Just as hundreds of truckers converge on Ottawa to protest COVID mandates, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he is entering isolation for five days after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 . “I feel fine and will be working from home,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.
Freedom Convoy 2022 is promising to eschew violence, but they’re also threatening to gridlock the capital until their demands to end all Canadian vaccine mandates are met (and no mention has been made as to how they might react if some law enforcement agency were to have a problem with that). The Ontario Provincial Police are warning Ontarians to expect significant delays on provincial highways as the convoys make their way to Ottawa. Ottawa Police are ultimately expecting that 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles will enter the city by Saturday.
Nobody seems to know how big this convoy is . In a recent statement, organizer Tamara Lich claimed it now comprised 50,000 trucks . This is likely a wild overestimate. For context, the daily estimated traffic on the Coquihalla Highway – one of Western Canada’s busiest trucking corridors – is roughly 10,000 vehicles per day (including private cars). While some of the main convoys are indeed yielding numbers in the hundreds, in Canada there are only 633,663 total registered vehicles in the weight class that comprises semi-trucks. So for the 50,000 figure to be correct, roughly seven per cent of every single heavy-duty vehicle in the country would need to be in a convoy right now.
The convoy has attracted support from a family member of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Singh’s brother-in-law, Jodhveer Singh Dhaliwal, recently donated $13,000 to Freedom Convoy 2022 – an amount that makes him one of the country’s largest single donors to the cause. The NDP leader told CBC that he “disagree(s) with him about this donation and told him so.”
The rest of the world is now starting to take notice of Freedom Convoy 2022. Podcaster Joe Rogan mentioned it at the top of his most recent episode, telling his Canadian-born guest “Your country is in revolt.” Billionaire Elon Musk sent out a Thursday tweet reading only “Canadian truckers rule.”
Freedom Convoy 2022 is nothing if not anti-establishment. So anti-establishment, in fact, that even members of the trucking establishment are criticizing the protest . The Atlantic Canadian Trucking Association said recently that at a time of supply chain backups, the last thing they need is drivers gumming up highways with empty rigs. The Canadian Trucking Alliance spelled out its opposition to the convoy earlier this week, to which convoy organizers responded that the CTA is “a spineless private organization that does not speak for us.”
Official Conservative Party support for the convoy is still tentative, with most of the Tory establishment strenuously avoiding any direct association with the protest. On Thursday, however, Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre slammed the media for disproportionately focusing on extreme voices within the convoy.
- “Whenever you have five or ten thousand people who are part of any group, you’re bound to have a number who say unacceptable things, but that doesn’t mean we disparage the thousands of hardworking, law-abiding truckers who quite frankly have kept all of you alive the last two years,” he told reporters.
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It’s a particularly expensive time to be running a protest into Ontario that will require the consumption of several swimming pools’ worth of diesel. On Friday, gas prices in Toronto are expected to hit a record high of 151.9 cents per litre. Nevertheless, that’s still well below the obscenely high prices being experienced on the West Coast right now. On Thursday, some gas stations in Metro Vancouver were posting prices of $1.65.
You can probably start bracing yourself for another federal election. A new Angus Reid Institute poll found that 54 per cent of Canadian expect to go to the polls before the end of 2023. The bad news is that virtually nothing has changed in terms of voter sentiment. Just as the 2021 election yielded virtually the same results as the 2019 election, Angus Reid found that a 2023 election is on course to yield virtually the same results once again.
In said federal election, it’s entirely possible that Justin Trudeau won’t be the defending incumbent for prime minister. Amid lagging approval ratings, Trudeau has explicitly been keeping out of the public eye in recent weeks (his COVID self-isolation being just the most vivid example). And a new Nanos Research poll for the Globe and Mail says that deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland is now voters’ preferred choice for Liberal leader (said voters also wanted Pierre Poilievre as Conservative leader).
It’s a weird thing to do at this stage of the pandemic, given that many health authorities are now explicitly telling Canadians not to bother isolating if they’re asymptomatic. With Omicron spreading so widely, epidemiologists are generally working from the premise that almost everyone has been exposed to COVID-19 at some point, and to take precautions only in special circumstances. Ontario’s official public health guidelines advise people in Trudeau’s situation to continue living their lives, but to avoid “high-risk settings” such as senior’s homes. Trudeau claims he is following the guidelines of Ottawa Health, but the health authority’s public guidelines only advise a five day isolation period in the case that someone is unvaccinated. Not only is Trudeau thrice-vaccinated, but a rapid test that he took after the alleged exposure turned up negative.