LILLEY: Minister Mendicino can’t recall key facts, but had stories about feelings

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If Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino saw the memo from RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki saying that the Emergencies Act wasn’t needed, he couldn’t recall. As he gave testimony on Tuesday, Mendicino sounded like the stereotype of a politician in the hot seat, their memory failing.

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“I don’t recall exactly when I would have seen it,” Mendicino said of the memo from his top law enforcement official.

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Mendicino also couldn’t recall if this memo was raised at the cabinet meeting where invoking the Act was discussed. What he could remember was a heartfelt discussion where Lucki informed him that undercover officers had infiltrated the protest in Coutts, Alta., but that this information couldn’t get out before arrests were made because “lives were in the balance.”

That, said Mendicino, was the decision moment for him, not the memo – which he may or may not have read before granting the government sweeping emergency powers.

Imagine that, your top law enforcement official submits a report to you on clearing the protests, what is needed and her opinion on the use of the Emergencies Act and you don’t read it before you make your decision.

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It’s right up there with testimony we heard about how cabinet did not review the report by CSIS that stated the protests did not meet the legal threshold for invoking the Emergencies Act.

“I was aware that CSIS has concluded that Sec. 2, under the CSIS Act, was not met,” Mendicino told the inquiry.

He emphasized, “under the CSIS Act” to highlight the fact that the Trudeau government doesn’t think they’re constrained by th Sec. 2 definition of a threat to national security, even if that is what the law clearly states.

For the past two weeks, government bureaucrats and then ministers have been pushing the idea that they used a broader definition of what constitutes a threat to national security than is allowed by law.

In effect, the Trudeau government has said they don’t like the narrow definition of what constitutes a public order emergency, so they invented their own.

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CSIS Director David Vigneault may have officially issued the report saying the protests didn’t meet the legal threshold, but also advised the prime minister to invoke the Act after getting a legal opinion from the Justice Department. No one has seen this new, broader definition – the one not included in the law – nor has anyone seen the legal opinion that swayed Vigneault’s advice.

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The public should know these things, but instead we’re treated to rationales for invoking the Emergencies Act that aren’t supported by the strict legal definitions and rules of procedure found in the law.

“The idea was not only to restore public safety, but to maintain it and the objective of invoking the Emergencies Act was to maintain law and order to stop the whack-a-mole,” Mendicino told the inquiry.

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Again, not a reason to invoke the act.

There’s no question that the streets in Ottawa needed to be cleared, but that didn’t require the Emergencies Act — it required effective policing. That’s what we saw in Windsor at the Ambassador Bridge and in Coutts, both of which were cleared before the act was invoked.

Listening to the testimony of Mendicino and other top government officials, it’s clear they know they didn’t meet the threshold established in law, so they are hoping to establish a new definition with the hope the public forgives them.

Many will, based on their feelings towards the convoy, but anyone willing to let Mendicino, Trudeau or any other politician off the hook for this has to ask themselves one simple question.

How will they feel when Pierre Poilievre, or any other Conservative politician, behaves in the same way in the future? Precedent is being set here.

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