For nearly a month, a convoy of truckers in Canada captivated that nation with raucous but largely peaceful protesting in downtown Ottawa. To the surprise of the government, public opinion was mixed over the appearance of this “Freedom Convoy.”

The truckers opposed the severe regime of COVID-19 restrictions and mandates that Canada’s federal government had imposed on the population. The long-distance truckers stridently rejected the vaccination requirement, among other burdens placed on their daily work.

After weeks in which truckers parked adjacent to the Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau imposed the Emergencies Act to bring the Freedom Convoy to an end. In this manner, Trudeau used a law meant for national security situations and applied it expansively and without factual justification to a civil protest.

Banks froze the accounts of anyone suspected of supporting the truckers’ protest, even though such donations were not illegal under existing law. Authorities dispersed the truckers in short order.

In acting outside the bounds of law, however, the Trudeau government may have created a new moment in Canadian politics. In opposing one of the strictest COVID-19 regimes in Western democracies, the Freedom Convoy seems to have sparked an end to many of Canada’s worst pandemic policies.

But what is the real legacy of the Freedom Convoy?

“I do think that we’re going to see an injection of populism into Canadian politics going forward,” says Joanna Baron, a lawyer in Canada and executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, who joins a bonus episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast.”

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Richard Reinsch: Welcome to “The Daily Signal Podcast.” Today we’re joined by Joanna Baron from Toronto. She is a lawyer, a writer, political legal commentator. She’s the executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation. She’s written widely on the effects of the COVID pandemic in Canada, and she’s going to talk to us about the legacy of the “Freedom Convoy” in Canada. Joanna, thank you for joining us.

Joanna Baron: Great to be here with you.

Reinsch: Joanna, you’ve written several articles on COVID, on the COVID restrictions in Canada, what they’ve meant, what they’ve done. You also have written about the Freedom Convoy in Canada and what it means. The convoy is over, the Emergencies Act has been lifted that sparked so much controversy and commentary. What do you think is the legacy now of the Freedom Convoy in Canada?

Baron: So, I would actually talk about the legacy of the Freedom Convoy in broadly sort of three categories. So, first, it is true and many have observed that although the federal government has not dropped its cross-border vaccine mandate for truckers, which was sort of the match that lit the fire in terms of the convoy, they have not lifted that, but pretty much all of the provinces throughout Canada have substantially lifted restrictions.

So, all the provinces were subject to vaccine passports, and most of them with the notable exception of British Columbia have lifted their vaccine passports, masking mandates are being lifted, capacity limits, and all of this happened during the protests, and of course, the political leaders were careful to say, “It’s not because of the protests.”

And I do think there’s a phenomenon more broadly of the owl of Minerva flies at dusk in terms of this particular convoy, like things were probably already trending in that direction, but I think it certainly sped things up, particularly in provinces like Ontario, where I live in Quebec, which were just subject to some of the most heavy restrictions in the world, I have to say.

So, that’s been one legacy.

More broadly, I would say the whole affair has really introduced or at very least made it very difficult to ignore the phenomenon of wedge politics in Canada, which, as I wrote about for my Law & Liberty piece about what the trucker protests mean for Canada, this has been bubbling up for quite a while.

The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who called the snap election in fall of 2020, really doubled down on rhetoric, singling out the unvaccinated or anti-vaxxers, literally calling them misogynist and racist. But that whole phenomenon has just come up to full froth in Canada, and to some extent it has actually entered our electoral politics.

So, within about a week of the convoy picking up steam, the Conservative Party of Canada turfed its leader, who’s a fellow named Erin O’Toole, who ran as a sort of true blue pro kind of populist conservative, but really watered down his message during the election campaign, which tends to just happen in Canada.

For electoral political exigency reasons, you have to basically appeal to the suburban vote in the Greater Toronto Area to pick up enough seats, but his sort of waffling and equivocation and unwillingness to outright support the protests just became too awkward to ignore, so they turfed him within about a week.

