TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended his decision against testifying at the general public inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act within the provincial legislature Tuesday, saying the inquiry just isn’t a provincial issue.
Opposition members grilled Ford repeatedly in query period about his refusal to testify — their first probability to accomplish that, after he didn’t show up on Monday.
“This can be a federal inquiry into the federal government’s decision to make use of the federal Emergencies Act,” Ford said in response to a matter from Latest Democrat leadership hopeful Marit Stiles.
“For Ontario, this was a policing matter, it was not a political matter.”
Ford’s comments got here as he fights a summons to testify on the inquiry, which is examining the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act to finish the so-called Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa and Windsor, Ont., last winter.
The Public Order Emergency Commission summoned Ford and then-solicitor general Sylvia Jones on Monday to testify.
Lawyers for Ford and Jones filed an application for judicial review in Federal Court Tuesday that seeks to quash the summons, citing parliamentary privilege.
In the applying, Ford’s lawyers argue the summons breaches that privilege by attempting to compel Ford and Jones to testify.
Ford said the province has provided two top bureaucrats to take part in the inquiry and has provided 800 pages of cabinet documents in regards to the issue.
The premier answered just one query within the legislature before deferring quite a few followups to certainly one of his top ministers, Government House Leader Paul Calandra.
Calandra answered Stiles’ second query about Ford’s refusal to testify, repeating much of what Ford said — which echoed what he said himself the day before when the premier didn’t attend query period.
“Parliamentary privilege? That’s baloney and everybody on this room knows it,” Stiles said. “He failed Ontarians.”
Jones has not attended query period because the legislature resumed this week from a break, as her office says she has COVID-19.
The commission wants Ford and Jones to testify on Nov. 10, court documents show. Provincial lawyers have sought to have its application heard on Nov. 1.
Last week, Ford told reporters he was not asked to testify on the inquiry.
The commission has sought to interview Ford dating back to mid-September. The requests were repeatedly declined by provincial lawyers, emails filed as a part of the province’s case show.
Outside the legislature Tuesday, opposition members kept up the pressure on Ford.
“Not showing up and never giving your reasons or explanations or being accountable on your decisions, or the selections that you simply didn’t make, just isn’t what we expect from leaders or any member of this legislature,” interim Liberal Leader John Fraser told reporters.
“So he’s lost within the court of public opinion. He can redeem himself by actually appearing and testifying.”
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford must “step up and do his job.”
“People of Ontario must know why the Premier made the selections he made when Ottawa and Windsor were under siege,” he said.
Outgoing Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has testified on the inquiry, saying he asked the province to sit down down at a gathering with the town and the federal government in an effort to determine how one can end the occupation in the town’s downtown core.
He has said the province’s absence on the meeting delayed the tip of the occupation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already been interviewed by commission lawyers and is about to testify on the inquiry.
The inquiry has heard Trudeau said Ford’s absence was because of political reasons, in a call between the prime minister and Watson in early February.
The commission desires to ask Ford and Jones why they didn’t come to that meeting and wish to search out out what role each played trying to unravel the occupation in Ottawa and the protests that halted incoming traffic on the country’s busiest border crossing in Windsor for nearly per week.
Documents filed with the inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act also show that when City of Ottawa officials asked the province for resources to assist end the protest, the province directed them to cope with the Ontario Provincial Police and that Jones saw it as a law enforcement issue.