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Doug Ford 'ghosted' people of Ottawa during Freedom Convoy, NDP alleges

Premier Doug Ford refused to answer questions in the legislature about a damning report outlining “Ontario’s absence” during the Freedom Convoy as the NDP accused him of “ghosting” the people of Ottawa.

On Friday, the Public Order Emergency Commission released its final report following a public inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act. In it, Commissioner Paul Rouleau wrote he found the Ontario government’s lack of collaboration early on during the occupation in Ottawa “troubling.”

“Had there been greater collaboration at the political level from the start, it could well have assisted in ironing out the communication, jurisdictional, and resourcing issues that plagued the early response to the protests,” Rouleau said in the report.

“It could also have assisted in identifying authorities available to each level of government that might have been used to respond to the protests and coordinate direct engagement with protesters. It could also have provided the people of Ottawa with a clear message that they had not been abandoned by their provincial government during a time of crisis.”

In the first sitting of the fall session at Queen’s Park, new NDP Leader Marit Stiles asked the premier to respond to the findings, adding that she found the report “very distressing.”

“When Ottawa residents were being harassed in their communities in February, while small businesses were being forced to close, the premier, the solicitor general, the minister of transportation all chose not to help,” Stiles said.

“What does the premier have to say to Ottawa residents now that we know the extent of his government’s failure to act?”

Instead of responding, Ford punted the question to Government House Leader Paul Calandra, who said the report highlighted the “important work” done by Ontario Provincial Police in the months leading up to the protest.

“I think the report is clear the OPP had resources on the ground for many months in advance of this and were sharing information with police services not only in Ottawa but across the province,” he said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford applauds as Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra answers a question the legislature resumes at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb.21, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Stiles, however, said that didn’t answer the question. She argued that Ford and ministers Sylvia Jones and Caroline Mulroney “ghosted” the people of Ottawa in the early days, only jumping into action when the protests spread to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor.

“Why was the premier absent—and I really hope the premier will answer the question for the people of Ontario and the people of Ottawa – why was he absent when the people of Ottawa needed his help?”

Ford again refused to answer, sending the question to Calandra, who did not address any of the specific findings in the report. Instead, he said that if there were lessons to be learned in respect to better coordination of emergency services, the government will “take a look at that.”

“We are moving forward, we are moving ahead,” Calandra said before launching into a speech about the post-COVID economy.

The Public Order Emergency Commission found that Ontario’s refusal to participate in tripartite discussions with Ottawa and the federal government was based on the view that the convoy was “protesting a federal vaccine mandate on Parliament’s doorstep,” meaning the responsibility for resolving the situation fell largely on Trudeau’s shoulders.

The second reason was that it was a policing matter best left to the OPP.

About 10 days after the Freedom Convoy first settled in Ottawa outside of Parliament Hill, shuttering streets and businesses, Ford took part in a phone call with Trudeau over how the protests were being handled.

According to the report, the premier noted on Feb. 9 the “bigger” concern was the protests in Windsor.

“He was concerned that protests could spread to other ports of entry, and highlighted that the Ambassador Bridge blockade was costing hundreds of millions of dollars in trade per day,” the report said.

“It was not until Prime Minister Trudeau spoke to Premier Doug Ford on February 9, after the Ambassador Bridge blockade, that collaboration became the name of the game. It is unfortunate that such collaboration did not take place days earlier.”

Neither Ford nor Jones took part in the public inquiry regarding the use of the Emergencies Act to deal with the Freedom Convoy, something Rouleau said made some of the complaints “difficult to assess.”

Both politicians claimed parliamentary privilege and fought the summons in court. Top Stories

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