The interim leader is a woman named Candice Bergen, no, not Murphy Brown, but a woman named Candice Bergen. But the clear front-runner to replace Erin O’Toole is a fellow named Pierre Poilievre who has a very sort of “own the libs,” pugilistic leadership style, would give sort of spontaneous media hits in the first few days of the protest, talking about the rank hypocrisy and how the media treated things like the [Black Lives Matter] protests, which were a phenomenon across Canada as in the United States, other types of protest that go on in Canada, which I’ll get to in a moment.

So, he’s the clear front-runner, and he definitely has a more populous style. And so, I do think that we’re going to see an injection of populism into Canadian politics going forward.

The third legacy, I would say, is that it’s really laid bare the lack of infrastructure capacity in Canada to deal with real problems. Canada has been an exceptionally placid, safe, prosperous place. Our explicit defense policy has sort of been to lean on the United States to take the—

Reinsch: You’re welcome

Baron: … lead in things like NORAD. Yeah. It makes sense, right? We figure that if we were ever to be in the line of fire, it would probably be because of something the Americans did, and the Americans would be duty-bound to protect us.

So, we prefer to spend our money on things like universal health care rather than defense spending, but even beyond questions of national defense, there’s questions of like, can the local police actually break up a protest where there are big rigs? And disturbingly, in the case of the city of Ottawa, the answer seemed to be for more than three weeks no.

But there have been other things going on in Canada over the last few years that have raised questions of state capacity. So there’s been phenomena of protests of blockades of railways over pipeline projects, literally private companies looking to build pipelines to extract natural resources.

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing over the lack of progress on that, in light of recent geopolitical events, because Canada actually is an oil-rich country, and we do import about a million dollars worth of oil from Russia per day, but I digress.

And then also last summer, there was a sort of horrible national mourning after the discovery of unmarked graves at a number of residential schools for Indigenous children, which operated in Canada until about a decade and a half ago, most of them were from the ’60s. But as a result, there was a phenomenon of burning, torching, looting churches, because the residential schools were run by the Catholic Church across the country. The prime minister didn’t even comment on them.

Reinsch: No, no. He said he thought it was understandable that they were burning the churches, I thought.

Baron: Right.

Reinsch: Just real briefly on this point, I’ve also read people calling into doubt some of these grave sites, unmarked grave sites, that it may not have been what it was initially represented. Is there any truth to that?

Baron: So, I think that there just hasn’t been a lot of rigor in following up and examining what exactly they are. Certainly, there are graves. As to the facts surrounding the people who died, whether there were outbreaks of tuberculosis or something more nefarious, there’s just a lot of questions about that.

Reinsch: OK.

Baron: But I do want to say very clearly that the Canadian practice of taking Indigenous children from their homes and forcing them to assimilate in residential schools is abhorrent, and I regret it and am saddened by it.

Reinsch: Yes. Thinking about the Freedom Convoy particularly, where did it come from? Was this just a spontaneous protest, or what was the level of organization behind it? There had to be something there, but there was also, I think, an element of spontaneity also.

Baron: Yeah. So, there were about three primary organizers who I don’t know all that much about, they’re all based in Western Canada. … Once the vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers was announced—so this was a new thing that was announced in January 2022.

Throughout the whole pandemic, essential workers and transport truck drivers were exempted from quarantine requirements and later vaccination requirements. And so, it just seemed odd that in January 2022, when we’re meant to be moving on that, they would impose that. So this sort of sparked it off.

So, there were a few organizers that set up a convoy that started in British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. But as they started to gather more truckers along their convoy, and you could listen to them calling each other out on CB radio, it became a flash point.

This was in January 2022, where school closures were coming back in, lockdowns were coming back into force, of course, it was the omicron wave. But I do think, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, it was extraordinarily heavy-handed that, like, we’re going back to full lockdown like it’s March 2020, even though this strain is more mild. So, there was a lot of just wide-spread disenfranchisement.

