Warwick mayor warns 402 protestors may dig in as arrests begin
Ontario is once again in a State of Emergency but this time it is not because of public health measures. Premier Doug Ford announced the move as a way to end the blockade of the Windsor border, remove trucks from what he called the “siege” of Ottawa and protestors on Highway 402.
Ford, in a news conference this morning, said cabinet would pass laws in cabinet tomorrow to increase fines for people blocking roadways and bridges at the border or airports to $100,000. If convicted they could also face jail time.
And the premier pleaded with protestors blocking the Ambassador Bridge to go home as hundreds of million in trade is being impacted and auto plants in Ontario are starting to close due to lack of parts.
Labour Minister and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton told The Independent Friday morning it’s time. “We’re all in favor of peaceful protests, but there’s right and wrong and blocking the border is wrong.
“It is now impeding the lives of 1000s of workers across the province. And it’s time for them to end the blockade at the borders,” he says.
The province has been largely absent in the public conversation since protestors parked transports at the foot of Parliament Hill. They’re demanding all public health mandates because of COVID-19 be dropped including vaccine mandates for truck drivers. Trucking associations have condemned the action saying 90 per cent of the industry is already vaccinated.
The organizers of the rally – Canada Unity – as late as Tuesday were trying to have the Liberal government removed from power, offering to form a coalition government with the Conservatives, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois.
Ford said he had been working behind the scenes with federal and municipal leaders – including calling some Lambton mayors about the 402 protest – even while he was at his Muskoka cottage, snowmobiling and taking photos with locals.
The province did offer more OPP support to the communities dealing with the protests. There was an increased OPP presence on the Ambassador Bridge in Windsory today.
McNaughton says he has been hearing from constituents about the protests and the COVID-19 mandates.
“I would say that opinion has shifted quite a bit in the last few days. I mean, when you see a Toyota and GM and Ford and Chrysler shutting down plants, when you hear farm organizations now, raising concerns about supplies coming across the border to feed our animals, it’s a major problem and it’s time for those people to go home.”
The Independent asked McNaughton if he had spoken to the protestors who have parked about two dozen farm and personal vehicles on Highway 402 at the Forest Road, but he reiterated it was time for the protestors to head home.
Warwick Mayor Jackie Rombouts spoke to members of the group as the occupation began. Rombouts says she was told, “we’re here and we’re not going to close down the bridge, we understand that we need this trade going back and forth,” she says.
“But you need to know if they start rounding up our friends in Ottawa, we’re moving in and closing this bridge. That was my understanding of why those trucks and tractors stage there,” she says.
Rombouts says the blockage on the 402 is causing traffic disruption in her community. “I don’t necessarily like it, I don’t want those vehicles going through my community. I want my community to be safe. I want the people on the roads to be safe.
“I don’t want any of this to be going on. But I keep saying to the decision makers, ‘what should they (the protestors) be doing to be heard?’ Because they’re not being heard?”
Meantime Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey echoed the Premier’s comments saying “It’s time for, you know, people get back to work, everyone supports, the right for the right to protest, you know – who can say who’s right, who’s wrong – we want to see the blockades gone.”