Omar Alghabra

Omar Alghabra spoke 143 times across 1 day of testimony.

  1. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Omar Alghabra, o-m-a-r a-l-g-h-a-b-r-a.


  2. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes and yes.


  3. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That’s correct.


  4. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Okay, I’ll take the two hours, then.


  5. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I’m a mechanical engineer by education, with an MBA, Master of Business Administration. I worked for many years in the private sector in the energy field. I used to volunteer for politics, knocking on doors for candidates, and one day, a vacancy came in my riding and I decided to run for office, and I got elected for the first time in 2006. And then, in 2008, the voters sent me back to the private sector, and then I was lucky enough to re- elected in 2015. And between 2015 and 2021, I served as Parliamentary Secretary on different roles. And in January 2021, the Prime Minister asked me to be the Minister of Transport.


  6. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Because of my role, I’ve been involved heavily in government’s policies when it came to vaccine mandates and keeping Canadians safe. So I was involved with my colleagues in developing those policies and I was involved in the development of the decision to include a vaccine mandate for the transportation sector. We had an election on that and we got re-elected as a government, and I was tasked by the Prime Minister to complete -- it was part of mandate letter, to ensure the protection of the safety of those who work in the industry and those who use the industry. And there were eventually some opposition and -- where it manifested in this form of convoy protests that I heard about. I was briefed about it by the department first and then through law enforcement agencies.


  7. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    You know, it wasn’t -- the protests at the beginning was against all mandates, and at that time, there were vaccine mandates at all levels of government. In fact, there were vaccine mandates by -- in the private sector as well, there were vaccine mandates in universities. So I felt that there wasn’t clear who they're asking. I mean, there was a sense that they're asking the federal government, but the reality is that whatever they protesting crossed or transcended all governments and private sector. So we though were still concerned about safety, about the outcome of -- because we heard different reports on what the objective of these protests. People linked it to potentially what happened in the U.S. in Washington, DC on January 6th. So there was a lot of anxiety, and we certainly wanted to make sure that the federal government was prepared for this protest. So we were briefed by law enforcement agencies that -- and again, Ottawa is not unaccustomed to protests. It is, after all, the capital of our nation where there are typical protests. So we were briefed that law enforcement agencies were prepared. The hope that this was going to be like most protests, it might last the weekend, it might last a few days after the weekend, but the hope and the expectation that it wasn’t going to go on for a very long time.


  8. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I would say a few days into the protest where it had become clear that this was not a usual protest. There was a sense that there is some stalemate by law enforcement and other type of agencies. So what I decided to do, what our government decided to do is to task our officials to figure out what tools that we have in the federal authority to deal with the occupation, because by that time, it had become an occupation. So we tasked officials to do this. They did a lot of work, looking -- we couldn't -- they couldn't find any legislation or a regulation because the jurisdiction was local law enforcement. It either was the responsibility of the local police or the provincial authorities. So then what we did and what I tasked the -- our department is to put together a toolkit, to be proactive, out of a sense of being proactive and collaborative and constructive, to put together a toolkit based on the rules and the regulations that the department has found to be utilized to help enforce the law and to help mitigate or manage the escalation of the situation. So that’s where eventually the Strategic Enforcement Strategy became to be.


  9. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Indeed. I would say I have very constructive, positive relationship with my provincial counterparts. We meet at least once a year in Council of Ministers. Transportation is one of those areas that has a lot of shared responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments, so we either meet as a council or one on one. This is quite a common practice throughout my year and a half as the Minister of Transport.


  10. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes. You know, after the first week, it's become clear that the situation, as I said, has become a lot more complex and a lot more volatile. And it seemed that there was a bit of confusion about whose responsibility it is to deal with enforcing the law, or is there capacity enough locally to enforce the law? So we -- I was proactive in reaching out to my provincial counterpart, particularly in Alberta, in Ontario, in BC as well, and in Manitoba.


  11. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Correct, yes.


