February 18, 2022

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Different levels of government look to each other for help with Ottawa protests

Canada’s different levels of government are looking to each other to deal with the anti-vaccine mandate protest tying downtown Ottawa in knots.

At a news conference on Monday, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government has the power to do more to end the situation and should learn from how other provinces handled similar protests recently.

“The provinces have extensive regulatory powers over commercial trucking and road transportation to help end this unlawful occupation and disruptions of commercial trucks blockading the streets and highways,” Alghabra said. “These powers could include, for example, quickly enforcing the provisions of … Ontario highway safety, to begin suspending commercial licences and also insurance of commercial owners of equipment blockading the streets for days on end….”

Shortly after that news conference, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson released a letter he sent to the federal and provincial governments, asking for “a dramatic and immediate injection” of additional officers. Some Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP officers have already supplemented the local police, but the Ottawa police chief has said more help is needed.

“Given the scope and scale of the armada of large trucks that are now occupying our downtown core, we are writing to you today to ask that you work to help the city secure 1,800 officers to quell the insurrection that the Ottawa Police Service is not able to contain,” said the letter, signed by Watson and Coun. Diane Deans. The letter specifically asks for 1,000 regular officers, 600 public order officers, 100 investigative officers and 100 civilian staff and supporting resources. 

Watson also floated the idea of the federal government appointing a “high-profile, respected senior statesperson” to mediate between protesters and governments and resolve the stalemate.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he’s not willing to negotiate with the protesters who are demanding either an end to all vaccine mandates or a change in government. During an emergency debate Monday, Trudeau accused the Ottawa convoy protesters of trying to derail Canada’s democracy.

On Monday, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino sidestepped questions about intervening directly in the crisis.

Ford said last week he considers the protests an “occupation” but hasn’t announced any specific help. In a tweet Sunday, the premier said the province has provided Ottawa “everything they have asked for” and will continue to do so.

Team Canada forward Jamie Lee Rattray scores the third goal on United States goalkeeper Maddie Rooney, as teammate Kelly Pannek looks on, during the second period of women’s ice hockey action at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games on Tuesday. The 4-2 win means Canada finishes the preliminary round at 4-0, having outscored its opponents 33-5. Follow CBC’s Olympics coverage by clicking the above header. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

In brief

Two border crossings with the U.S. have been closed because of anti-vaccine mandate protests. Traffic entering and leaving Canada along the Ambassador Bridge, linking Windsor, Ont., to Detroit, was being blocked by protesters Monday night. Demonstrators waving Canadian flags and bearing slogans on their vehicles demanding an end to COVID-19 restrictions arrived at the bridge on Monday afternoon. They told CBC News they had no plans to leave the bridge Monday night. Meanwhile, anti-vaccine mandate protesters are once again preventing traffic from passing through the Coutts border crossing in southern Alberta. Alberta RCMP tweeted late Monday evening that both north and southbound lanes at the crossing on Highway 4 were blocked by the demonstration and asked motorists to avoid the area. Read the latest from Windsor here and from Coutts here.

VIDEO | Protesters block traffic on Ambassador Bridge:

Protesters block Canada-bound traffic on Ambassador Bridge

Truckers and other protesters started blocking Canada-bound traffic on the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, and calling for an end to COVID-19 restrictions. 1:18

The mother of an unvaccinated Ontario trucker who died of COVID-19 is urging other drivers protesting vaccine mandates across Canada to get their shots to protect their families, colleagues and the public. 
Margaret Makins said her 70-year-old son Dave Mitchell, who was from Ayr, had no major health issues before contracting COVID-19. He died in October after battling the virus for weeks. Quick-witted, popular and “generous to a fault,” Mitchell “lived by his own rules,” according to his mother. She believes his rebellious spirit is part of what made him say no to getting vaccinated. Makins wants those participating in the convoy protests to know that pandemic mandates exist to protect families from severe illness and death — to prevent the kind of giant chasm left by the loss of her son. “Dying of COVID is not a pleasant experience. It’s absolutely horrible,” said Makins. “If my story would convince just one of them to get vaccinated, I would feel that David’s dying has some value. “No one can force them to vaccinate and I can appreciate that, but for the sake of your families, your partners, your employers, every single person you meet, it is better for you to be vaccinated so you can help them continue to live.” Read more about Makins’s plea here.