So, you would see pictures of people gathering on overpasses of highways cheering on the truckers. It started to pick up a lot of attention. They finally arrive in Ottawa, I believe the last weekend of January, and by this point, it’s clear, first, that this is about more than just the organizers, and second, that this is about more than just cross-border vaccine mandates, that there are just much bigger grievances that are coming home to ruse.

Reinsch: Give us a sense, how did Canada at large view the Freedom Convoy? Did that opinion change? Has it moved? It was in existence for a couple of weeks, two or three weeks, and I think I can guess how Canadian media covered it. But what was sort of the public reaction and did that reaction change as it unfolded?

Baron: It’s been really interesting, because, having spoken to many people, people who are sort of in the media and politics spheres, and people who are not like my family members, there was a sense that publicly, you should denounce them, because certainly, on the first weekend of protest, there were a few images of like any street politics movement, it’s messy.

So, there was a swastika … and swastika could have been taken to be implying that Canada had become a Nazi state, which is certainly a reprehensible sentiment, but there were also outright antisemitic signs showing that the CEO of Pfizer is Jewish, and being very conspiratorial. Obviously, those images went viral in the media.

And my understanding is that they were outliers, that there were many journalists who saw other protesters at the convoy saying, “Get out of here with that. That’s not what we’re about.”

And it was just clear that no matter what the media could try and paint this as, this was an extraordinarily diverse, eclectic, messy sort of political movement. You had street parties with people dancing to bhangra music and turbans, you had children, you had rave parties, bouncy castles, just this whole spectrum.

Reinsch: I heard it was a party in Ottawa in a hot tub. Yeah.

Baron: Exactly. Certainly. But it was funny, I was speaking to my brother who is not a political person, and he said, “I think at this point, most people deep down, like, ‘Yeah, what they’re saying is good. We’ve just had enough.'” This is my brother who was lamenting his school-aged children have had the longest sort of Zoom virtual learning, apparently, of any jurisdiction in North America, like just outright exhaustion.

So, I would say people did not feel at liberty to express their sympathies, and there was some aspect of just a collective exasperation that certainly the convoy tapped into.

Reinsch: I’ve also read that people who appeared at the protest, they held up signs indicating the suffering that people have been through in these COVID restrictions and lockdowns, depression, anxiety, their children becoming suicidal, cutting themselves, and just sort of like coming to the protest as a way to show what the lockdowns have meant for so many people.

And of course, those who write about say the Freedom Convoy would be in the media, would be in the laptop class for whom it was just working from home, not a significant change in their lives. But for many people, including, say, truckers, this was a significant change. And to me, it’s almost like the protest sort of ripped the Band-Aid off the problem or multiple problems that have been in people’s lives over the past two years.

Baron: Yeah. So, I’ve got a few points to make in response to that. So, first is that yes, the effects of the lockdowns in Canada have been devastating. One of our sort of colleague organizations, The Macdonald-Laurier Institute, publishes what it calls the COVID Misery Index, where it tracks the sort of overall harm of lockdowns and other restrictions throughout jurisdictions.

And even though as Canadians we like to gloat our COVID death rate has certainly been much lower than in United States, if you look at factors like economic damage from lockdowns, deferred surgeries and other medical procedures, because of hospital restrictions, school closures, Canada actually ranks just about on par with the United States in terms of COVID misery, but mostly due to these metrics that don’t get as much attention. So, that’s certainly one factor.

The second factor about the laptop class, and in fact, I think it was two weeks into the protests, a young member of Parliament, MP from Quebec who I actually went to law school with, he is in his 30s, his name is Joël Lightbound. He’s a Liberal and Canada sort of adheres to strict party whip politics, it’s not like the U.K. where MPs are free to make independent comments. So, he held a press conference where he said, “Look, we have to be honest that many people cannot make a living from a MacBook at the cottage.”

And so, I think it really just did expose the complete divide and complete lack of empathy for the “MacBook at the cottage” crowd, for those who are not in that class. And really, in sort of the Canadian political media policy crowds, there really isn’t a lot of representation of the working classes.