  12. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Sure. I talked about the -- how the idea of strategic enforcement strategies come to being. I just want to add another context to this, is that we were looking for tools that will help end the blockades and the occupation with as minimum confrontation as possible too. So that’s where the idea of utilizing some of the provincial powers that they have in regulating commercial vehicles became obvious, because it really will -- creating -- I mean, I don’t want to call it incentive, but certainly, dissuade people who are using commercial vehicles from using them illegally and hopefully discourage people who are thinking of joining the occupation to realize that there is significant consequences. So that’s where the idea has come about. And I wanted to -- when we finalized or developed this, it wasn’t completely finalized, but when we have the outline of what we were thinking I reached out to Minister Mulroney to share with her what we have put in place or what we are proposing. So I texted her on Monday. By the way also that day I had participated in a press conference with my colleagues, Minister LeBlanc and Minister Mendicino. We felt it was -- up until that moment the Federal Government had not spoken out publicly about our role or in dealing with the blockades and the occupation. So I reached out to her and I asked if she would have time to speak with me so I can share with her what I thought was constructive ideas.


  13. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Well, as you can see from the response, he said that he’s heard my comments through the media, because in my comments at the press conference I did outline some ideas that the provincial governments can use and she responded saying that our deputies are in communication and she would get back to me later.


  14. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    No. Is this an article?


  15. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  16. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    There’s a lot of speculation, but I -- it’s not my -- really I can’t give you a reason that I feel I can speak on behalf of the Ontario Government, but there was a lot of speculation about the apparent hesitation.


  17. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I mean I think it was clear, even through my conversations, direct conversations with Minister Mulroney, that we have a difference of opinion; we had a difference of opinion. In my understanding, in my opinion, we were asking for the laws to be applied. We were not asking for an extra interpretation of the law. We thought the laws are what the laws are and they can be applied to help mitigate or deal with the illegal blockades and the occupation.


  18. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes. So in between the text and the meeting, her deputy had sent my deputy an official response to our outreach. And in that response they outlined why that are request was not doable.


  19. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    And she texted me a copy of that letter, but I still asked if its possible to have a conversation with her and that’s when we ended up virtually meeting. And we, as I said, it was clear that we had a different opinion on how to deal with it. She thought that this was a federal jurisdiction and I was saying that the roads, the blockaders and the occupiers were on were under municipal or provincial jurisdiction and that we hope that the province would take the lead and utilize their existing laws and enforcement to apply the law. And so we had a difference of opinion on who should take the lead on this.


  20. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That is correct.


  21. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    He’s my Chief of Staff.


  22. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  23. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  24. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Well, you know, I was doing a lot of outreach at the time and my colleague and friend Eric Kuzmierczak also wanted to convey to me the facts on the ground as he sees them in Windsor and the impact that the bridge blockade has had on the community, from the automotive sector, to retailers, to law enforcement, to trade. So he reached out to share with me what’s he seeing, his community’s sentiments, and to inquire about what else can we do as a federal government; what else can I do as a member of parliament to help deal with the reality and the pain that the people of Windsor are dealing with?


  25. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I was relieved that the Ontario Government is taking that measure. They certainly -- what I feel, built on the advice or the suggestions that we proposed to them, and I was relieved to see the Government of Ontario taking that step.


  26. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That's correct.


  27. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That's correct.


  28. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes. In fact, he had reached out to me and we scheduled a call. He wanted to express the concerns that the U.S. Government and what he is hearing from industry that is being caused by the blockades at the Ambassador Bridge.


  29. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    No. Usually, I am the one who is trying to reach out to him to advocate for Canada's interests.


  30. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Indeed. The Ambassador Bridge is the most important port of entry that connects our two countries. It's a -- it's an average $400 million a day of trade that crosses that bridge, and it -- when it's shut down, and also, given the Just-in-Time business model that many in the auto sector and other sectors use, that blockade caused a significant disruption to supply chains, to businesses on both sides of the border.


