Some of the same government officials in the United States and Canada who shut down businesses and closed borders for years by executive edict, putting tens of thousands out of work, are decrying the negative impact of a peoples’ blockade of the Ambassador Bridge and even threatening their children.
Last week, the Freedom Convoy 2022 blocked most traffic across the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario for four days in a highly visible act of civil disobedience to protest vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions. There is no doubt this blockade was disruptive: The Ambassador Bridge is a major thoroughfare between the United States and Canada. By some estimates, the bridge carries about 25% of total trade between the two countries, prompting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable to release a joint statement. “The disruptions we are seeing at the U.S.-Canada border — at the Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge and at other crossings — are adding to the significant supply chain strains on manufacturers and other businesses in the United States. We respectfully urge the Canadian government to act swiftly to address the disruption to the flow of trade and its impact on manufacturers and other businesses on both sides of the border.”
Sure enough, governments on both sides have promised to do exactly that, demanding the protestors depart by 7:00 PM this past Friday. Before then, however, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the unusual step of subtly threatening the participants in the Freedom Convoy and their families. In other words, he threatened his own citizens and voters, tweeting “Make no mistake: The border cannot, and will not, remain closed. Every option is on the table. So, if you’re participating in these illegal blockades that are taking our neighbourhoods and our economy hostage, it’s time to go home – especially if you have your kids with you.” To ensure there was no mistaking his meaning, the Prime Minister’s office reiterated that everything is on the table including military force, saying they will “respond with whatever it takes” to end the blockade, using language more suited to a foreign adversary. The Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, also had strong words for the protestors, calling it a “siege” and an “illegal occupation.” “I call it a siege because that’s what it is, it’s an illegal occupation.” “My message to those still in Ottawa, to those at our border crossings, please go home,” he said. “To those of you who brought your children, please take them home,” promising aggressive action to clear the bridge including fines of up to $100,000 Canadian dollars and imprisonment of up to a year.
Canadian government officials appear to be in agreement with their partners south of the border in the United States. At a press briefing on Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau claimed “President Biden and I both agreed that for the security of people and the economy, these blockades cannot continue. Make no mistake, the border cannot and will not remain closed. Everything is on the table because this unlawful activity has to end, and it will end.” He also took yet another opportunity to viscously smear the protestors, claiming there are nebulous “American and global influences” working behind the scenes. “We talked about the U.S.-based flooding of the 911 phone lines in Ottawa, the presence of U.S. citizens in the blockade and the impact of foreign money to fund this illegal activity,” he said referring to his conversation with President Biden and presumably donations made through public websites like GoFundMe before they confiscated close to $9,000,000, possibly illegally, and GiveSendGo, which are now shady foreign interests, apparently. Biden’s Press Secretary, Jen Psaki commented on the conversation as well, saying “The two leaders agreed that the actions of the individuals who are obstructing travel and commerce between our two countries are having significant direct impacts on citizens’ lives and livelihoods. The President expressed his concern that the United States — that United States companies and workers are experiencing serious effects, including slowdowns in production, shortened work hours, and plant closures.” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has also spoken out about the blockade, claiming “This is an illegal blockade, and while people have the right to protest, they don’t have a right to illegally block the largest land-border crossing in North America.” She has also decried the impact on economic activity, claiming “It’s hitting paychecks and production lines. That is unacceptable.”
Generally speaking, there is some truth to these claims. The blockade of an international bridge is an extreme measure that will have a negative impact on the economy and should not be taken lightly. This has prompted even some of my fellow conservatives to express concerns about the tactics. Karen Townsend, writing for the conservative website HotAir.com, said, “This is the fourth day of the blockade on the Ambassador Bridge. Let me say upfront, I am opposed to blocking public roads, including bridges, as a form of protest. I’m against it whether it is Antifa and Black Lives Matter or if it is anti-mandate truckers. It’s a public safety risk that ordinary people suffer from if, for example, medical transportation is hindered or law enforcement can’t get through to victims of crime. Let the truckers surround Canadian Parliament and allow emergency traffic to get through, that’s fine. Blocking an international bridge is a different matter.” I understand the concern myself and I agree with her on the public safety issue to some extent, but I can’t help think Mrs. Townsend and others are totally missing the point after close to two years of countless pandemic restrictions: Government officials in the United States and Canada like Prime Minister Trudeau, President Joe Biden, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer all shutdown the border themselves and halted economic activity and life in general without following anything resembling the democratic process.