I think this is different from the United States, and that’s one thing that perhaps there’s some feedback mechanism now, which may change.

The other thing I wanted to mention is I think probably one of the most astute zeitgeist typed commentaries on this whole affair and why it’s resonated so widely was from a Substack, which maybe you saw from N.S. Lyons, which is a pseudonym, it’s called “The Upheaval.” And he talks about this being the war between the virtuals and the physicals. And that just nails what’s going on, I think, in the First World, more broadly.

Reinsch: Yeah. So, life in Canada under COVID, as you’ve alluded to, a lot of Americans may not understand how much more drastic it was and how much more longer it’s continued, up until present day, and which, as you said at the outset, many restrictions are now being pulled back. Suddenly, the science, I guess, has changed and those restrictions are being pulled back.

There was also another part of this convoy that raised it to an even higher level, which was the Emergencies Act that Justin Trudeau issued and then received confirmation by Parliament, which allowed the government to proceed outside the bounds of due process.

Again, it seems to me, it was heavily against bank accounts and freezing bank accounts for those who had donated, say, to the protesters, even though it was perfectly legal at the time to make these donations.

Talk about, what do you make of that in Canadian politics? I know it was lifted six days ago maybe, or maybe a little bit longer than that, but talk about that. What did you make of that? What did Canadians make of that?

Baron: Yeah. So, I think while it certainly is clear that a lot of what was going on with the protests occupying downtown Ottawa, blocking off the Ambassador Bridge, there were clearly elements of lawlessness, I think what Trudeau did in invoking the Emergencies Act was certainly more unlawful and despicable.

And I should disclose that the legal charity, which I executive direct, The Canadian Constitution Foundation, has filed a legal challenge and have filed our materials in federal court to challenge the invocation, a few other groups have as well.

But I think this was just, yeah, absolutely killing a peanut with a sledgehammer, as I think somebody used the phrase.

So, the Emergencies Act is the modern day equivalent of a previous act called the War Measures Act, which was used in World War I, in World War II, and in 1970 in the FLQ, that basically Quebec separatist terrorism threat where ambassadors were being subject to bomb threats and things like that. So serious stuff.

And now, in the face of a peaceful protest with bouncy castles, you could make the argument that things like blocking off the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor and Detroit, which carries like $380 million of trade per day, that was a real problem, that was an emergency, but that had been cleared before Trudeau even invoked the act, that was cleared the weekend of Feb. 11.

Reinsch: And relatively easily, right?

Baron: Yeah. They sent cops in to do some policing. And as I understand it, most of the truckers just drove away peacefully once the cops told them what was at stake.

So, it’s incredibly heavy-handed. Our position at the CCF is that the basic statutory requirements of the act, which have a number of hurdles, it has to be a national emergency; it has to go to, let’s say, the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Canada; and it has to be a situation that no other law in Canada can deal with.

Reinsch: I don’t know if you think this is causation or correlation, you wrote previously that travel between provinces by Canadians was banned during much of the pandemic, and that this was a blatant violation of Canada’s law. Did things like that sort of prepare the ground for the government, think it could act like this?

Baron: I actually don’t think so, because those restrictions—so, it was mostly the Maritime provinces on the east coast that forbid travel from other provinces. They like to sequester themselves. They had very low infection rates at the beginning of the pandemic.

Bigger provinces like Ontario and Quebec did not impose those measures except for at one point—it’s been a long pandemic. In spring of 2021, there was a brief period when you couldn’t travel between Ontario and Quebec.

But it’s important to note that the federal government did not invoke the Emergencies Act throughout the pandemic. Most of the provinces did invoke their own Emergencies Act, coordinate provision of goods, and mandate that people be transferred between hospitals, and things like that.

So, I’m not really sure that it prepared anything. I think this is just a gobsmacking moment that was just, yeah, utterly extraordinary, literally unprecedented in Canadian history.