  31. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I can't recall specifically the conversation in Cabinet about the second track of the Emergency Act that happened before this call or after, but I could tell you that my intention, and this -- maybe I should explain the conversation first, because in the conversation I explain... The Secretary certainly was anxious and wanted to know when -- if I could give an estimate, when will this end, and how quickly can port of entry be reopened, and I was explaining to him the complexity of enforcement and whose responsibility and that our Federal Government is not able to direct police to how to operate their law enforcement. So I gave him a context of how this -- the complexity of the situation, but at the same time, I wanted to give him -- to reassure him that this was an important matter, and that, yes, despite the complexity, that we're going to put - - we're going to do everything we can at the federal level to fix this issue. So it was -- for me, it was intended not, I could say, even if we had started the conversation, I wasn't sure where we're going to go at the federal level, but I wanted to give him a sense of confidence that this is a priority for us and that we will do what we can to deal with it as quickly as possible.


  32. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    As I said, while it offered me relief to see the provincial government up its participation or its role in dealing with the illegal blockades and occupation, the outcome was still that the point of entry was closed. So that was the eventual concern for Secretary Buttigieg and for me, to be precise. And yes, we could see that now new tools are provided to law enforcement, but we still couldn't see the end, you know, of the blockades. There was a lot of fluidity and volatility in what was happening in Windsor or across the country, to be honest, because at different blockades, even though in Windsor we would hear reduction in size, growth in size, a clearance on one side, but maybe still a tenuous situation where the... So while, yes, it offered some comfort, but we still had the roads closed.


  33. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I think it means we have shown no ---


  34. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That is correct. And if I may, can I talk about the first part of the paragraph?


  35. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    So to explain what I was briefing to my colleagues, again, taking everyone back in time to that moment, there were a lot of threats emerging across the country to various ports of entries and institutions. We had heard of threats to the Port of Halifax, slow rolls in airport in Ottawa, Pearson Airport in Toronto, the Port of Vancouver. So what we did, proactively reach out to all or as many as we can to those ports of entry, to different institutions, including rail companies, to just encourage them to be alert, to perhaps increase their security, and to have plans in case any of these blockaders or slow rollers start appearing outside their institution.


  36. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Not that I recall.


  37. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yeah. I mean, I can’t describe why, but they certainly -- the Minister and -- I think it was officials actually, at the time, they were not indicating any interest in any support from the Federal Government.


  38. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Sure. I mean, that is the -- I guess the question that I had to deal with, and so did my colleagues. And I kind of alluded to it in my previous response, again, that moment in time, there was a lot of concern about ongoing escalation and inspiration that these blockades and occupations had been causing. And it felt, as I said, that there’s -- it wasn’t just Ottawa. It wasn’t just Windsor. It was Sarnia. It was Cornwall. It was Emerson. It was Coutts. It was Surrey. It was the Port of Vancouver. It was the Port of Halifax. All that to say is that there had been reports of either threats or some form of floral, some form of protest, and it felt that there was a stalemate, and that stalemate was raising the temperature, occupiers and blockaders were becoming more entrenched. Those who opposed them were also becoming more entrenched in opposing them. so there was a sense of a stalemate and a risk to many people, including those who were participating in the blockades, that this could get out of hand, that we could be reaching a tipping point where it could escalate and we would look back and regret not doing something sooner. And not to mention, by the way, the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Canadians, who have been personally impacted, either through their livelihood or their quality of life, businesses that I heard from. So there’s been -- this situation across the country was getting into really period of a lot of, I would say, concern, about where this is going to head if we don’t end up doing something. And I know I grappled with that decision. I didn’t take that decision lightly. And I would say I was reluctant to that decision. But it was the right thing to do to protect Canada’s national interests, to protect Canada’s security, to protect Canadians. And at a time like that, yes, the Emergencies Act is for emergencies, and it felt like an emergency.


  39. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I don’t want to speak on behalf of my colleagues or breach Cabinet confidentiality.


