What Are the Tories Doing?

Nathan Poklar ’24

On January 29, the so-called “Freedom Convoy” arrived in Ottawa. Their goal? Protest the recently introduced vaccine mandates in the trucking industry.

Both the Liberal Party and the NDP have condemned this protest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized the protesters, telling them to “go home” and calling them an “insult to truth,” whilst New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh denounced the convoy and even decried his brother-in-law for donating money to the movement’s Go-FundMe page.

The Conservative Party has opted to take a different approach to the protesters. Instead of condemning them, the Tories have begun to back the protesters. Multiple Conservative Members of Parliament have declared their support for the convoy, such as Pierre Pollierve (Carleton) and Manitoban MPs Ted Falk (Provencher), James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman), and Deputy Leader Candice Bergen (Portage-Lisgar).

Former Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole himself has shown sympathy to the protesters, claiming that Trudeau’s actions on last year’s campaign trail have led to these protests. In Question Period, he grilled the Prime Minister on his refusal to meet with the protesters and hear their demands. While he has supported the protesters, he—and many other Conservatives—have made it clear that those supporting extremist ideals are not welcome in their movement.

The Tories’ decision to support the convoy is so egregiously senseless that it is difficult to fathom why they would decide to do so. When Canadians see the convoy, they are not presented with images of people peacefully protesting outside of Parliament Hill. Instead, they hear about protesters desecrating and urinating on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They see images of a defaced Terry Fox statue, swastikas, and Confederate flags. The majority of Canadians scrolling through their news will only see headlines of “Protesters Wave Swastikas” and “Conservatives Defend Recent Protests” and draw conclusions from there.

Although most of the protesters are peaceful and are not extremists, the Conservatives are allying themselves with a protest that included those who wave symbols of hate and desecrate sacred monuments. Not only are they opposing vaccine mandates—a policy that has high approval ratings amongst Canadians—but they now seem as if they welcome those with radical and bigoted views.

O’Toole and the Conservatives spent the 2021 election trying to brand themselves as moderates who could appeal to all Canadians. Yet, the Conservatives’ decision to support the convoy ruins this image. Now with Candice Bergen in charge of the party, Conservatives and the convoy’s ideals appear enmeshed…

Their support of the protest in Ottawa only leads to a single question: Who thought that this was a good idea?

People gather to support truck drivers on their way to Ottawa in protest of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, January 27, 2022.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Osorio