What truckers want (and why Ottawa can’t give it to them)

Tristin Hopper: First, convoy organizers openly call for suspension of Canadian democratic rule

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The requirements for Freedom Convoy 2022 are relatively simple: The immediate reversal of absolutely all extraordinary measures related to COVID-19. No mandatory masking, no vaccine passports and reinstatement of all Canadians fired because of their vaccination status.

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It’s a message that resonates with thousands of Canadians, but the proposals remain so largely unpopular (and so technically useless given how truck drivers propose to go about it) that many in Ottawa would likely face political suicide, even though they were considering it.

The first media reports about the convoy reported that the hauliers were protesting against a newly introduced federal vaccine mandate on cross-border hauliers. But the organizers quickly made it clear that they were on a mission to dissolve all COVID-related mandates.

“No more lockdowns. No forced vaccination,” reads a summary posted on the convoy’s official Facebook page on Monday.

The post also emphasized that the Freedom Convoy 2022 was not anti-vaccination and that many drivers were vaccinated themselves. “We simply believe that every Canadian should be free to choose and not face discrimination or restrictions on their freedom because of their choice,” it read.

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In recent days, these goals have apparently expanded further. Ontario convoy organizer Jason LaFace recently told CTV that “this is no longer about the mandate anymore.” Rather, it is about our rights and how the government has manipulated the people and oppressed us all along.

The convoy’s goal is not just a polite suggestion. As soon as the first trucks begin arriving in the capital on Saturday, Freedom Convoy’s stated plan is to back up traffic throughout Ottawa until they get a response from the federal government.

It would take only a few council orders for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring the vaccination requirements to an end at the border, on federally regulated transport and for civil servants.

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But the majority of the Canadian COVID industries remain a provincial responsibility. Even in Alberta – where Prime Minister Jason Kenney is an outspoken critic of federal COVID policies – the province continues to operate under a grid of vaccine requirements in public places.

Pushback would be inevitable if Ottawa tried to vaporize provincial mandates. This will be especially the case in Quebec. In recent weeks, Quebec’s Prime Minister François Legault has transformed his province into one of the most closed jurisdictions in North America. Quebec was also one of the first places in the free world to consider some form of compulsory vaccination.

For all this, Legault has become one of the country’s most popular politicians, shows a recent analysis from the Angus Reid Institute. With a 55 percent approval rating, Legault is currently Canada’s most popular provincial leader with the exception of Nova Scotia’s Tim Houston.

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All this administrative bureaucracy may be the reason why, if you ask one of the convoy’s main organizers – a group known as Canada Unity – the best way to end nationwide COVID mandates would be through a de facto overthrow of the federal government.

A memorandum of understanding posted on the group’s website sets out a framework for effectively dissolving the federal government in favor of a “Citizens of Canada Committee” composed of the Senate, the Governor-General and whoever Canada Unity elects.

An organizer of the Freedom Convoy 2022 said that
An organizer of the Freedom Convoy 2022 said that “this is no longer about the mandate anymore.” Rather, it is about our rights and how the government has manipulated the people. Photo by Carlos Osorio / Reuters

This committee of completely unelected persons would then “instruct all levels of the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to immediately stop and renounce all unconstitutional human rights, discriminatory and segregated acts.”

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If passed, the MOU will represent an unprecedented dissolution of the federal system and put an abrupt end to 155 years of continuous parliamentary rule (a record that happens to rank us as one of the world’s oldest democracies).

There is also good evidence to show that the demands of the haulier would be largely unpopular among the mainstream of Canadian voters.

Rightly or wrongly, it is currently one of the most popular political issues in Canada to tighten the screws on the unvaccinated.

In November, a poll by the Angus Reid Institute showed that 70 percent of respondents went in to see unvaccinated people lose their jobs. An Ipsos poll from this week showed that at least 52 percent of respondents did not think unemployment was punishment enough; they also wanted the government to impose a mandatory tax on the unvaccinated.

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The public is more pleased with the new demands to force vaccines on cross-border truck drivers, but even then, only 28 percent told a Maru Public Opinion poll that they supported a repeal of the mandate.

The Canadian public’s overall acceptance of COVID strictures was also reflected in the results of the recent federal election.

In September, voters had the option of parties with platforms similar to the requirements of the Freedom Convoy 2022. The Canadian People’s Party promised an immediate end to federal vaccine mandates, but only said they would “oppose” such measures at the provincial level.

Despite a massive increase in PPC popularity driven largely by opposition to COVID austerity, however, the party scored only 4.94 percent of the popular vote. Virtually every other voter supported a party that supported some form of vaccine pass.

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