Ontario has stopped a trucker convoy before, just not the one you’re thinking of

Less than a year before the nation’s capital was ensnared by a convoy of flag-bearing big rigs, a line of dump trucks assembled outside an Ontario Ministry of Transportation building, blocking access to its inspection sites.

They were swiftly told to leave, threatened with provincial fines and possible licensing suspensions.

It’s a far cry from the hands-off response Ontario has had toward the Ottawa blockade that Premier Doug Ford himself has deemed an “occupation,” says Ontario Dump Truck Association advisor Bob Punia.

“Literally about five or six days into it, we received an email from the MTO, pretty much extending their heavy hand,” Punia told CBC News.

The truckers were protesting a Ministry of Transportation requirement for dump trucks older than 15 years to undergo what they said were expensive retrofits that could cost up to $ 40,000.

At the time, the group received an email from the ministry, saying they had been provided notice on Apr. 15 that they were no longer welcome on the property. If they did not vacate by 7 am the next morning, they could lose their commercial vehicle operating registrations, face charges or have their vehicles towed.

“How are you now saying that you can not enforce anything? Like, what’s this double standard you’re trying to pull now?” Punia said of the lack of response by the province to the current convoy on Parliament Hill.

The province says in the case of the dump truck protest, it had “an obligation to intervene as the enforcement authority,” saying the demonstration “jeopardized road safety by interfering with the day-to-day operations at these inspection sites that are intended to support the safe movement of commercial trucks on Ontario roads. “

The statement from the Ministry of Transportation goes on to say it did not intervene in several other dump truck protests on non-ministry sites, such as at Queen’s Park and on Toronto-area highways.

Still, Punia’s questions come as the province’s lack of response to the Ottawa protest dominated an emergency management meeting Thursday, where opposition members pleaded for the Ford government to do more.

Trucks and people seen in downtown Ottawa during an ongoing protest against vaccine mandates on Feb. 4. (Michael Charles Cole / CBC)

Amid concerns about convoy protesters demonstrating outside schools, NDP MPP Joel Harden said, “Licensing and insurance are tools we have as legislators. Are we prepared to use them? Because it would seem to me this convoy is breaking the law and they’re doing it with impunity. “

In response, Conservative MPP and House leader Paul Calandra said MTO inspectors have been on the ground and have been working with the Ottawa Police Service as well as with Ontario Provincial Police “whether it be on signage or safety inspections.”

Calandra noted Ottawa police remain the lead on enforcement issues, and that the Highway Traffic Act was “meant for road safety and not for the policing of public order.”

Tools available for police to enforce, MPP says

Liberal MPP John Fraser meanwhile pointed to recent changes to the Police Services Act, under which as of three years ago, organizations can be charged for excessive costs incurred for things like rallies, parades or, in this case as he put it “occupations.”

“I think it would be a very effective tool to send to the organizers, who are getting tons of foreign money coming in,” he said. “What I fail to understand is why that tool is not enforced and why we are not using it right now.”

Calandra did not address that directly but instead issued a message to the protesters, saying “The rule of law will prevail.”

Calandra added that the government does not direct the police but that police do have the tools to manage the situation.

Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones was noticeably absent from the emergency meeting. Nor did she attend a trilateral meeting for all levels of government Thursday on how to deal with the protests.

A source close to the premier’s office has said Ford and his top advisers “want to leave this to be Trudeau’s problem“CBC News reported on Thursday. That echoes language from Candice Bergen, now interim leader of the federal Conservative Party.

On Thursday, the provincial government said it successfully petitioned the Superior Court of Justice to freeze access to millions of dollars donated to the convoy through the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo.

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