Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to voice opposition to the government’s use of the Emergencies Act to deal with the protesters in Ottawa, a move he said is “heavy-handed” and could do “irreparable harm” to Canadian democracy.
In the letter, which Kenney posted on Twitter on Feb. 18, he called for an end to the federal government’s “pointless” COVID-19 vaccine mandate and travel restrictions imposed on truck drivers crossing back into Canada from the United States starting Jan. 15.
“Your government declared a public emergency on February 14, 2022. This was contrary to the wishes of Alberta and done without adequate or meaningful consultation with the provinces, as required by section 25 of the Act,” Kenney wrote.
“Your government’s failure to adequately consult, coupled with the serious overreach of the orders, does a great disservice to the Province of Alberta and our country.”
I have written to Prime Minister Trudeau outlining Alberta’s opposition to invocation of the Emergencies Act, and calling for an end to the pointless trucker vax mandate and travel restrictions. pic.twitter.com/IWDGyZGXl3
— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) February 18, 2022
Following Trudeau’s announcement he would invoke the act, Kenney took to social media to voice his opposition, saying “all of the legal tools and operational resources required to maintain order” already exist.
He reiterated this point in his letter.
“Canadians and our economy must always be safeguarded, but invoking the Act is extraordinarily heavy-handed, outside our democratic norms, and disproportionate to the issues. I agree the law must be enforced, but it can be done with existing enforcement tools and without resorting to these kinds of extreme measures. The Act should be used only under extraordinary circumstances when normal enforcement tools are inadequate,” he wrote.
“The Act is not intended to address local and contained issues. Your government did nothing to attempt to de-escalated the situation outside Parliament Hill before invoking the Act.”
Kenney noted that the vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers “has only served to ignite the very real frustrations of some Canadians who, based on their employment circumstances, have faced greater employment hardships during the pandemic.”
On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and several federal cabinet ministers held a virtual press conference in which they defended the use of the act, citing the need to address the economic impacts and challenges posed to Canada’s democracy by the protest at the national capital and the blockades of Canada-U.S. border crossings in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, and B.C., which have now ended.
The Emergencies Act gives authorities sweeping additional powers to handle the protests, including the ability to compel towing companies to remove trucks encamped in Ottawa’s downtown core.
Additional financial measures to reduce funding for the protests include broadening of anti-money laundering mechanisms to crowdfunding platforms and digital currencies, while banks will be able to freeze accounts of individuals or corporations involved in the protests.
On Feb. 17, Freeland announced that banks have already started freezing the accounts of some entities involved with the truckers’ protests and blockades.
Kenney said in his letter that Alberta successfully and peacefully resolved the blockade at the Coutts border crossing without having to invoke these special powers of the act, which he said could result in “irreparable harm” to Canadians and the country’s democracy.
“The powers under the Act have potential to do irreparable harm to Canadians and our democratic society. To enable the arbitrary freezing of bank accounts based on opinions people have stated, or donations they have made without the need for a court order is undemocratic, disproportionate, and verging on authoritarian,” he wrote.
“There will be long-lasting effects from the decisions to invoke the Act on the social fabric of Canada.”