Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison has endorsed Pierre Poilievre for Conservative Party leader, as the Tories get another leadership campaign underway following last week’s caucus revolt against Erin O’Toole.
At a virtual press conference hosted in Cranbrook, Morrison — speaking via Zoom from Ottawa — noted Poilievre, who represents the riding of Carlton in Ontario, grew up in Calgary and has his pulse on issues that matter to Western Canada.
“He is very familiar with Western Canada and the issues we have, our energy sector, very supportive,” Morrison said. “But he’s fully bilingual and can communicate all across Canada, so very experienced, very well spoken … and very knowledgeable on politics.”
Morrison added that Poilievre has the appeal to unify various elements of the party together.
“For Conservatives, we really need to get together as a team, move forward, support each other,” Morrison said. “We all have our own speciality-type experiences and knowledge and Pierre is very good at surrounding himself with those who have experience and talent.”
Last week, O’Toole lost an internal endorsement review, as caucus voted 73-45 in a secret-ballot process to replace party leadership.
In terms of the vote results and implications to caucus fracturing, Morrison said that everyone present committed to coming together to show a unified front.
“That was the real positive end result of last week,” Morrison said. “No one’s left the party, everybody is contributing and we’re moving forward.”
O’Toole’s leadership review was borne out his tepid response to the “freedom convoy” protests as well as last fall’s federal election results, which saw Canadians return a Liberal minority government. The Conservatives captured the same number of seats held prior to the writ dropping, with 119.
Former Alberta MP James Cumming conducted an election post-mortem on behalf of the party, and while the report remains an internal document, Morrison says it identified a number issues for consideration.
“What we learned from that is that in any election, the good things we did — we had a great booklet on what our policies were, but stick to the policies and let’s stay the course on what we have agreed to, as a party, that our priorities are,” Morrison said.
Candice Bergen, a Manitoba-based Conservative MP, was elected by caucus to serve as interim leader while the party conducts a leadership contest.
Anti-mandate protesters continue to occupy Ottawa
Unrest in Ottawa has stretched into the second week, as “freedom convoy” protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 mandates have set up for the long haul.
What began as a protest against the federal government ending a vaccine exemption for truck drivers entering into Canada has morphed into a movement protesting all COVID-19 mandates, regardless of whether those mandates were issued by federal or provincial governments.
Hundreds of semi-trucks and personal vehicles, along with thousands of demonstrators, have taken over the downtown Ottawa streets since Jan. 29. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson recently declared a state of emergency, while local police forces have been overwhelmed trying to manage the situation.
An Ontario judge recently granted a 10-day injunction to prevent protesters from incessantly honking vehicle horns, as Watson said the noise is “tantamount to psychological warfare,” according to a report filed from The Canadian Press on Feb. 7.
Steve Bell, deputy chief of the Ottawa Police, noted complex challenge of conducting enforcement actions, during a press conference on Tuesday.
“There’s many layers of complexity to dismantling this occupation,” Bell said. “One of them is the sheer size of it. It covers, as we know, many blocks within our city’s downtown core. The other challenge is the size of the vehicles. When you add the complexity of active attempts to interfere with any of our ability to remove them, it just adds that extra layer of complexity.”
Federal parliamentarians returned to the House of Commons on Monday, Jan. 31, including Morrison.
The Kootenay-Columbia MP said he has been talking with some of the truck drivers as well as Ottawa police about the situation.
“I think the [resolution] here is just to sit down and talk with them, we’ve been asking the government to do that, just to talk to them to see how we can mediate to come to an agreement on where we should be going …,” Morrison said.
“Even our senior health officials are saying things like we’re going to have to live with this and have to start moving forward, so when you get a couple premiers talking about removing all restrictions, including vaccine passports, I think that’s a huge step in the direction of where these individuals want to be.”
Morrison, a former RCMP officer, said that the majority of the protesters appeared to be demonstrating peacefully, but noted that there have been some arrests and that all rallies have “bad apples” bent on causing trouble.
While Conservatives criticized government for the enforcement response to nation-wide rail blockades two years ago protesting the construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline through Wetʼsuwetʼen territory in northern British Columbia, the party has largely thrown its support behind the convoy’s demands to end COVID-19 mandates.
The tactic of clogging traffic or even blockading highways and major thoroughfares has spread to other communities across the country, most prominently in Alberta, where trucks and protesters have blocked off a point of entry at the Coutts border crossing south of Lethbridge.
The situation remains fluid, as one southbound lane into the United States had been open, however Alberta RCMP are now advising (as of Tuesday afternoon) that southbound commercial traffic reroute to other border crossings such as Aden, Del Bonita and Carway.
Drawing a parallel from the rail blockades and the current impact from the convoys on national infrastructure, Morrison reiterated that anyone breaking the law should face consequences.
“If they are breaking the law, then they should be accountable for that,” said Morrison. “Whether it’s a railway blockade or, say, the Coutts border crossing in Alberta, they should open up that lane and let traffic go through.”
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