As Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tells it, Brian Deese is a tough man to get maintain of.
So when U.S. President Joe Biden’s senior financial adviser requested a name along with her on Feb. 10 concerning the ongoing border blockades, Freeland mentioned, she knew the stakes have been excessive.
“That was a dangerous moment for Canada, I felt,” the deputy prime minister testified Thursday earlier than the Emergencies Act inquiry.
“That one conversation was a seminal one for me. And it was a moment when I realized as a country, somehow, we had to find a way to bring this to an end.”
Freeland described the decision with Deese in entrance of the Public Order Emergency Commission Thursday. The fee is reviewing the federal authorities’s resolution to invoke the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to clear anti-public well being measure protests in Ottawa and deter border blockades.
As a part of its work, the fee is probing whether or not the federal government met the brink to set off the never-before-used laws.
Tearing up at one level, Freeland defended her authorities’s actions by arguing financial safety is linked to nationwide safety.
“I really do believe our security as a country is built on our economic security,” she mentioned.
“And if our economic security is threatened, all of our security is threatened. And I think that’s true for us as a country. And it’s true for individuals.”
Freeland mentioned that after her name with Deese, director of the U.S. president’s National Economic Council, she knew the blockades had set an “amber light flashing” south of the border concerning provide chain vulnerabilities with Canada.
She mentioned she anxious the blockades would tip the steadiness in favour of Democrats and Republicans who help a protectionist commerce stance.
“It wasn’t just the immediate damage, it wasn’t just the immediate harm. It wasn’t, ‘Oh, you know, this plant loses four days of operation,'” Freeland mentioned Thursday.
“The danger was were we in the process, as a country, of doing long-term and possibly irreparable harm to our trading relationship with the United States.”
At numerous factors in early 2022, protesters blockaded border crossings in Windsor, Ont., the small city of Coutts, Alta., Emerson, Man., and the Pacific Highway in Surrey, B.C.
The authorities cited a risk to Canada’s financial safety when it invoked the Emergencies Act final winter.
The definition of what constitutes a pubic order emergency has been studied carefully throughout the public hearings, with critics arguing the federal government didn’t meet the necessities of the laws.
Under the Emergencies Act, a nationwide emergency is outlined as one which “arises from threats to the security of Canada that are so serious as to be a national emergency.”
The act then factors again to CSIS’s definition of such threats, which embrace hurt triggered for the aim of attaining a “political, religious or ideological objective,” espionage, international interference or the intent to overthrow the federal government by violence. It would not point out financial safety.
Last week, Clerk of the Privy Council Janice Charette testified that she took a wider interpretation of the act that included considerations concerning the financial system when she suggested Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke the act.
WATCH | Deputy prime minister explains discussions with White House official
The authorities has not waived solicitor-client privilege on the authorized opinion it obtained about invoking the act.
CEOs warned Canada was seen as a ‘joke’
In a telephone name with Canadian financial institution CEOs, Freeland was instructed repeatedly that Canada’s worldwide popularity was in danger.
A readout of the Feb. 13 name was entered into proof Wednesday.
One individual on the decision, whose identify was redacted within the doc offered to the fee, mentioned Canada had been labelled a “joke” by American traders.
“I had one investor say, ‘I won’t invest another red cent in your banana republic in Canada,'” the speaker mentioned. “That adds to an already tough investment perspective.”
WATCH | U.S. incentives on EVs and batteries would have been ‘a catastrophe’ for Canada, Freeland says
Another speaker mentioned Canada wanted “to show the world proactively that we won’t let this happen again and that our trade corridors will remain open.”
“Canada’s reputation is indeed at risk,” the speaker mentioned.
“We should think about putting the military in place to keep the border crossings moving even after the protesters are removed.”
WATCH | Freeland will get emotional in testimony earlier than Emergencies Act inquiry
One speaker, whose identify was additionally blacked-out, expressed considerations about how the federal government would tackle the blockades.
“I am very concerned about the banking system being seen as a political weapon of the government,” mentioned the enterprise chief, whose identify was additionally redacted.
“We can’t politicize the banks.”
On Thursday, Freeland choked up as she recalled the warning on the decision that Canada’s popularity was in danger.
“I had, at that moment, a very profound duty to Canadians to stand up for them,” she mentioned, her voice cracking.
“I’m surprised that I’m getting emotional … when I heard that, I realised I’m the finance minister, I’m the deputy prime minister, I have to protect Canadians. I have to protect their well-being.”
Freeland feared Canada can be ‘discredited’ as an ally of Ukraine
Later that night time, cupboard would meet to debate invoking the Emergencies Act. Freeland mentioned that between the decision with financial institution officers and the cupboard assembly, she had a gathering to debate intelligence suggesting Russia meant to invade Ukraine. Russian troops moved in on Feb. 24.
In an interview with fee legal professionals in September, Freeland mentioned she feared the protest would have an effect on Canada’s response to the warfare. A abstract of that interview was entered into proof Thursday.
“Freeland also pointed out that if Canada’s capital had still been occupied when Russia invaded Ukraine, in her view, such a situation would have completely discredited Canada as an ally in support of Ukraine,” mentioned the abstract doc.
“Russian media would have been focused 24/7 on what was occurring in Canada, which would have made Canada appear very weak at a time it needed to be strong. Further, it would have made it very difficult to take action after the invasion.”
Minister faces questions on frozen accounts
Freeland additionally fielded questions on the choice to provide authorities emergency powers to freeze the funds of these related to the protests.
Data introduced to the inquiry final week advised that roughly 280 financial institution accounts with roughly $8 million in property have been frozen as a result of emergency measures.
Freeland defended the transfer, saying the federal government wished the protests to finish peacefully and the financial measures acted as an incentive to depart the protest zones.
“I was sort of saying, ‘We really have to act, something has to be done.’ And I remember a colleague saying to me, ‘My nightmare is blood on the face of a child.’ And I remember that very clearly. Because I was worried about that,” she mentioned.
Last week, Brendan Miller — a lawyer for a few of the protest organizers — argued beneath cross-examination that the order to freeze accounts was an act of overreach and halting fundraising on crowdfunding platforms breached Canadians’ proper to freedom of expression.
Three members of Trudeau’s employees have been additionally set to testify Thursday, together with his chief of employees Katie Telford. She will probably be joined by deputy chief of employees Brian Clow and Trudeau’s director of coverage John Brodhead.
The three employees members additionally spoke to fee employees earlier than their look and a abstract of that dialog was tabled.
“[The staff members] asked the Commission to comment on threats to the economic security of Canada, which carry with them a threat of tangible physical harm and violence,” mentioned the abstract.
Trudeau will make his highly-anticipated look tomorrow because the fee finishes the general public listening to portion of its work.