Convoy ‘Magnet For Crazies’

Then-Alberta Premier Jason Kenney privately called the Freedom Convoy a “magnet for every crazy in the province.” His remarks came in a confidential teleconference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other premiers on the Emergencies Act: “Folks at the core of this movement are not rational.”

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Spend $14.2B Without Details

The Department of Finance yesterday declined to spell out $14.2 billion in unidentified spending outlined in its Fall Economic Statement. “$14.2 billion, that’s a big chunk of change,” said Conservative MP Marty Morantz (Charleswood-St. James, Man.): “It’s an awfully large sum of money.”

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MP Spread Kremlin Rumours

Green Party leader Elizabeth May privately circulated unsubstantiated media allegations of Kremlin involvement in the Freedom Convoy, records show. “Hair raising,” she wrote in a confidential email to cabinet: “We have to wake up and take on this cancerous growth in our democracy.”

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Global TV Lobbies For Grants

The parent company that runs Global News is lobbying Parliament for direct cash grants to subsidize employees’ pay. The Commons finance committee yesterday released a petition by Corus Entertainment Inc. seeking 25 percent payroll rebates: “It remains unclear why Canadian broadcast journalists should be entitled to any less.”

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4,999 In 5,000 Don’t Complain

Air passengers face a two-year wait on service complaints filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency. The federal regulator yesterday acknowledged only 1 in 5,000 Canadians will file a complaint over delayed flights, denial of boarding or damaged luggage: “Our current backlog is 30,000 complaints.”

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Gov’t Claim Was “Too Cute”

The Department of Finance privately ridiculed its own inflated claims of economic hardship blamed on the Freedom Convoy, records show. Bloomberg News figures repeatedly cited by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland were “too cute,” wrote the department’s director general of economic analysis: “Seems large to me?!”

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Didn’t Know About $135.9M

Storage of mobile field hospitals will cost taxpayers more than $135 million this year, records show. “This is something I was completely unaware of,” said Public Works Minister Helena Jaczek. The storage costs follow a sole-sourced $150 million contract to SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. for field hospitals: “That is not exactly directed to preventing or treating Covid.”

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Convoy Support Angers Feds

Liberal political aides were angry over the number of soldiers, sailors and air crew who sympathized with the Freedom Convoy, records show. The RCMP had so many members support protesters it issued a 35-page guide “regarding the participation of current or prior employees” in street demonstrations: “How the f—k many?”

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Reported Convoy Depositors

Credit union depositors who made Freedom Convoy protest signs were reported to police, records show. Desjardins Group, one of the country’s largest credit unions, also reported customers who made “suspicious” purchases of fuel: “We are waiting for more instructions.”

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Fear Future PMs Will Use Act

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of the Emergencies Act sets a precedent for future leaders in confronting divisive protests, civil rights advocates warned at the close of the Freedom Convoy inquiry. Trudeau defended his actions on the 43rd day of hearings: ‘This invocation of the Act will then open the floodgates to the Act being used again and again and again.’

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Sunday Poem: “Devastated”

 

The news channel

brings stories from the storm

into my living room.

 

My eyes to the screen;

my heart skips a beat.

 

With a cleavage deeper than usual,

the commentator seems prettier,

more attractive

than in any previous

disaster.

 

By Shai Ben-Shalom

Review — 1968

1968 is so layered in mythology it takes a surgeon’s scalpel to cut to the facts. Historian Paul Litt of Carleton University deftly slices and trims until the truth emerges in Trudeaumania. Even in death Pierre Trudeau remains a polarizing figure. Professor Litt traces the phenomenon to that long-ago campaign.

Yes, Trudeaumania was invented by media, writes Litt: “Yet the media could not have made Trudeau without a complicit audience.” Most strikingly, it could never happen exactly the same way again. The ’68 phenomenon was a collision at the intersection of time and place. Many political fixers have schemed to recreate the experience, and many have failed.

