Provinces left ‘holding the bag’: Text messages reveal Jason Kenney was upset with feds over blocking Coutts

OTTAWA — Former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has accused the federal government of leaving the provinces “grabbing the bag” to clear out “Freedom Convoy” protesters who blocked a border crossing in southern Alberta, according to has learned a public inquiry.

Documents released Tuesday by the inquiry looking into the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act last winter include text messages between three federal cabinet ministers, including Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

In messages LeBlanc told cabinet colleagues he had received from Kenney, the then-prime minister accused Ottawa of not caring about the US-Canada border closure at Coutts, Alta., and complained about the federal decision to deny Alberta’s request for military equipment that could help remove protest vehicles.

LeBlanc, whose job it is to work directly with provincial leaders, delivered the messages to Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino on February 11, three days before the Alberta RCMP moved to make arrests in Coutts.

A message in the group chat, which LeBlanc attributed to Kenney, read: “Your boy really fucked up the dog.”

“This vaccine policy against truckers is obviously just silly political theater,” the message read, apparently referring to a federal policy requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for truckers crossing the border. The policy sparked the convoy protests, which ultimately saw demonstrators protest other COVID-19 restrictions and the federal government.

“Calling them all Nazis hasn’t exactly helped. And now the provinces are saving the bag in the application”, the message said.

The message continued with an accusation that private sellers would not provide cranes or other heavy equipment to “move these damn trucks” because the protesters, described as “crazy”, were making death threats.

“And you refused our request for military equipment to help us. Because apparently, the Canadian government doesn’t really care about the international border being closed,” the message read.

“But don’t worry, the RCMP commander in Alberta just proudly told me that he’s hired some psychologists to do a profile assessment of the protesters. I said, ‘That’s great news, Deputy Commissioner, huh? Do any of them know how to drive? a tow truck?'”

Documents released Tuesday by the inquiry looking into the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act last winter to deal with the #FreedomConvoy include text messages between three federal cabinet ministers.

In response to the texts that LeBlanc said were from Kenney, Alghabra wrote: “Speaking of crazy.” LeBlanc replied, “Totally.” No further text messages were posted to the conversation.

The blockade at Coutts forced the closure of the road and border crossing for more than two weeks before it was broken up on February 14, when the RCMP seized weapons and charged four men with conspiracy to commit murder.

On the same day, the federal government moved to invoke the Emergencies Act in response to ongoing protests in downtown Ottawa.

When a lawyer for the commission asked LeBlanc if Kenney was referring to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the message that caused him to say “Your guy really fucked up the dog,” LeBlanc testified that he didn’t ask.

“This text message was the prime minister empathetically expressing his frustration,” he said.

It’s not the first time the commission has seen testy exchanges between federal ministers and their provincial counterparts, particularly in Ontario.

The commission heard that federal cabinet members were frustrated with what they saw as the Ontario government’s unwillingness to come to the table and find a solution to the lockdowns.

Earlier in the day, a text message from Mendicino’s chief of staff Mike Jones was shown to the public inquiry, who in February said former Ontario Attorney General Sylvia Jones used a swear word when saying she did not “take edicts.” .

The Ontario government did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The Public Order Emergency Commission, which is in its final week, previously heard that Trudeau’s cabinet was highly concerned that the “Freedom Convoy” could inspire further protests after protesters set up a blockade. in Coutts and another six-day border closure in Windsor, Ontario

The authorities’ inability to convince or find willing tow truck operators to remove protest vehicles was one reason the Trudeau government argued that the Emergencies Act was necessary because it gave law enforcement the authority to compel companies to do the work.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 22, 2022.

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