GOLDSTEIN: Justin Trudeau, the un-prime minister

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GOLDSTEIN: Justin Trudeau, the un-prime minister
Lorrie Goldstein
February 15, 2020
February 15, 2020 10:22 PM EST
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany on Feb. 14, 2020. (Reuters/ Andreas Gebert)
In 1968, 7Up had a successful ad campaign billing itself as the Uncola.
In 2020, Canadians have, in Justin Trudeau, our very own un-prime minister.
Don’t look at him, he said — from Munich while on a foreign tour to increase Canada’s chances of winning a temporary seat on the UN Security Council — to end the Indigenous blockades that have shut down much of Canada’s railway system.
That’s the job of the police, Trudeau said, adding: “We are not the kind of country where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters.”
The late Christie Blatchford, writing in the National Post, summed up this attitude perfectly in relation to Indigenous blockades in Ontario years ago, where the then-Liberal government took a similar hands-off approach and the Ontario Provincial Police failed to enforce court-ordered injunctions.
To wit: “The government mantra is hands off the police, the police are accountable to no one, including the courts, and no one is answerable to the people.”
What Trudeau could have done, what a prime minister should have done, was to return to Ottawa immediately and take charge.
To signal to Canadians he understood the blockades were not only inconveniencing the public but damaging the economy, endangering jobs and risking public safety by, for example, choking off vital supplies to hospitals and chlorine to water treatment plants.
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Trudeau could have met with Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to be briefed, given that the Trudeau-appointed RCMP commissioner, “under the direction of the minister (meaning Blair) has the control and management of the force and all matters connected with the force.”
Following that, Trudeau could have told the public that getting the rail lines open was a national priority and he had instructed Blair to do everything possible to achieve this, within his lawful powers under the RCMP Act.
That doesn’t mean telling Blair to interfere with “operational matters” by ordering the RCMP to immediately storm the barricades, regardless of any threat to the public, the protesters or the RCMP officers themselves.
It does mean holding Blair, and through him, the PM himself, publicly accountable for getting the rail lines moving and informing the public of what actions they were taking, or not taking, to do so and why.
Trudeau could have publicly acknowledged police cannot address the reasons behind these protests, which are the result of decisions by federal and provincial governments, and that the solutions are further complicated because of disputes within the Indigenous community between elected and hereditary leaders.
Ever since Indigenous protester Dudley George was shot and killed by Ontario Provincial Police in the Ipperwash standoff in 1995 during the Mike Harris Progressive Conservative government, federal and provincial governments of all stripes, as well as police, have been terrified of taking action during Indigenous blockades.
The result has been disasters like the Ontario town of Caledonia being held hostage by such protests for years.
Meanwhile, we have a PM, who, as described by former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson in her report on Trudeau’s multiple violations of conflict-of-interest rules regarding his Aga Khan family vacations, doesn’t see himself as holding business meetings as head of his own government.
Rather, Trudeau views himself as a relationship builder, “ensuring that all parties are moving forward together” while “specific issues or details are worked out before, subsequently or independently of any meeting he attends.”
That’s Trudeau, all right — our un-prime minister.
No Party Affiliation
Canada burns while the little wannabe emperor fiddles himself.