Premier’s letter to PM contrasts with public remarks about blockade
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/02/2022 (480 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Premier Heather Stefanson pleaded in a private letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene at the Emerson border blockade just days before she publicly opposed his decision to enact the federal Emergencies Act against protesters.
In a Feb. 11 letter obtained by the Free Press, Stefanson asked Trudeau to take “immediate and effective” action as she pleaded for “national leadership that only you and the federal government can provide.”
Yet, at a news conference on Monday, Stefanson said local leaders had the situation under control, and she feared if the federal government wielded power under the Emergencies Act, it would “escalate situations.”
Her Feb. 11 letter said the situation was urgent and blockades that disrupt “this critical corridor — even temporarily — create potential dangers, impose severe hardships on all Manitobans and cause severe economic loss and damage to Manitoba and Canadian businesses.”
Her letter warned of “urgency” and “dangers,” a tone that was absent in her public comments about relying on police to resolve the situation peacefully.
On Tuesday, RCMP announced the blockade, which began Feb. 10, was expected to end Wednesday.
The premier and Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen issued a statement Tuesday commending “the expert and professional management of the provincial RCMP in respectfully de-escalating this situation without the use of force.”
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the premier’s failure to act on the blockade at the Emerson border crossing — where $73 million in goods are shipped every day — and the protests that have disrupted downtown Winnipeg since Feb. 4 is “irresponsible.”
He said Stefanson’s letter to the PM versus what she said publicly shows she’s not telling Manitobans what she really believes.
“The premier can say one thing publicly and write another thing behind the scenes,” Kinew said.
“Actions speak louder than words. The premier’s inaction really tells you where her heart lies. The fact that she did nothing shows an irresponsibility,” Kinew said.
The premier had been telling Manitobans they have to trust police to peacefully negotiate an end to the blockade. She’s also called on the federal government to lift the vaccine mandates for truckers and urged Canada to work with the U.S. to do likewise.
The premier’s letter to the prime minister didn’t ask him to lift vaccine mandates for truckers, but a spokeswoman for the premier said Tuesday that was the intended message.
No one had expected Trudeau to invoke the far-reaching power of the Emergencies Act, she said.
“The unprecedented use of this sweeping legislation had never been raised before Monday, and is not necessary in Manitoba. The premier, along with several other premiers, took issue with the blanket use of the Emergencies Act across the country,” the spokeswoman told the Free Press.
“Last Friday the premier wrote to the prime minister requesting a clear and clearly communicated plan to de-escalate tensions at the border. The premier felt a clear federal road map and timetable on relaxing border restrictions would be timely and constructive. Not just for truckers, but for all Canadians looking for a return to some kind of normalcy after nearly two long years,” the premier’s spokeswoman said.
“As everyone knows, the protests at the border started when the prime minister announced mandates for the trucking industry at the border – the same people who had been delivering goods and services throughout the entire pandemic. As this was mandated federally only, the PM could change this policy, and only he could engage with the U.S. administration, she said.
Stefanson also had a call with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday, to exchange information, discuss concerns, and talk about advocacy on the U.S. side of the border, she said.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.