This particular piece of legislation has never been invoked before, and part of why my charity is still challenging it—and yes, we are still moving ahead with the challenge even though it was revoked—is because we want a judge to say, “You cannot just pull this, you cannot just break glass in case of emergency for a situation like this.”

There needs to be a much higher barometer to do things like, “Yes, tell Canadians that they could be at risk of their bank accounts being frozen without a court order.” These are extraordinary measures.

Reinsch: What do you think remains in place in terms of the mindset of the Canadian government, even though the Emergencies Act has been lifted? Some American conservatives, perhaps exaggerating, I think there’s more truth than I initially thought, write about the sort of slow onset in America of a social regime, like exists in China, where if you act in certain ways, your access to services will be cut off in the online sphere, which are increasingly everything when it comes to financial transactions or social media transactions.

And I’ve read that in Canada, one thing that remains is the monitoring by the government and requiring online financial platforms to sort of disclose everything automatically to the Canadian government that remains in place, which sort of creates this fear that the wrong political behavior could then lead to your cancellation.

Baron: Yeah. I think it’s difficult to sort out what is mere specter and what is actual threat.

I actually wrote about this recently, that we’ve gotten a lot of messages, emails at the CCF, saying, “I really want to donate to your legal challenge,” which is, to be clear, a constitutional challenge, which asks for the court to clarify the proper scope of executive authority.

It has nothing to do with the convoy, nothing to do with the protests, but people fear that that could put them within striking distance of having their accounts frozen.

I don’t think even on the most draconian reading of the legislation, which makes it a crime to directly or indirectly support the unlawful assemblies, as the Order in Council says, I don’t think even on the strictest reading of that that it would be a risk to donate to a constitutional challenge, but it’s disturbing to me that I also can’t say that asking the question is entirely unreasonable.

Reinsch: Right.

Baron: And, as you say, the financial enforcement measures, so people who did have their accounts frozen, which I think was about 200 people, the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police], the federal police, basically only ended up going after people who are organizers—or, as they said, influencers of the convoy—even though the legislation does say, “Indeed, if you are a donor, you could be at risk, too,” but as far as I know, they haven’t actually enforced that.

But that’s a rule of law problem, right? That if it’s just up to this discretion of the police to choose whether to enforce against you or not, that shouldn’t really give anybody much comfort.

Reinsch: Thinking here about the Emergencies Act itself, I imagine a factual predicate of some kind is in that act that has to be met before the government can act. And it seems laughable that that would’ve been true here, but that, of course, would seem to raise the problem, though, of arbitrary government and that sort of leads to these people thinking, “Oh my gosh, donating to a legal outfit could lead to me being financially canceled or frozen.” And so, it’s sort of this, how political correctness can alter the way law gets enforced.

Baron: Yeah. And that’s why we think our legal challenge is so important. So that the Emergencies Act does say, as I said, it has to seriously endanger life and safety. It has to seriously threaten the ability of the government to preserve sovereignty. It has to be a nature of serious ideological violence or serious threats of war.

This clearly was envisioned to apply to war-type scenarios. And when you see it invoked somewhat frivolously, I would say, where in fact, and even the minister of public safety, the day before the government invoked the act, said, “The issue is not that we don’t have the legal tools. We do. The police have all the legal tools that they need to clear this. They just need to enforce the law.”

And when you saw the cops actually go in, which was on Feb. 21, so about a week after the act was invoked, but they just used very standard police tactics. They brought in cops from all across the country and they kettled the protesters, basically formed a big wall to defuse the situation. These are sort of normal police tactics.

The government made some argument. There was a press conference where Trudeau was asked explicitly, “What tool are you getting from this act that you didn’t have already?” And his answer was, “The power to compel tow truck drivers.” Because that was the sort of wrinkle, that was the innovation of these protests, which have been already mirrored across the world. It’s difficult to compel truck drivers.

Actually, there already is a provision in the criminal code that says if you interfere with a police officer trying to preserve the peace, that’s a crime. So, it’s not clear, that’s true.

