Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning says one of the reasons the Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act to put an end to the convoy protests was because they realized a great portion of the support for the protests came from Quebec, the Liberals’ “home base.”
“I can’t prove this. But it seems to me that politically, the Liberals don’t care if they make a whole bunch of people in Western Canada mad, they’re not going to vote for them anyway. But I think when they started to see this support coming from Quebec, … that worried them to the point where it was probably a factor, that, ‘we better put a stop to this, and the Emergencies Act is a way to do it,” Manning told The Epoch Times.
Manning, who was a former leader of Opposition, says the Liberal Party is “basically a Quebec-based party,” and therefore very sensitive to anything that may upset their support base there.
He says the Liberals were concerned about the size of the protests and arrests of Quebec supporters, and so they sought to put a quick end to the movement.
“If they had started arresting [the Quebecers], this would start to have ramifications back in their home base in Quebec,” Manning said.
During the Freedom Convoy protests in the nation’s capital, many people could be seen flying Quebec flags and many vehicles had Quebec licence plates.
The trucker convoy movement started as a protest against mandatory COVID-19 vaccine requirements for cross-border truck drivers. The protests drew huge crowds from across the country as convoys of vehicles drove to Ottawa in late January to protest various COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
As protesters converged in Ottawa, parking their vehicles near Parliament Hill and setting up camp, other convoy protests were launched at several border crossings across the country where protest vehicles blocked traffic.
On Feb. 14, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time since its creation in 1988 to clear the protests. By then, all border crossings except Emerson in Manitoba had already been cleared. The Emerson border crossing was cleared on Feb. 16 without arrests following negotiations between police and protesters.
In Ottawa, police escalated their attempts to end the protest starting on Feb. 18. Protesters in many cases were met with riot police wielding batons and tear gas, and in one case mounted police advanced into protesters, knocking down two people, one of whom needed hospital care. With the new powers from the act, authorities also saw to it that bank accounts of key protesters were frozen. The emergency powers were revoked on Feb. 23.
The Liberal government says the use of the act was necessary to avoid blockades, while civil liberties groups such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association say the threshold to invoke the act wasn’t met, and using the order to clear the protests set a bad precedent.
Manning says the trucker convoy movement was about freedoms, not just removing vaccine mandates.
“It’s a lot more than just freedom from vaccine mandates for truckers. It was joined by large numbers of people who weren’t truckers anyway, and were actually vaccinated. But they saw it as a way of protesting the use of health protection measures to infringe upon constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms,” he said.
“The big question is whether this freedom aspect that they represented will just die out, or whether it can be expanded and built into something bigger that could actually have a major impact on the next federal election. I think that question is up in the air, but it’s the right question to ask.”
He thinks Canadians will eventually demand the creation of a “COVID commission,” which he says would be a “full-blown independent investigation of the mismanagement of the COVID crisis.”
“Hopefully, what will come out of that is a more realistic picture of what was behind this, and in the future, striving for balance. What’s the balance between protection of health, and the protection of individual rights and freedoms? What’s the balance between protection of health and protection of the economic sustainability—incomes and jobs?” Manning said.
“I don’t think the government is going to come out very well from that if that investigation is ultimately held. And I think the truckers are are going to come out a lot better than what some of the people think.”