This was, if you hark back two weeks, a protest about vaccination mandates for truckers crossing the border, which, some warned, threatened to damage supply chains that bring goods such as groceries to Canada.
Two weeks later, it is a heavy-equipment blockade to press demands not just about federal mandates but all provincial government COVID-19 restrictions, and it has closed Ottawa streets and businesses, obstructed an Alberta border crossing and is now cutting off a major trade artery, the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor.
At this point, it’s incumbent on anyone who lays a claim to leadership, including those who have supported the protests, to say it has gone too far. And to call for it to stop.
It’s also time for provincial authorities responsible for roads and vehicles – starting with Ontario Premier Doug Ford – to warn that those who use trucks as roadblocks will lose the right to operate them.
This is now beyond a question of who is right about vaccination mandates. Political leaders who condone rule from the road are paving the way for such tactics to be used again and again.
The front-runner for the Conservative leadership, MP Pierre Poilievre, has lauded the protest and become its political darling, so now it is time for him to tell the country if he thinks it has gone too far. He could call on the protesters to stop the blockades. On Wednesday, he declined.
It’s worth noting that you don’t have to stop blaming Justin Trudeau for the whole mess in order to ask protesters to stop blockading bridges and roads. You can still oppose federal vaccination mandates, or provincial public-health restrictions such as vaccination passports. In fact, you can support protesting while calling for an end to blockades.
Mr. Poilievre could continue to argue that the Prime Minister should meet truckers, or leaders of other parties. Certainly, Conservatives could keep taking him to task for engaging in divisive rhetoric and insulting the unvaccinated – two of Mr. Trudeau’s own Liberal MPs, Joël Lightbound and Yves Robillard, did that this week. They can do all that and still stand up against blockades.
Conservative MP Michael Chong stood in the Commons this week to make what should be an accepted point – that “there is no right to blockade.” Perhaps those blockading the Ambassador Bridge would listen to Mr. Poilievre if he suggested they stop. Maybe he is afraid they wouldn’t.
In the meantime, actual rules of the road are being flouted, and while police have to enforce laws wisely, the political leaders responsible for those things should step up, too. That’s a provincial matter, and in Ontario, where there have been blockades in Ottawa, Sarnia and Windsor, that means the government of Premier Doug Ford.
Mr. Ford sent out a statement on Wednesday that said “the ongoing illegal occupation and blockade happening in Ontario must stop,” so the Premier is taking the right position. But it is time he delivered a strong statement, in person, that he will take steps to ensure there are rules for the roads.
The difference between a protest and a blockade, we have found this week, has been heavy machinery. Often, the number of protesters have been small, but the size of the trucks is not.
Mr. Ford’s government is responsible for the province’s Highway Traffic Act, which declares that driving is a privilege, and which is supposed to set standards for commercial-vehicle operators.
So Mr. Ford and Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney should be out in public delivering stiff warnings that drivers who use their trucks as walls rather than commercial vehicles are going to lose the ability to operate them in Ontario.
After federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra suggested the provincial government should revoke commercial-vehicle permits for truckers blocking roads, Ms. Mulroney responded on Tuesday with a letter to her deputy minister, Michael Keenan, saying that the provincial government does sanction commercial vehicles for “repetitive non-compliant safety behaviour,” but only after providing notice and giving operators a chance to respond.
Now, it’s good to insist on process, but if it prevents the minister from telling drivers in no uncertain terms that using commercial vehicles as fortified roadblocks will lead to the revocation of their privilege, then Mr. Ford’s government needs to change the law, pronto, to ensure there are rules on the road.
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