  40. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    So I certainly, you know, felt that having access to tow trucks was an issue. We, for weeks, had been asking -- were being told that it was near impossible, if not impossible, to find tow truck operators who were willing to take the risk to participate in a law enforcement action. So that was common feedback that I heard from the Department, from others. So it was clear to me that availability of tow trucks -- and not just any tow trucks, by the way. We’re talking about specialized tow trucks -- was -- the availability was an issue.


  41. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Indeed. Look, I think it was really important that the Emergencies Act is precise, targeted, and is measured, and the tool to compel tow truck operators was very specific and narrow and necessary to help law enforcement deal with the blockades.


  42. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  43. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I haven’t been able to follow all of the proceedings but I got reports on what is being said. And I’ll share with you my perspective. Throughout these weeks of outreach and discussions and debates, no one has said that the tow truck issue was resolved. In fact, in all of my conversations prior to the invocation of the Emergencies Act availability of tow trucks was always highlighted as an issue and that tow truck operators were worried about their safety or worried about their business. Those trucks, particularly the ones in Ottawa needed specialized tow truck and tow truck drivers. And that it was an issue, having access to tow trucks that could do this was an issue. And again, the tow trucks did not appear until after the invocation of the Emergencies Act. So I can’t speak to what the others have been testifying but I can tell you that that’s what I had heard. That’ was my understanding. And again, the facts are that the tow trucks did not appear until after the Emergencies Act was invoked.


  44. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I just want to go back to the picture that I tried to draw for you about the situation and how heightened the sense of anxiety and concern for public safety, for economic well-being of our country was, how at the time, cities and municipalities were asking us to do something. Provincial governments were saying this is a federal issue. Opposition parties were asking us questions, “Why aren’t you doing something?” Canadians were asking us. Businesses were asking. We didn’t talk about several interactions that I had with associations that represented different industries including the trucking industry. They were all, you know -- and I looked them in the eye and I heard it in their voice, the panic, the fear, the concern that they have, the shifts that were shut down, the businesses that were closed down, the people who couldn’t go to hospitals. That was the moment that we were living. And it felt like we had to do something. We were -- again, it was not something that we took lightly. It was not something that I took lightly. But it was the context that we’re in, the fear of escalation, the fear of getting to a tipping point where it could get out of hand. That was -- I strongly believe that that was invoking the Emergencies Act again that was very precise and limited, was necessary. As to your second question, I think it’s clear that this incident has exposed some gaps, whether it is, you know, the issue of jurisdictions, whether it is -- do we need additional tools to protect critical infrastructure? I think those are important questions and in fact I’ve tasked my department to do some work on what can be done to strengthen federal legislation or tools to add additional maybe tools, set of tools to protect critical infrastructure.


  45. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I think absolutely. By the way, we did have a council of ministers after that incident. Typically we have them in February. And I think it’s really important to collaborate with provincial governments on clarifying these -- what appear to be misconceptions or miscommunication or misunderstanding, but also identifying tools. I’ll just note, for example, the Alberta government has its own critical infrastructure legislation. So perhaps we can also learn from the Government of Alberta and other provincial governments on what else we could do at the federal level and how we can collaborate on closing these gaps.


  46. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Good evening.


  47. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  48. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    So first of all, let me just say that truckers over the last two years have done an amazing job. Like you said, when many of us had the option of working from home, they kept the movement of goods going. Most of us never thought for a moment about how these products got to the shelves but we certainly were reminded of the importance of the industry when everything else was shut down, yet the products kept on arriving, so I don’t think we could say thank you enough to truckers for their professionalism and for their job. And to answer your question about how polices were developed throughout the pandemic, these were done based on the advice that we received from Public Health and, also, taking into account considerations of the realities on the ground. There had been several professions and several categories that were granted exceptions at the beginning of the pandemic.


  49. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Truckers were one of them.


  50. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I -- my understanding is that the protest arose to oppose all mandates, not just a truckers’ mandate.


  51. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I think it was a trigger, but the -- and again, I am not here to speak on behalf of the protesters, but my understanding is that in every communication they issued, they opposed all vaccine mandates.