… It’s kind of funny, tow truck drivers, their clients are truck drivers, clearly, and they didn’t want to lose their clientele by being dragged into this. So, what they ended up doing was basically putting duct tape and covers over the license plates and company names and even putting like balaclava hoods over the drivers, so the truck drivers couldn’t see which companies were effectively towing away their trucks. It’s a bit of a awkward situation, but it’s not a national emergency.

Reinsch: So, Joanna, why do you think Trudeau resorted to the Emergencies Act?

Baron: I think political panic. … And I honestly think the sort of media hysteria and the international attention sort of brought this to a fever pitch.

So, I think a lot of it was panic. I think a lot of it was his calculation, just as he did during the election campaign, that a majority of his base, an overwhelming majority of his base despised these people, had no sympathy for them, bought the caricature that they were misogynists, racists, Nazis. So, I essentially think, basically, because of panic and political exigency.

Reinsch: Something that I read, in the Canadian Parliament, Trudeau referred to a Conservative MP, I forget the exact quote, but that he was sort of standing with the people waving swastika flags. And this was to a Jewish member of Parliament in the Conservative Party. And that, to me, really says a lot about his mindset regarding people who disagreed with him on COVID restrictions.

Baron: Yeah. That was actually a comment to Melissa Lantsman, who was a Jewish, openly gay MP from a heavily Jewish riding in the Greater Toronto Area. She’s fantastic.

And yeah, it’s moments like that where you just see the utter disconnect between Trudeau’s talking points and the reality of the situation. He has just completely lost his capacity to have nuance.

It’s always been one of his more redeeming qualities, that he has this ability to project empathy. And he just decided at some point, I think in mid-2021, that he was going to cast out the out-group, which was the vaccine-hesitant, and cast his sympathies with the vaccinated majority of Canada. And in so doing, really whip up a lot of very frightful polarization in the country.

Reinsch: And I’m thinking more broadly here, Trudeau said this a couple of years ago, I think in 2018, that Canada is a post-modern country, it has a post-modern national identity. And what does that mean? The quote from him, “Post-modern Canada has shared values of openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, and to search for equality and justice.” What do you think about that quote and that framing? Do you see Canada as a post-modern nation state? … And I think what he means by that, the unspoken part, is there’s actually no real core identity and something like history, memory, law, culture, etc.

Baron: As an elder millennial who was born and raised in urban Toronto, grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I would say my experience as a Canadian does track that, right? It’s extraordinarily multicultural in terms of a core of national identity.

Even though in my career I’ve studied the fathers of Canadian Confederation and the history of how Canada came to be, I have to say, having lived in other places like Israel and the United States, I think it’s basically true. We don’t really have a core of national identity. And if there is one, it’s general permissiveness and tolerance, and everybody is free to pursue their vision of the good life and support their families. And the other sort of undeniable strain of Canadian identity is that we’re not America.

Reinsch: Yeah. So, that’s interesting, though, to think about conceptually, because you could be multicultural. America has a lot of different people from backgrounds, all sorts of backgrounds here, but obviously, there’s something rooted, there’s a rootedness, it’s contested now of American citizenship, and it’s also composed, I would argue, not just as something like the Declaration of Independence, but of a history together as a people. And that’s memory, battles, great national events, and how Americans have worked together to come through those things. But there’s a sense of history of a shared history.

Would you say that would not be a part of the Canadian identity? And I guess, the reason why I’m asking that is, when I read that quote from Trudeau, to me, that is so open that it actually leads to an opportunity, I would suggest, because people do form attachments and identity and loyalties, and it seems to me like, you really can’t do away with that, and I think he has done away with that, or that has been done away with. And I just wonder, do you actually think that’s true for Canada?

Baron: Well, it’s a platitude of Canada when we talk about Canadian multiculturalism versus U.S. multiculturalism such as it is that Canada is a mosaic and the United States is a melting pot, and that’s certainly been my experience. I’ve spent big chunks of my life in the U.S. and in Canada.

