COMMENTARY: Blockades put Justin Trudeau at centre of ‘perfect storm’

Peace, order and good government. In Canada today, all three of those elements are in short supply.

Blockades have shut down the country’s entire rail system for over a week. Hundreds of workers have been laid off, and more will be in the coming days. Demonstrators barricaded the B.C. legislature and roughed up employees and journalists. Protests have snarled traffic in downtown Toronto and at the Canada-U.S. border. The economic damage so far is estimated at $400 million and counting.

So on Tuesday, all eyes were on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons. Canadians on both sides of the barricades looked to him for leadership, a path forward. What did they get?

“This is a critical moment. This is about things that matter. I get it. … Today I am formally extending my hand in partnership and trust. … We are creating a space for peaceful and honest dialogue. … Patience may be in short supply, and that makes it more valuable than ever.”

In other words, bupkes.

No plan other than talking. No timeframe for that talking. No acknowledgement of the severity of the economic damage being done. Not even a call to those who are causing the damage to stand down, dismantle the barricades in exchange for engaging in that dialogue. Not a recognition that the Wet’suwet’en are not unanimous on this issue, and that all sides should be at that table.

Why this milquetoast speech? Because Trudeau is afraid. Not of the repercussions of the use of force, as he claims, but the repercussions to him personally, at the ballot box, on social media, and at whatever town hall he dares hold next.

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