Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is about to hold a press conference to discuss his government’s response to the protest convoy occupation of downtown Ottawa as MPs prepare to vote on the government’s use of the Emergencies Act.
He will be joined by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, Justice Minister David Lametti, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.
Last week, the federal Liberals invoked the legislation for the first time since its passage in 1988 to deal with an anti-vaccine mandate protest that had been occupying downtown Ottawa for weeks. The measures set out in the act have been in effect ever since.
MPs are set to vote tonight on the use of the Emergencies Act after a lengthy debate in a rare weekend sitting of the House of Commons.
If the motion fails, the invocation of the act and its extraordinary powers will be struck down. If it passes, they will remain in place until mid-March at the latest.
The at-times tense and personal debate over the Emergencies Act has pitted the Liberal government against the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois, a combination Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux referred to as an “unholy alliance.”
The New Democrats have said they will support the government’s use of the act but have urged the Liberals to tread carefully, and are reserving the right to pull support at any time.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who is seeking his party’s leadership, accused Prime Minister Trudeau of engineering the crisis for political gain.
“They have attempted to amplify and take advantage of every pain, every fear, every tragedy that has struck throughout this pandemic in order to divide one person against another and replace the people’s freedom with the government’s power,” he said Saturday.
The Conservatives argue that the protests did not rise to the level of an emergency and did not warrant the use of extraordinary powers.
Liberals say triggering the act was necessary
The governing Liberals have argued that triggering the Emergencies Act was necessary in the face of entrenched protests in Ottawa and others across the country.
The measures automatically expire after 30 days and Parliament has the power to revoke the emergency declaration, either in the initial votes this week or at any point during the month-long window.
Police have succeeded in dislodging protesters from their main encampment near Parliament Hill and have established a secure perimeter with fencing. Authorities have towed the vehicles that have occupied much of the city’s downtown core for more than three weeks.
In defending their decision, Liberals have pointed repeatedly to comments made by interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell on Friday. Bell said the Emergencies Act allowed police to set up barriers and secure an area in the city’s downtown.
The Senate must also vote on the act’s use but debate has not started yet in that chamber.