Featured Story Rants

Is Justin Trudeau planning a national lockdown to fight COVID-19?

Written by Norris McDonald

Where is Jimmy Breslin when we really need him? Or Richard (Badger) Brennan?

Those guys are heroes to me. They were hard-nosed reporters who wouldn’t take any crap from anybody. They just would not tolerate the non-answer, politically correct messaging that contemporary politicians and law-enforcement agencies serve up to the stenographers who call themselves reporters these days.

Take Breslin, who died not that long ago. He was a columnist on the New York Daily News in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On the day of Kennedy’s funeral, when a thousand reporters were all busy writing the same story, Breslin went to Arlington National Cemetery and interviewed the guy who was digging the grave.

If anybody had told him he couldn’t do that, he would have told them to buzz off. If they’d threatened him with arrest for disobeying an order, he’d have written a column about that, complete with names. Or he might even have let himself be arrested so he could write about that too.

Breslin and Brennan were cut from the same cloth. They were reporters, not apologists for government.

Two things got me writing this today. The first was the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who refused to answer a question during his daily press “briefing” dealing with the coronavirus crisis Monday. He was asked if it was true that medical supplies had been held up at the U.S.-Canada border and, if so, what did he plan to do about it? Trudeau – whose government hasn’t done a bad job throughout this emergency but frequently stonewalls when there’s no reason for it – didn’t say one way or the other but, instead, gave one of his memorized answers, to the effect that Canada and the U.S. were having talks. Asked again, he gave the same word-for-word response.

If Breslin, or the recently retired Brennan of the Toronto Star, had been asking the question, one of them, at least, would have called out the PM. And if that didn’t work, they would have flat out said so in their reports. I’ll never forget the night when Brennan, appearing on the old Global television program Focus Ontario, called then-Health Minister Elizabeth Wittmer to account for answering his questions with political messages. Somebody should have done that with Trudeau Monday.

The other subject that has me curious is this business with the Canadian Armed Forces mobilizing upwards of 24,000 troops to join the fight against COVID-19. According to the government, these soldiers will have three priorities: slow the spread of the virus, support vulnerable communities with particular attention to Indigenous and northern communities and maintain the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to respond to civilian authorities who need help fighting fires and floods.

Huh? Say that again?

With respect, how are soldiers going to “slow the spread of the virus?” Doctors and nurses are having a hard enough time. The military can do better?

What is the definition of a “vulnerable community?” And since Indigenous people don’t even want police forces on their reserves, other than their own, how does anybody think they will react to Canadian troops rolling in? And, hopefully, the military will be better prepared than they were when Fort McMurray burned down a few years ago and they showed up late (although, to be fair, there are bureaucratic hoops to jump through before the army can get involved in just about anything in this country).

So, what is really going on here? We are constantly assured that the supply chain is healthy, so it’s unlikely troops will be delivering food. We’ve had an early spring and, to date, there’s no indication flooding is going to be a problem. So, you tell me.

The last time I can recall Canada having a mobilization this large was in 1970 when the first Trudeau, Pierre, invoked the War Measures Act when a group the size of a motorcycle gang and calling itself the Font du Liberation du Quebec (better known as the FLQ) kidnapped the British Trade Commissioner and a provincial cabinet minister, who was killed. Troops were stationed in the streets of Montreal and Quebec City. It was a shocking sight.

So, is Trudeau, the son, planning something similar? Is a national lockdown coming in the fight against COVID-19, where everybody except police, fire, doctors and nurses and some hydro, IT and cable TV people are made to remain at home for 14 days?

I could see this happening. Half measures are not working. The numbers are still going up. Many people are still not listening. There is a lot of traffic out on the roads. Our health minister said, just last week, that if even a few people continue to ignore requests to stay home, all of our civil liberties might have to be curtailed further.

So, are those troops ready to help the police ensure that a lockdown is obeyed? I would think twice about even going out for a walk if the army was in my neighbourhood.

But who knows? There isn’t a Jimmy Breslin or a Richard (Badger) Brennan around to ask the tough questions. Which is a pity.