Jean Chretien used to say that the worst thing one can do in politics is to underestimate one’s opponents. Chretien’s three consecutive parliamentary majorities speak to this wisdom.
Challenged in wisdom, the Trudeau government kicked a hornet’s nest when the prime minister began a trend of insults against those resisting his vaccine policies during the last election campaign. Trudeau mistook his return to a minority government as an unconditional endorsement to abuse vaccine skeptics. He saw them as a wedge against a flip-flopping Conservative leader. And so effective a wedge it was that Trudeau came back at Christmas with more insults against those he contemptuously calls antivaxxers: They’re racists, misogynists, anti-science.
So, when the Freedom Convoy organised to protest the federal mandates on vaccination, Trudeau saw an opportunity to drive the wedge deeper. But the PM failed to imagine the reactions of people he mercilessly backed into the jobless corner. He failed to imagine how tides turn and fortunes reverse. Seven years in office, Justin Trudeau has not learned that he is PM for all Canadians, not only for those who like him or agree with him.
Trudeau (and his legacy media vassals) failed to recognise the tide coming in as thousands of Canadians gathered roadside to greet the truckers trekking on to Ottawa. How many fired airline workers and civil servants among the supporters? Since then, the truckers’ protest has grown in popularity. Many a decent Canadian realised how bully governments have marginalised other Canadians unless they submit to their rules. That includes the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the provinces quickest to react to the truckers’ concerns.
From the start Trudeau underestimated the truckers, perhaps believing his own lies that they are nothing but a bunch of violent knuckle-draggers. It’s not difficult to imagine where public opinion might be on the truckers’ protest without a complicit press. But for all the talk about a January-6 scenario and Russian involvement, smears disguised as “concerns,” turning portions of Ottawa into a giant truck stop was never a means to seize the government.
The Convoy is in Ottawa for a second week now and the PM has done nothing helpful. Hiding from the protesters behind a COVID-19 infection didn’t work. The vile campaign to smear the truckers has not worked. The crass name-calling speeches, alienating some Canadians from the others, did not work. Taking millions in citizen donations away from the protesters did not work. Pushing the Ottawa police and their unhinged mayor to dislodge the protesters has not worked. Neither have ignoring the truckers’ concerns and refusing to meet with them. One underestimates one’s political opponents at one’s own peril, and the PM has grossly underestimated the truckers and their resolve. The truckers’ concerns have become the concerns of a growing number of Canadians.
In the meantime, more citizens continue to demonstrate successfully and peacefully at numerous protests across the country and have now blocked access at two significant land border crossings. Sadly, the extremist Winnipeg Antifa attack on truckers’ that injured four protesters has not merited a single comment from Trudeau.
The PM’s gravest error has been dismissing the truckers, who have become the catalyst of a national sentiment against the COVID regime. Trudeau messed with people and left them no other way out but to fight.
The longer the federal government drags its feet addressing the protest in Ottawa, the more truckers who could not make it to Ottawa will feel encouraged in the rest of the country. The blocking at Coutts and the Ambassador Bridge serve as models. Along the US-American line there are over 100 border crossings. Between New Brunswick and Ontario, from Main to Michigan, there are 61. From Manitoba to BC, between Minnesota and Washington, there are 54 crossings. Not all are of the same importance as Coutts and Ambassador, of course.
The Trudeau hide-and-vilify strategy has shifted favour to the protestors. This is a political crisis, largely of the PM’s making, needing political solutions, not violent means. Violence will solve nothing, and a brutal police suppression in Ottawa will only activate protests around the country and along select strategic border crossings.
The prime minister needs to stop hiding. The sooner Trudeau swallows his pride, the easier it will be to correct his blunders. The sooner Trudeau takes the protesters’ concerns serious, the better it will be for him, for the protesting truckers and the for the whole country.