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Washington urged Ottawa to end the “Freedom Convoy” blockades ~ Washington

The inquiry is mandated by law as a result of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision on February 14 to invoke the never-before-used emergency law to end the protests.

Powers under the law have been used to freeze bank accounts, ban travel to protest sites and force trucks to tow vehicles blocking roads. The Commission must determine whether the Liberal government was entitled to apply these measures.

Freeland told the probe about a Feb. 10 phone call from Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council and Biden’s top economic adviser, who expressed his urgent concerns about the border blockades.

“They are very, very, very concerned,” Freeland wrote in an email to her staff. “If this isn’t resolved in the next 12 hours, all of their northeast auto plants will be shut down.”

During the call, Deese acknowledged the integrated nature of the cross-border economy that Canadians regularly emphasize with American counterparts. Analysis by Transport Canada put the cost of the blockades at $3.9 billion in halted trade.

Freeland asked Deese if he could arrange a phone call between Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He would “try to make it happen,” she wrote to staff. Brian Clow, Trudeau’s deputy chief of staff, helped coordinate this discussion, which took place the next day, February 11.

Clow followed after the Trudeau-Biden talk with Freeland.

“POTUS has been quite constructive,” he wrote. “There was no lecture. Biden immediately agreed that this is a shared problem.”

The president was reportedly alluding to trucker convoys allegedly heading to the Los Angeles Super Bowl as well as the streets of Washington.

Clow’s text states that Trudeau spoke to the President about American influence on the Canadian blockades, including “money, people, and political/media support.”

At the time, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson was one of the most prominent American supporters of the Canadian protests.

Official displays of the call from Ottawa and the White House offered fewer details.

Trudeau is expected to share his memories of that time when he testifies at the inquest on Friday.

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was also busy with the border blockades. The same day Deese Freeland called, Buttigieg reached Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to urge his counterpart to come up with “a plan to resolve” the disruptions.

Buttigieg initiated the call, saying an interaction Alghabra told the commission was “unusual.”

During her testimony on Thursday, Freeland told the commission the pace of cross-border interactions during the crisis has been unusually rapid. Meetings that normally required advance notice and a cumbersome appointment took place within 24 hours.

In an email to staff, Freeland noted that Deese had requested daily updates — a clear signal that a “hard-to-reach” White House aide was following closely.

These check-ins never took place. Four days after Deese called and three days after Trudeau touched the base with Biden, the government invoked the emergency law.

“In other words, Canada acted immediately and daily updates were not required,” said a commission summary of a September interview with Freeland.

The minister described the stakes as existentially high for Canada. BMO CEO Darryl White and TD Bank CEO Bharat Masrani both called her over the weekend before the emergency bill was invoked. On February 13, Freeland called a conference call with a group of top bankers.

Freeland also exchanged text messages with Stelco CEO Alan Kestenbaum on February 11.

“Like many others, this hits us really hard,” Kestenbaum wrote. “I fear, even worse, the long-term consequences of closing auto plants due to shortages of Canadian parts will only persuade auto companies to go even more ‘shore’ and shift supplies (and our customers) to the US.”

“I share your concerns,” Freeland replied. “We are determined to end this quickly and we will.”

Freeland testified that she feared Canada was “about to cause long-term and potentially irreparable damage to our trade relationship with the United States.”

Freeland raised the specter in Washington of Democrats and Republicans “who would love any excuse to impose more protectionist measures on us.”

Canadian diplomats and business leaders are adept at establishing a court press to defend Canada’s interests in Washington. They held a united front during the Trump-era NAFTA renegotiations and more recent congressional deliberations on tax incentives for American-made electric vehicles.

“We didn’t save NAFTA just to undermine it,” wrote Freeland Flavio Volpe, a staunch FTA ally and president of the Auto Parts Manufacturers’ Association, via text message.

The impact of emergency powers on border blockades remains unclear. Documents produced at the inquiry show law enforcement did not require the emergency law to open the border.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told reporters after testifying that the force used “existing tools” to conduct arrests near an Alberta intersection on February 14 — the same day as the invocation. The protesters in Coutts, Alta. left the area the next day.

Emails from government officials in Manitoba claimed a border blockade in that province had been lifted without the need for emergency powers.

And a six-day blockade at the busiest Canada-US border crossing between Detroit and Windsor was cleared on February 13, a day before the appeal.