Don Martin: After a long final day at the Emergency Law research post, it’s convoy zero, Trudeau won

He gambled just by showing up. And he seems to have won in the court of reasonable public opinion.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, willingly sitting through a grueling five and a half hours as the grand finale of a nationally televised inquisition, dropped out of the Emergencies Act inquiry on Friday without seriously damaging his justification for invoking unprecedented police powers against a threat to the security perceived by the occupation of the convoy and the border in February. locks

For those of us who paid to see this prime minister, there was every reason to be skeptical that he could survive the glare of a legal beating under oath for long without resorting to his usual fixation on reciting scripted lines rather than coherently answering questions. important.

But faced with a roster of lawyers representing wildly divergent clients, Trudeau threw away his inner Teleprompter and turned in a surprisingly relaxed, thoughtful and confident performance.

That’s just the optics, of course. The substance of your appearance is obviously more important. And in that regard, Trudeau got it right despite some lingering gaps in his responses.

True, Trudeau conceded, part of his justification for acting was the anticipation of violence, which ultimately never developed, rather than an actual threat.

The prime minister also admitted that the occupation fell short of the definition of a security threat that Canada’s spy agency needs to unleash extraordinary powers. But, Trudeau insisted, he still met the government’s threshold for the measure.

And Trudeau admitted that the border blockades were removed even before the Emergencies Law came into force.

But during cross-examination, the intervening lawyers failed to drive significant holes in the prime minister’s narrative of emergency action.

Trudeau’s highly anticipated showdown with the “Freedom Convoy” legal team fizzled out when his lawyer wasted precious time reading anti-vaccine messages on the registry, setting Trudeau up for an eloquent defense of vaccine mandates.

And the sleepy group of lawyers representing the police, cities, constitutional authorities and provincial governments simplified the process with tedious questions rather than breathing new life into the big man’s testimony in the final hours of the investigation.

Ultimately, Trudeau emerged as a prime minister who appeared to have exercised due diligence in gathering security intelligence before being provoked to protect public safety.

Trudeau’s testimony paints a picture of a prime minister bombarded with alarm bells and warnings of potential security problems to the soundtrack of air horns blanketing downtown Ottawa and editorials blaring against the federal delay.

The introduction of the law does not seem to have been, as some (including me), a knee-jerk reaction from a cabinet that had not contemplated the serious consequences of its introduction, as some (including me) suspected.

Trudeau noted that he was well aware that by introducing the Act, he would end up facing an investigation to justify his decision as provided by the enabling legislation.

Far from precipitating frequent uses of the Small Protests Act, he argued, the spectacle of facing an investigation and the risky exposure it entails for a sitting prime minister is enough of a fear factor to discourage its use without an airtight defense.

So now it’s up to Judge Paul Rouleau to spend a heart-wrenching vacation to decide whether the Trudeau government met the legislative criteria for invoking the Emergencies Act.

Armed with evidence that the RCMP wanted to keep the Act longer than the eight days it was in effect and a CSIS director who enthusiastically supported its implementation, Trudeau had protection of action against any accusation that he was dishonest in introducing the Act earlier. to take the stand. .

But his strong investigative performance is another buffer against being found personally and politically reckless in making the move.

For the largely disinterested public, which saw the February protests dissolve along with the introduction of the Emergencies Law, the ends may have justified the means, even if Rouleau decides that the federal government lacked sufficient legislative authority. to invoke the Law.

In the court of public opinion, it seems that Trudeau taking the stand was a winning strategy.

That is the conclusion.

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