This blockade should be seen in that context as the people’s lockdown, both completely justified and deliciously ironic after governments in both countries put tens of thousands if not millions of people out of work and forced the closure of thousands of businesses. In that sense, the people are now doing exactly the same as the elites to demand an end to these restrictions rather than impose them, and yet we’re supposed to trust the words and actions of the very same people that implemented their own, far more draconian measures. In fact, the Canadian border is closed right now for non-essential travel, a point made well by the conservative satire site, The Babylon Bee, who ran the headline “Trudeau Demands Protesters Stop Shutting Down City So That He Can Shut Down City.” Those who do travel to Canada must be vaccinated and must test negative before arrival. If you’ve traveled outside the United States or Canada, you must remain in quarantine until you test negative again in Canada itself. Canadian businesses overall have been suffering under a raft of restrictions for almost two years. As of last month, many provinces including Ontario were still limiting retail shops to 50% capacity and were not allowing indoor dining entirely. Global News reported on the impact, “Small businesses, both new and old, are having to call it quits after two years of COVID pandemic restrictions and supply chain issues creating the perfect storm for many just struggling to get by.” In 2021, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that around 75,000 businesses in the province were at risk of closing. Director Julie Kwiecinski said that the average small business in Ontario has an estimated $190,000 in pandemic related debt and about 18.5% are considering bankruptcy, noting that “Just because you are not locked down or not restricted does not mean you are not suffering.”
Across the border in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is also known for some of the most drastic and insane lockdown policies in the United States. For fifteen months, the state shuttered businesses in entire sectors, restricted the capacity of indoor venus and private gatherings, and enforced a mask mandate; many businesses were closed entirely between March and June 2020; this included everything from car dealerships to veterinary clinics. Even after June 2020, gyms, libraries, theaters, and other public entertainment venues remained closed. The order focused on bars and restaurants affected nearly 8,500 establishments in the state. The rules were so byzantine that parts of open stores were closed and customers were blocked from buying certain goods from stores they were already patronizing. Governor Whitmer also vetoed a bill that would ban employers from firing associates for refusing to get the vaccine. President Biden wasn’t in office during this period, but he was generally supportive of such measures throughout the 2020 campaign, claiming his opponent then President Trump didn’t do enough to “shut down” the virus. He maintained the European travel ban for six months after his inauguration and instituted his own travel ban in South Africa. Members of his administration urged citizens to cancel holiday plans just last year. He too believes employees can be fired for refusing to take the vaccine, and tried to implement a never before seen mandate until the Supreme Court struck it down last month.
Further, almost all of these measures in both the United States and Canada have been implemented without a vote in either Congress, Parliament, or the State Houses. No democratic process has been followed: Each of those involved has ruled by decree, and made decrees that cost millions their jobs. At the time, these restrictions were said to be essential to stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives. Those who disagreed were smeared as Neanderthals and grandma-killers, but they have ultimately been proven correct as new studies from Johns Hopkins and others strongly suggest the measures were ineffective at their own stated goal, destroying people’s livelihoods with no measurable benefits. None of those involved have since apologized for their part in the greatest, most disruptive policy failure in the history of the known universe. Now, the very same people that pushed measures that intentionally put people out of work and closed businesses are complaining about a counter protests’ impact on economic activity. Of course, if they cared about economic activity in the first place, they would have used a much lighter touch throughout the pandemic, following the lead of states like Florida, Georgia, and Texas or countries like Sweden.
Instead, they did what they wanted and attacked you if you complained about the impact on your life, lecturing you from their ivory towers. In my opinion, they are now reaping precisely what they sowed and nothing could be more deserved. Perhaps even worse, the underlying message is clear: They, as the elites and our betters, can make decisions on their own that close your business or cost you your job, but if the people dare to pursue a course of civil disobedience with the same effect they must be crushed and their children threatened. Bill Maher made this point on his Real Time show this past Friday when he claimed this was about “something more than just the vaccine mandate.” One of his guests, Vivek Ramaswamy, the author of Woke, Inc., said, “These are the unelected class leaders that ultimately, I think, are using the bureaucratic power to supplant the will of everyday – not only Americans but Canadians and Western Europeans too – and that’s why we’re seeing a fusion of both the left and the right here saying that, ‘Actually we want our voices heard. We want to be able to speak without fear of putting food on the dinner table.’” “You didn’t use that word ‘elitist’ in your whole speech, but, like, that’s the word I think is on people’s tongues and minds,” Mr. Maher responded. “There is this idea, and it’s not wrong, that some people are staying home in their Lululemons and other people can afford to, like, wait out and get a free vacation and money from the government, and other people can’t. And they’re pissed off – the people who can’t.” The comedian and political commentator also took direct aim at Prime Minister Trudeau, saying “He was talking about people who are not vaccinated. He said, ‘They don’t believe in science. They’re often misogynistic, often racist.’ No, they’re not. He said, ‘But they take up space. And with that we have to make a choice in terms of a leader as a country. Do we tolerate these people?’” Last week, I had gently criticized Mr. Maher for defending Whoopi Goldberg instead of the truckers. He more than made up for it here.
Ultimately, the Freedom Convoy 2022 is crystalizing the real political battle of our time for all to see: The elites feel they can do unto you whatever they please and you have no, or at least very little, rights, but don’t dare try the same to them. Throughout the entire Freedom Convoy 2022, both the blockade and the occupation in Ottawa, Prime Minister Trudeau and other politicians could simply have called for a vote. They could’ve said, we’ve heard you. This is a democracy. Let’s vote on the matter before we demand you lose your job over a vaccine. Instead, they said only: We are your betters, and you have no choice but to listen. Is this the world you really want to live in, because it is the world they are desperately trying to make and they are willing to threaten your children to see it done…