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In light of recent blockades and occupations in Windsor and Ottawa, new legislation will be introduced by the provincial government in order to strengthen the protection of the flow of traffic and trade across international border crossings so that there is no repeat of what happened in February.
The Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022, provides police forces with more tools ready to handle these types of situations, thus avoiding having to invoke a provincial emergency as the province had to do last month in response to the protests.
Attorney General Doug Downey, who is a member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament, alerted to the high impact that such blockades and occupations have had on the country's economy. In order to prevent the country from suffering economically, it has been decided to provide new tools to support the work of the police and the prosecutors in relation to the need to ensure public order.
The legislation gives police officers the power to suspend driver's licenses and driving licenses, confiscate the license plates of those participating in an illegal blockade, as well as remove and store other objects that contribute to the blockade.
It also includes an investment of nearly $96 million to create a permanent Emergency Response Team for the Ontario Provincial Police, improve training at the Ontario Police School focusing on effective policing, and purchase heavy equipment such as cranes. In this regard, Attorney General Sylvia Jones noted the limitation of the law, stating that it will not hinder the ability of the people of Ontario to protest peacefully.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones (screengrab) said the "Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act" was designed to be narrow in scope; "no impact on the right for peaceful, lawful and temporary protests or on protests that happen elsewhere in the province." (ie away from borders) pic.twitter.com/8ygj4rlZML
Referring to the economic impact of such illegal protests, Sylvia Jones pointed out that about 17 million dollars in goods cross the Ambassador Bridge every hour, representing 25 percent of all trade between Canada and the United States. In this regard, she warned that Ontario's auto industry workers were losing work because they did not have the necessary tools to do their jobs, as auto parts were not reaching the border as a result of the protests.
The Attorney General remarked that the illegal protests also undermined confidence in Ontario's reputation as a trustworthy place to invest. The government is now working on restoring that confidence, including through a trip by Premier Doug Ford to Washington, Jones added.
Opposition leaders claimed that some costs faced by the communities most affected by the recent illegal protests in Windsor and Ottawa should be borne by the province. Otherwise, House Liberal Leader John Fraser said that a trip to Washington would not rebuild the confidence lost. He also noted that it is unfair to acknowledge the high costs of the protests without committing to help the communities that bore those costs.