Nearly two weeks after the so-called “Freedom Convoy” set up residency in Ottawa, and almost a week after a solidarity blockade began at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Premier Doug Ford announced action against the protest in the form of the third state of emergency he’s declared during his premiership. Protest is fine, Ford said, but the events in Ottawa and Windsor no longer fit that definition.
“This is no longer a protest,” Ford said from the media studio at Queen’s Park. “With a protest, you peaceably make your point and you go back home, and I know that the vast majority of the people did that. They came, they peacefully demonstrated, they made their point, and they left, and I want to say to those people, you’ve been heard loud and clear.”
Ford called what’s happening now in Ottawa and Windsor an “illegal occupation.” He called out protestors for interfering with the provincial economy by blocking traffic on the Ambassador Bridge, and affecting the lives of thousands of workers. He then accused protestors in Ottawa of taking the city hostage, saying that they’ve made people afraid in their homes.
“You’re right to make a political statement does not weigh the rights of a million people in Ottawa to live peacefully free of harassment and chaos in their own homes. So let me be as clear as I can: There will be consequences for these actions, and they will be severe,” Ford said.
Ford’s severe words come after a week of repeated calls for him to speak out and act on the protests in Ottawa and Windsor. Ford announced Friday that he’s getting his cabinet together to “urgently enact orders that will make crystal clear it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure.”
According to Ford, “critical infrastructure” could mean airports, bridges, railways and even the 400-series highways, as well as medical services and public transit. “Fines for non-compliance will be severe, with a maximum penalty of $100,000 and up to a year imprisonment. We will also provide additional authority to consider taking away the personal and commercial licences of anyone who doesn’t comply with these orders,” Ford said.
Late yesterday, it was announced that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice had granted a motion from Ontario’s Attorney General to freeze access to a fundraiser on GiveSendGo, a Christian alternative to GoFundMe who cancelled a Freedom Convoy fundraiser in their site last week after it had raised over $10 million in donations. The GiveSendGo campaign had raised over $8 million dollars by the time the motion was filed on Thursday night.
In further court actions, Windsor City Council met in an emergency meeting on Thursday and endorsed a motion to seek an injunction in the Superior Court of Justice. The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association and Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association are to be the main applicants of the injunction with the City of Windsor and Chamber of Commerce as supportive interveners.
“We plan to be in front of a Judge of the Superior Court of Justice as soon as possible and I cannot predict the outcome of our requested injunction or the timeline for action,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens at a media conference on Thursday. “The individuals on-site are trespassing on municipal roads and, if need be, will be removed to allow for the safe and efficient movement of goods across the border.”
Back at Queen’s Park on Friday, Ford said that the eyes of the world are on Ontario and they’re watching to see how the protest, and the protestors, are dealt with. “To the protesters, I say we’ve heard you and it’s time to go; to the auto workers, truckers and all those affected by the Ambassador Bridge closure, I say that we will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the border is real; to the people of Ottawa under siege, I say that we will ensure you’re able to resume life and business as soon as possible,” Ford said.
Friday morning started with more outrage from Ontario’s opposition leaders who have been pushing for Ford to take action all week.
“The fact that the premier has waited two weeks to help people, small businesses and workers is inexcusable,” said Green Party leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner at a press event held an hour before Ford’s statement.
“On Monday, I called for an emergency return to Queen’s Park, so we can all work together collaboratively on a solution, but the government is refused to work across party and jurisdictional lines, snubbing the trilateral meetings with the Federal government in Ottawa and ignoring requests for a cross partisan approach,” Schreiner added. “It should not take the US government putting pressure on Ontario to do something for Doug Ford to finally realize the responsibility that comes with being Premier.”
Official opposition leader Andrea Horwath spent her Friday morning meeting with people in Ottawa affected by the convoy protests. “Doug Ford has powers he’s refusing to use, and resources he’s withholding. Meanwhile, people here in Ottawa are living through a nightmare,” Horwath said in a statement.
Liberal leader Steven Del Duca, who was in Ottawa on Wednesday, said that Ford had shown weak leadership over the last few weeks, and has even violated his cherished campaign slogan. “For a guy who got elected promising to make Ontario ‘Open For Business’, Doug Ford has completely failed the people who work and own those businesses,” Del Duca said.