Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Opinion/ColumnTrucking

Pierre Poilievre is Conservative Leader today because the Truckers’ Convoy protested in January

The fact that Poilievre won a landslide victory is a credit to him and his team; that fact that Erin O’Toole was ousted and a leadership race happened in 2022 is a credit to the Truckers’ Convoy. Image: Twitter

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Pierre Poilievre is now the leader of Canada’s Conservative Party because thousands of Truckers protested.

There may be a mountain of information and opinion between the January protests and the landslide victory on September 10, which saw Poilievre take 68 per cent of the leadership vote. The fact remains that former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole lost a Caucus confidence vote called early because Senator Denise Batters was appalled by his Leadership performance, including his non-response to the Truckers’ Convoy. While the big rigs idled in Ottawa, her petition to remove him gained the signatures it needed, and more than half of the Conservative caucus agreed with her.

Erin O’Toole’s response to the Convoy was indistinguishable from Justin Trudeau’s response; Conservatives saw clearly that they needed to remove and replace him as quickly as possible.

Freedom Convoy organizers set out to change the conversation around COVID lockdown measures: while Justin Trudeau was claiming COVID restrictions were about preventing the spread of disease, Truckers could see clearly the restrictions were an egregious breach of Canadians’ rights and liberties. They were the first group to have both the courage and the ability to call “bullshit” on Trudeau’s narrative. It could have been nurses, or welders, or civil liberties groups that organized an Ottawa protest; it should have been doctors, lawyers and opposition politicians. But it wasn’t: it was Truckers.

Whether you agree or disagree with the tactics used by the Freedom Convoy, you have to admire the fact that they got RESULTS: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole got fired from his job. His job was to provide Opposition to Justin Trudeau, and he failed to do that. So, thousands of Truckers and their supporters across the nation stepped up and did it for him – and O’Toole got fired, triggering the leadership race that Poilievre won on Saturday. This may yet result in the defeat of Trudeau’s government; that would be an even bigger victory.

I covered the Freedom Convoy intensely last January and February; some days RWN posted five times per day, and I linked live streams to press conferences and stage events at every opportunity. I was “on the bridge” with Canadians that bitterly cold January day the Convoy rolled through on its way to Ottawa, in awe of their spirit and determination. A 96-year-old Holocaust survivor; parents with schoolchildren; Canada Post workers; citizens of every stripe were fed up with government and grateful to Truckers for voicing their frustrations. I knew I was witnessing history.

I received angry phone calls from Trucking industry associations and lobby groups reminding me that “the Trucking industry” did not support the Convoy and saw it as irresponsible and damaging to business.

Here’s the thing about the Truckers’ Freedom Convoy: it had nothing to do with Trucking.

Recently, one of the smartest businesswomen I know, whose firm provides important services to the Trucking industry, exclaimed to me bitterly:

“The Convoy was a black eye on Trucking!”

She was genuinely upset; and from a certain point of view, she was right.

But using that logic, the hallowed Minute Men of America’s Revolutionary War were a black eye on farming.

The Women’s Suffragette movement was a black eye on good housekeeping.

Cesar Chavez was a black eye on industrious farm workers.

The Truckers’ Convoy had nothing to do with the business of Trucking: it was about taking a necessary political stand. It is just lucky for Pierre Poilievre and the rest of Canada that the fearless and outspoken group that decided to stand up for their own rights and everyone else’s also happen to own 80,000-pound rigs which can be lived in for weeks, look incredible in photo-opps, and take up a lot of space in front of Parliament. It could have been nurses, or welders, or civil liberties groups, or doctors or lawyers or politicians. But is wasn’t: it was Truckers.

Canada had no Official Opposition to Justin Trudeau’s tyrannical tantrums during 2021 and 2022: Jagmeet Singh was conveniently bought off, and Erin O’Toole completely abdicated his responsibility to oppose. The Truckers stepped up and paid their own money to oppose Trudeau, while Jagmeet Singh and Erin O’Toole cheerfully cashed the paycheques they received to oppose while opposing nothing.

The Truckers’ Convoy had nothing to do with the business of Trucking: it was all about opposing tyranny. At that, it has chalked up several important victories, including giving Pierre Poilievre the opportunity to become Conservative Leader and to replace Justin Trudeau.

We owe so much to that Convoy.

Usually, industry protests involve unfair working conditions, road safety, fuel prices or something else related to business. This protest involved freedom, personal liberty and Charter rights. This was not a protest about Trucking; it was a protest by Truckers. Two completely different things.