“For those caught up in the mania, 1968 was a historic turning point in which Canada left its dowdy colonial past behind and assumed a new autonomous identity as a model modern liberal democracy,” writes Litt. “They may have been deluding themselves, but since nations are fictions with real-world effects, Trudeaumania had lasting influence.”

Professor Litt is a tireless researcher and honest correspondent. He is the first to chronicle worries over Trudeau’s sexuality, serious enough to alarm Liberal organizers. Hard-bitten CBC newsman Norman DePoe once interviewed Trudeau at the Chateau Laurier pool, “known in Ottawa as a gay pickup spot,” recounts Litt. “Trudeau reclined in a lounge chair with his chin on the back of a hand supported by a folded wrist, a bit of body language coded fey in the popular culture of the day.”

Trudeau was an unlikely champion of youth culture with acne scars and thinning hair. He was 49 that year; Trudeau lied about his age in the Parliamentary Guide, writes Litt. “Trudeaumania” was coined as a dismissive putdown by conservative commentator Lubor Zink, a National Newspaper Award-winning columnist with the Toronto Telegram. Zink rated Trudeau “conceited, tactless, ruthless and dangerous,” and to his last days in the Parliamentary Press Gallery in 1995 maintained Trudeau was a Red.

Nor was all Canada agog for Trudeau in 1968. It took him four ballots to win the party leadership over Robert Winters, a corporate CEO. Trudeau never won 50 percent of the popular vote. The party lost eight seats in Atlantic ridings that year and 424,000 Canadians voted Social Credit, arch-foes of the hippie culture.

“Protest movements and the counterculture defined the Sixties because they ably exposed systemic injustice and establishment hypocrisy, were highly publicized by the media, and reflected the adolescent alienation of the rising baby boom generation,” notes Trudeaumania. “But only a small minority, even among the young, seriously challenged authority or lived the counterculture.”

But something did click in ’68, the first election in which boomers cast ballots. Trudeau was the first PM born in the 20th century. His contemporaries in Parliament were First War veterans in black Homburgs who campaigned with bagpipers. Trudeau by contrast entertained CBC-TV cameras by sliding down banisters in an era when the network monopolized a one-channel universe. Three million viewers a week watched Don Messer’s Jubilee. Trudeau by contrast was electrifying.

“It was television that first introduced Trudeau to the public, put him on the leadership radar screen with its coverage of his legal reforms, and made him a national celebrity,” writes Professor Litt; “Even as it unfolded, Trudeaumania was distinguished by a self-consciousness about the very process that enabled it. Contemporary commentators fretted terribly, regularly and publicly about whether the media were subverting the democratic process.”

One 1967 CBC-TV feature showed Trudeau “zipping around Ottawa in a sporty foreign convertible” with “an upbeat, jazzy soundtrack and shots of the Peace Tower off-kilter at a rakish forty-five-degree angle,” writes Litt. “The mod mode of presentation signaled this fresh face in cabinet was a trendy, ‘with it’ kind of guy, someone to keep an eye on.”

Nearly a generation after his death, Liberals still speak of the age of Trudeau. The facts are even better than the myth.

By Holly Doan

Trudeaumania, by Paul Litt; University of British Columbia Press; 424 pages; ISBN 9780-7748-34049; $39.95

Liked To Deploy The Military

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in a confidential videoconference with bankers said she “couldn’t agree more” with a recommendation that cabinet deploy armed soldiers against the Freedom Convoy. “It is a threat to our democracy,” said Freeland: “All options are on the table.”

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Bank Freeze Hard On Bankers

Cabinet’s “central concern” in freezing Freedom Convoy accounts was that angry depositors might yell at bankers, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said yesterday. Freeland elaborated on worries she raised at a secret February 19 cabinet meeting about bank employees’ well-being: “My central concern was, you know, that some poor teller not get yelled at.”

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Act’s Author Warned Cabinet

Perrin Beatty, a former Conservative minister who wrote the Emergencies Act, privately warned cabinet “lots of long term issues” would follow its use of the law against the Freedom Convoy. “I am worried,” Beatty texted the finance minister: “I am particularly concerned about the radicalization of people who would normally be law-abiding.”

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