Let’s say, one of my good friends, her family is Serbian, she lives in the Toronto Area, and her sort of primary cultural identity is as Serbian. She identifies with Serbian customs and rituals and foods, and there’s not really an identifiable Canadian core other than that. She respects the openness and the live and let live.

So, you have a lot more of these enclaves and of course, you have them in the U.S., but as you say, there is this, like, underlying sense of American pride. One big thing that perhaps I’m particularly attuned to, because I’m a lawyer who studies constitutional law, is I would say there is something like religion of political constitutionalism in the United States, right?

There’s the great myths of the fashioning of a new type of nation states and the Founding Fathers, and the text of the Constitution is hewed to, like, literally a holy text in the United States. And you see why, because it did literally give birth to a new way of political association that had been unseen before in history. And there’s all this law around it, and everybody in the United States can identify it and connect their current liberties to it.

Of course, I understand this is greatly contested right now, but certainly, it’s an enduring strain of American discourse. You don’t have that in Canada, right?

In Canada, we had a friendly growing out of the terms of our relationship with the British Empire, the British Parliament passed the Dominion Act, which made Canada independent, but for all intents and purposes, our constitution explicitly says that is essentially preserves the traditions and rights guaranteed in the British parliamentary tradition.

So, you don’t have the type of, yeah, political innovation, constitutional culture in Canada as you do in the U.S. And as a result, there’s much less for the imagination to rally around.

Reinsch: It’s interesting hearing you say that, because another aspect that seems to be working here … the shared values of openness, which just sort of, to me, that quote from Trudeau amounts to sort of humanitarian stuff. As you know, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, what I have read is that remade Canada in many respects around sort of an open-ended autonomy rights nation, since those became values of Canada.

And it seems to me, and I’m thinking about, we can go back to the beginning of this podcast, you said a third legacy of the Freedom Convoy could very well be the rise of a conservative populism challenging Canadian politics. So, that would actually run crossways, I think, with the Canadian Charter of Rights, at least the way I understand it at a level of theory and create sort of, “Oh no, there actually is an identity, a hard identity.” Maybe it’s more Lockean rights that we now realize we value as they’ve been challenged by the government. What do you make of that?

Baron: Yeah. So, the Canadian Charter was adopted in 1982 by the current Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. And from the beginning, legal academics said, “You don’t understand what a seismic shift you’re inviting in the role of the judiciary. Particularly, you’re going to move far away from sort of parliamentary Westminster supremacy.” Of course, the U.K. does not have an entrenched bill of rights. “You’re inviting judges to really remake politics.” And that was true, more or less, right away.

I’m not sure if that was the intention of the framers. They had a provision called the notwithstanding clause, which essentially allowed Parliament to take action, notwithstanding the provisions of the charter. It’s been invoked a few times very rarely, but it’s a bit of a pariah on the whole. We have become much more of a judicial democracy. So, as to the opportunity, I think that really remains to be seen.

It’s honestly incredibly really farfetched for me to think about what a populous revolution would mean for constitutional liberties, but I certainly do think that the rise of the Supreme Court in adjudicating the most divisive sort of social issues in Canada has drained out a lot of the potency of Parliament.

And so, my hope is that we will see more sort of vigor go back into Parliament, which I do think was the true intent of the framers of the charter. I don’t think they meant to put the Supreme Court in charge of abortion, prostitution, safe injection sites, euthanasia. These are all a few issues that have been put into the scope of the Supreme Court.

Reinsch: I think also here, you had said the COVID restrictions in Canada may have been the most severe in the Western world. Do you see that correlated to or caused by the scope of the state and Canadian health care, that … it was sort of already in the blood, so to speak, that the government had tremendous say over public health?

Baron: I think it’s a bit of a “chicken and egg” situation. I think the real issue is that we didn’t have a sort of strong undercurrent of negative liberty of freedom from state interference to begin with. So where in the United States, you have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; in Canada, we have our governing principle, which is peace, order, and good government.

