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PMO officials say Bergen has privately acknowledged concerns about working with protesters ” Alaska

OTTAWA — Staffers in the prime minister’s office suggest that former Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen privately acknowledged concerns about working with “Freedom Convoy” protesters last winter, while publicly calling on the prime minister

OTTAWA — Staffers in the prime minister’s office suggest that last winter, former Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen privately acknowledged concerns about engaging with “freedom convoy” protesters, while publicly urging the prime minister to listen to them – something Bergen denies.

A summary of interviews with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s senior aides was released Thursday by the public inquiry into the federal government’s decision to invoke the emergency law on February 14.

The document said Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, asked if Bergen could help, and the two leaders discussed reaching out to protesters in a February 3 phone call.

“Ms. Telford added that during the call, Ms. Bergen acknowledged that there were significant concerns about who the federal government might be working with and setting a bad precedent,” the summary said.

The talk came on Bergen’s first day on the job, when she publicly challenged Trudeau’s government in the House of Commons not to offer protesters an “olive branch”.

During Question Time, she accused the Prime Minister of hatching a plan to “make protesters feel like they were listened to”. Instead, she told lawmakers, Trudeau threatened “Canadians with more vaccine mandates.”

For her part, Bergen said Thursday that she remembered that call with Trudeau on February 3 differently. She said the Prime Minister called to congratulate her on becoming leader and they discussed a number of things.

“I asked him if he would consider reaching out and giving an olive branch to the people who have come to Ottawa,” Bergen wrote in an email. “He said he didn’t want to set a precedent by speaking to protesters in this way.”

During the protests, as the party debated how to respond to the protest, Bergen told some senior Conservatives in an email, “I don’t think we should be asking them to go home.” She added : “I understand the mood maybe shift soon. So we have to turn that into the (Prime Minister’s) problem. What will he (as) take the first step to work toward? “A screenshot of the email with the subject line ‘Explanation for Feedback,’ was obtained by The Canadian Press during the protests and first reported by the Globe and Mail. The Canadian press did not see the rest of the email chain.

Telford told the commission on Thursday that federal officials had more than once considered possible engagement with the protesters as a possible option to end the blockade, but ultimately that option had found little support across government.

“There were too many unanswered questions,” she said.

“There was no clarity as to who the discussion would be with on either side of the discussion and what the discussion would be about and what might result.”

Trudeau executives appeared on the penultimate day of public hearings by the commission investigating the federal government’s decision to invoke the emergency law in response to protests that blocked downtown Ottawa and blocked the Canada-US border.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 24, 2022.

David Fraser and Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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