  52. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    This is the first time I’m seeing this document and that’s what the headline says.


  53. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  54. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Okay, yeah.


  55. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yeah, that’s what it says.


  56. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I mean, again, I have not seen this document before and I’m only seeing what is being in front of me on the screen, so that’s what it says, “Step one, Step two,” so I’m assuming that what you’re saying is correct.


  57. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yeah, I mean, again, as I said, all governments, not just in Canada -- provincial, municipal, around the world -- had different Public Health Measures, including mandates, and all governments had their own plan of how to adjust these measures.


  58. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    It appears that way.


  59. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That’s what the headline says.


  60. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Again, I was aware that different governments had their own plan of adjusting their Public Health measures, so did we.


  61. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  62. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  63. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That’s what the headline says.


  64. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    No. Is that what you think?


  65. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    No, I -- well, I don’t think so. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the government, I -- the government -- none of these governments have shared with me their rationale. I’m assuming that, just like they imposed these measures based on their advice that they received, I’m assuming they’re adjusting their measures based on the advice that they receive and their own considerations.


  66. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I was not at that meeting. I think he had made it public. I just can’t remember when he made it public, his opposition to border -- truckers- crossing-the-borders mandates.


  67. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I do.


  68. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Again, you’ll have to ask the provinces that question. I’m not in a position to offer justification for a provincial government’s decision.


  69. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    And by the way, let me just be -- clarify -- and again, it’s not up to me to talk about provincial government’s decision, but they did not -- most governments, provincial governments, did not lift all mandates, so just for the record. Second, you know, we don’t make public policy based on the number of protesters or emails that we get. We make public policy, particularly during the pandemic -- and let me be the first to acknowledge, governments around the world, including the federal government, did extraordinary measures in what we believed was the right thing to protect the health and safety of Canadians. I never imagined provinces shutting down businesses. I never imagined provinces invoking curfews. I never imagined the federal government putting limitations on travel. But we all did that. Governments across Canada did these measures because we believed we are saving lives. And yes, they were extraordinary, but I can tell you, no one, at least us -- I am not -- I’m not making any apology for doing what we believed the best thing for protecting lives. Now, of course, it caused inconvenience. Of course, it caused disruption. And our government did whatever we can to mitigate those disruptions, and Canadians understood that. Canadians understood that. So back to your question, our policies were based on the advices, and facts, and the science that we received, not based on polls, or number of protesters, or even the illegal activities that should never -- should never drive public policy.


  70. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I’m saying governments, especially during the pandemic, made tough decisions based on what we believed was the best for the protection of the health and safety of Canadians. Now, if you’re asking me, should government change its policy because people break the law in expressing their opposition? I’d say no. Should the government listen to public and consider the sentiment of public? Of course, but we are guided by the interest of -- of the interests of Canadians -- protecting the interests of Canadians. So being aware of the sentiment of Canadians is different than advancing the interests of Canadians. Sometimes they are connected, sometimes there is -- the sentiment might be different, depending on the groups and the information that they have or the priorities that they have.


  71. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yeah. No, I don’t agree with you. First of all, truckers themselves, if you follow the press releases by the Canadian Trucking Association, by teamsters, the unions that represent many truck drivers, have distanced themselves from this illegal -- these illegal blockades and occupations. They said they are giving the industry a bad name. They do not represent the industry. So -- and I have had several meetings with representatives of trucking associations, of trucking companies, and they all felt that they're giving the trucking industry a bad name. Second, let me just highlight a second point, by the way. We actually eased our international travel measures, and I can't remember the exact day, but sometime in February where there was a requirement for on-arrival testing. Those tests were eliminated, and that wasn’t because of the illegal occupation, it was because we entered a different phase of the pandemic and we felt, based on the advice that we got, we could adjust and ease our measures, so we did that.


  72. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Say that again?


  73. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That is correct.


  74. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    It was specifically stated in the provisions of the Act.


  75. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    We considered all ---


  76. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That is -- that’s our constitution and we're all sworn to uphold our constitution.