Ontario should aim to build 1.5 million new homes in the next decade by increasing density in urban and suburban areas and by drastically overhauling how cities approve housing projects, says a new report commissioned by Premier Doug Ford’s government. The Housing Affordability Task Force makes 55 recommendations aimed at reining in home prices by dramatically boosting the supply of housing. The cost of buying the average home in Ontario has nearly tripled over the past 10 years. “We are in a housing crisis and that demands immediate and sweeping reforms,” says a letter in the report from task force chair Jake Lawrence, CEO of Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets. Immediate reforms could be in place before Ontario’s provincial election on June 2. Ford’s Progressive Conservatives intend to bring in legislation responding to the task force report during the upcoming sitting of Queen’s Park, a senior government official told CBC News. Read details of the recommendations here.

Trips departing from Canadian airports in March have spiked by more than 700 per cent compared to bookings the same time last year, according to Canadian-based travel agency Flight Centre, but travellers still face a test when returning to Canada. To return home, Canadians must show proof of a negative molecular test (such as a PCR test) within 72 hours of their departing flight or planned arrival at the land border. Due to Omicron’s rapid spread and an increase in international travel, Canadians may face difficulty booking their pre-entry test or getting their results in time. Flight Centre spokesperson Allison Wallace advises travellers pre-book their test at a clinic near their travel destination well in advance to avoid any holdups. “I highly recommend booking your appointment before you even take your trip,” she said. Snowbird Dianne Fine said the best solution would be for the federal government to nix the pre-entry test requirement for fully vaccinated travellers — something several politicians and travel industry groups have previously lobbied for. “Anyone who has three vaccines should not need to take a PCR test,” said Fine. “They’re responsible and they’ve done their duty.” Read more about the border rules here.

Now here’s some impressive school attendance to start your Tuesday: Leo Scantlebury has walked the corridors of Howard S. Billings Regional High School for more years than its current student population has been alive. From student, to teacher, and now to vice-principal, Leo Scantlebury has devoted much of his life to the high school in Châteauguay, Que., on Montreal’s South Shore. He’s determined to help improve the school and enhance its reputation. Scantlebury graduated from Howard S. Billings in 1989, returning two decades later, in 2008, to teach physical education, math and ethics, as well as to coach several sports teams. He’s had his current role since 2019. Scantlebury is “very mindful” of the fact that he’s a leader in a school with a large Black population — as far as he knows, he’s the first Black person in a senior administrative role at the New Frontiers School Board. “A lot of the kids are of a West Indian background, African background, so it’s easy to relate to them. I understand a lot of their struggles,” he said. “I try to be kind of like a role model to all of the kids, as well to let them know that I’m here for them.” Read more about Scantlebury here.

Front Burner: Under the big tent: Conservative division in Canada

Just over a week ago, Conservative Erin O’Toole was ousted after just 18 months as party leader. His sudden departure has triggered the third leadership race since Stephen Harper lost in 2015. This upheaval is in line with the party’s long-standing power struggles. 

For decades, the Conservatives have fought among themselves for the soul of the party. Between populists and elites, town and country, east and west. Today on Front Burner, we’re talking to Macleans writer Paul Wells about the complicated push-pull of the modern Canadian Conservative movement and what’s next for the party. 

28:27Under the big tent: Conservative division in Canada

Today in history: Feb. 8

1945: The First Canadian Army attacks German positions in the Reichswald during the general Allied offensive into Germany during the Second World War.

1952: Queen Elizabeth takes the oath of accession to the throne, following the death two days earlier of her father, King George VI. She was crowned in a public ceremony in June 1953.

1960: U.S. Congress opens hearings on payola, whereby a radio station or its employees, usually a disc jockey, accept payment for broadcasting records.

1986: Twenty-three people die when a nine-car Via passenger train and a CN freight train collide head-on near Hinton, Alta. The 118-car freight train went through a closed switch. The crews of both trains died in the collision.

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