So, we didn’t have the sort of tendency to instinctively demand that government get off our necks in the first place. … It’s difficult for Americans to understand. I spent a lot of the pandemic actually in Texas, so I got to see sort of like the extremes on both ends. Toronto, the most locked down place in the world. I think our restaurants were closed for like 320 days in 2020. In Texas, where it’s the opposite.

People just don’t have the expectation of being free, and there is just this undercurrent of Canadian safety that … there’s just a default that we don’t want to take any risk, we want to keep everybody safe, we want to keep the masks on. Even now, we still have mask mandates, and honestly, I think it’s going to be a long time before you see people starting to take off their masks.

Reinsch: Oh, wow. Yeah. That’s interesting.

You and I have a mutual friend, Geoff Sigalet, and talking to him throughout 2021, living in Montreal, he was sort of aghast, he couldn’t believe the openness that we had, where I’m sitting here in the state of Indiana, which has been very open throughout. We were closed for maybe a month, and then things started to open up immediately in May of 2020. He couldn’t believe that he was still under curfew, I think. Interesting.

As you kind of think about politics in Canada going forward, how do you think the convoy changes the Conservative Party in Canada, or is it sort of an ember that will die?

Baron: I really do think that the populist revolt will be enduring, I think Pierre Poilievre will channel that. And I think there’s been a sort of steadily building, but now impossible to ignore, class divide aspect in Canada broadly, in a way that really hit the bottom line.

I’m not sure if Americans are aware of just how severe the housing affordability issue is in Canada. If you look on a list of most unaffordable cities in North America, I believe six of them are located in Canada.

Reinsch: Vancouver.

Baron: Right. Vancouver, but Toronto and even Hamilton, which is a small city about 45 minutes from Toronto, is now in that top 10 list. And it’s obviously just because of people escaping Toronto to try and get a more affordable home in Hamilton.

But it’s simply the case that if you are, let’s say, under age 40, and you’re not independently wealthy and you’re in a major Canadian city, you cannot ever aspire to home ownership. The average price of a detached home in Vancouver is $1.6 million; Toronto, it’s $1.3 million.

It’s just the whole situation has skyrocketed, and I don’t know how you can leave sort of like that big of a swath of the population and say to them, “You’re never going to be able to raise a family in a house,” and not expect that to be a major political crisis.

So, I actually think housing is the No. 1 issue that the Conservative Party needs to focus on if it wants to pick up, but it dovetails with this broader trucker convoy matter, right? Which has clear overlap with the urban-rural divide, with the virtual versus physical divide that there’s just a whole part of the country that has had no public voice, that their socio-economic law keeps getting worse.

Their situation seems to be treated by the government with complete disregard, complete lack of empathy. Many of them are, of course, called to be misogynists and racists. And so, I think there’s going to have to be a realignment along those lines.

Reinsch: Some of those issues actually track with American politics. And of course, as conservatives have found, in the states where it is easiest to own your own home or build a home in terms of price, but also the regulatory barriers are not there, this seems to be correlated with conservative electoral success in those states. Texas being one; Indiana, where I’m at; a lot of the Southern and the red states. It’s very easy and affordable, not only to own a home, but it’s easier to raise a family. That seems to correlate with conservative political success. So, I think that’s, yeah, something.

Baron: Yeah. … One of the differences that is a little subtler that I always explain to American friends is probably, I think the biggest difference between the U.S. and Canada is Americans can move around to lots of places. You can move to Los Angeles or Austin, or Chicago, or all of these places.

In Canada, basically, if you’re a knowledge worker of some sort, you basically can live in Vancouver, Montreal, or Toronto—not really Montreal if you don’t speak French. We just don’t have as many options and we’re an overwhelmingly urban country. So, it’s just not as easy to just pick up and start a new life somewhere else, even places like Calgary are not particularly affordable anymore.

Reinsch: Interesting. Well, and we didn’t even get a chance to talk about Alberta, which is a province that I follow through Barry Cooper of Calgary University. So, well, Joanna, thank you so much for joining us, and appreciate everything you had to say. We’ll talk soon.

Baron: Thank you so much.

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