This coming Friday is Canada Day. I have always believed it is a day to celebrate, to reflect on our many accomplishments as a nation, and a time to focus on our good fortune to live in the country that we do. When I was in public office, or involved in government, I would attend Canada Day celebrations and I still enjoy watching activities on Parliament Hill to mark our national holiday.
There are plenty of other days in the year when those opposed to government, or to our way of life, or to a particular cause, can express their viewpoints. But Canada Day, in my opinion, is not one of them.
That is why I think the so-called Canada Day Freedom Convoy expected in Ottawa over the Canada Day long weekend is a big mistake. It is led by many of the same people who led the truck convoy several months ago that literally occupied parts of Ottawa and caused so much disruption. Very likely this next demonstration will be better controlled than the last one, because of lessons learned. But these folks are not coming to our Capital to celebrate Canada Day; they are coming to disrupt it.
Sadly, they are being aided and abetted by a handful of self-serving politicians who should know better.
On social media earlier this week was a message by an entity that called itself “Canada Day Convoy.” They said this. “Breaking: We just got off the phone with Pierre Poilievre and his team. He plans on meeting us in Ottawa on July 1st. Poilievre supports us 100%.”
Poilievre, who is a candidate for the Leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada and an alarming number of his caucus, have confirmed that they support the convoy and indeed, many of them met with convoy organizers in Ottawa, last week. In my view, they should all be ashamed of themselves.
A political pundit and former colleague of mine, Peter Landry, with whom I seldom agree on partisan matters, did come close to hitting the nail on the head in this tweet. “Stop calling it a ‘freedom convoy’. It is an anti-freedom, fascist-like mob.” A bit over the top perhaps but still in relation to the previous convoy and occupation in Ottawa, an element of truth. We shall see shortly if it remains the truth.
Last week I wrote about leadership. Pierre Poilievre has not only associated himself with this so-called freedom movement, but he has also embraced it in his leadership campaign. Rather than leaning toward the dark side of Trumpism by giving lip service to peaceful protests while at the same time encouraging those who have shown past signs of civil disobedience, Poilievre could take a different stance. He should just say – NO! Stay home. Let Canadians celebrate Canada Day. That would be true leadership but sadly we cannot expect it.
Last week, a caption in an article by Globe and Mail journalist Andrew Coyne said this: “The Vacuum at the centre of Canadian Politics: an incompetent, unethical government faces an intemperate, unhinged opposition.”
Think about that. Is that really where we are today?
In that same article, Coyne doubles down by saying: “What is needed, what is sorely lacking – is judgement: political, moral, intellectual. Judgement is the foundation of leadership and is the only way we’re going to get back to something resembling functional politics.”
Where is the judgement of Pierre Poilievre in encouraging a convoy movement with a history of civil disobedience and unrest on Canada Day?
Where is the judgement of a number of far-right Conservative politicians who encourage people who carry Confederate flags and hijack our own flag for a movement that, in reality, stands for anything but genuine freedom?
I am sure that at this point in reading, many of my Liberal friends are nodding their heads with a smile on their faces, and likely some of my Conservative friends have shaken theirs and tuned out. But to those on the Liberal side, not so fast! I happen to have a mad on right now about the real possibility of Pierre Poilievre becoming leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, but that does not let the Trudeau Government off the hook. The caption in Coyne’s article was pointed at both the Opposition as well as the Government.
Where is the leadership today from the Trudeau government? Where is the judgement?
Between soaring inflation, potential serious food supply shortages, inordinate delays in delivering basic government services, unaffordable gas prices and an increased atmosphere of violence and fear, to the point where MPs have to wear panic buttons, Canada has seldom faced so many domestic challenges all at once.
Why isn’t Parliament sitting this summer to focus on these unresolved issues? Not a hybrid Parliament where insisting on accountability is more difficult, but an in-your-face Parliament where Opposition Parties can keep the Government’s feet to the fire, demanding real leadership, sound judgement and quick action.
Where is the leadership in cleaning up the unacceptable mess in passport offices and ridiculous holdups at airports? We don’t need another foot-dragging task force to figure this out, Prime Minister. What we need is a shakeup and a butt-kicking coming from the top. We also need immediate relief for Canadians suffering from increasing inflation, and real fear for the future. Not talk, Prime Minister, not blaming others. Immediate relief!
Certainly, there are challenges facing Canada right now. The Trudeau government has the primary responsibility to deal with them and Canadians have every right to question their current effectiveness.
Conservatives, on the other hand, need to tamper down their embrace of the darker side of populism, which is ruled by anger and hate. They need to remember basic conservative principles such as the rule of law, compassion for the less fortunate, equality of opportunity, and fiscal integrity. That is leadership and judgement people will respect.
Meanwhile, Canadians need a day off from all of this, without having to naval gaze, apologize for past perceived misdeeds or endure the upheaval of organized, and disruptive demonstrations.
It is well deserved, so let’s give them that…..please! Happy Canada Day!
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.