital Riot Committee? Does anyone actually think Vladimir Putin will ever testify at war crimes trials?

Not likely. The fact the prime minister, and several senior cabinet ministers, testified shows Canada truly is exemplary country. They could have hid behind executive privilege, like Ontario Premier Doug Ford did. But they didn’t.

You can dismiss what they said all you want, but give them credit for showing up.

The irony, of course, is that the Freedom Convoy protesters were marching largely because of their belief the government had run amok with vaccine mandates (among a host of other beefs). Having the prime minister and senior government official testify, under oath, at an inquiry is hardly the action of an administration that has authoritarian tendencies.

There are a couple of other takeaways from the inquiry:

The Crassest Question Award goes to one of the convoy lawyers who asked Trudeau: “When did you become so afraid of Canadians?”

The Best Response to a Question Award goes to Trudeau who, when asked why he didn’t just meet with the protesters as they had been requesting. “They didn’t want to be heard, they wanted to be obeyed,” Trudeau said. A zinger, for sure.

The final report won’t bring down the government, much to the chagrin of some. But it does show that no one is above reproach in this country. And that’s a good thing.

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