  77. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    We protected -- we kept in mind the Charter rights of all Canadians, including truck drivers.


  78. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I don't understand the question.


  79. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I said that yes, there was a reluctance for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons may be because they might be sympathetic, but the bigger reasons that we heard is that they afraid for their livelihood and their safety.


  80. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I can't really speak on their behalf.


  81. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    You know, again, the Emergencies Act was necessary, given the circumstances. The tools within the Emergencies Act were necessary to end illegal activities including blockades and occupation. And in order for us to de-escalate the situation and to end these illegal activities, we needed access to tow trucks, making sure that tow truck drivers were compensated and made whole. And I'm pretty sure that -- and I can't speak about the selection of tow truck drivers and tow truck companies, how the law enforcement agencies in choosing them, so I'm sure they found those who were willing as long as they felt they were compensated and protected.


  82. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    So I answered the question by saying I was not involved in how tow truck drivers or tow truck companies were selected. I would like to think that there were options to select tow truck drivers who were willing to participate.


  83. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I was not involved in the selection of tow truck drivers.


  84. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Hi, counsellor.


  85. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  86. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I do.


  87. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I agree.


  88. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  89. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I was not aware of the level of consultation that took place. I was just aware that there's significant consultation that had taken place in putting this document together.


  90. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I would defer to him.


  91. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I had a meeting, by the way, with Mayor Dilkens, I think, February 11th, I think. So I certainly reached out. I know my colleague, Minister Mendicino, has also reached out. So I put an effort into making sure that I heard directly from the mayor. You saw that I also had spoken with my colleague, Irek Kusmierczyk, member of parliament from Windsor. So it was really important for me to hear directly from those who are representing Windsor about the experience that they're going through and ideas that they may have.


  92. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Again, the strategy was developed, put together by officials based on my request and I know -- and the idea was to consult our stakeholders, our key partners, so -- but I'm not able to answer your question about the level of engagement and who exactly was involved in this development.


  93. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yeah. I mean, I don't know if that was the exact word, but maybe it was, but saying that what we were proposing was not doable.


  94. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Again, I reached out to Mayor Dilkens and I had a conversation with him to hear from him about what's going on, to get a briefing from him, and then too, I offered him what else can we do to help. So I had a direct conversation with the Mayor. As I said, my other colleagues as well.


  95. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I think so.


  96. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I didn't, but again, I mean, I -- the document was about provincial and federal tools, and mostly provincial tools, so it made I guess sense. And again, I shouldn't be talking about what exactly happened because I wasn't involved in it, but maybe I'm attempting at understanding what happened.


  97. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Counsellor, at the risk of repeating myself, I -- myself, my colleague, Mr. Kusmierczyk, my colleague, Minister Mendicino, perhaps others have reached out to the Mayor to ensure that we are still in touch and in contact. We offered -- we solicited input, we offered help. So I'm -- I guess what I'm trying to demonstrate is that we've actually done that.


  98. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yeah, I can't answer that question because I wasn't involved in the day-to-day put-together of this strategy.


  99. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Oh, she is a former employee of mine.


  100. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes, it's a briefing note before a call.


  101. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Oh, it's not uncommon that my staff prepares a briefing note the night before so I can read it overnight in preparation for my meeting, and the briefing note tends to cover a variety of issues in case any other topic is approached when I am speaking with whoever I am being prepared for.


  102. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I don't know. I think this is the actual briefing note. I don't know if it has the readout of the call. I think this is the actual briefing note.


  103. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    No. No, this is preparing me for what's the latest activities that have been happening there.


  104. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    (Inaudible response)


  105. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yeah. As I said, this was a note prepared by my team to prepare me for the call, and the idea is to make sure that I'm up-to-date on the ongoing activities.


  106. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Oh, I mean, we're not at that stage yet, perhaps we will get there. But for now, the idea is to put together a simple proposal on what additional tools we need, and then what we'd do is we would then talk to our partners. For sure it would make sense municipalities that have such critical infrastructure to seek their input.


  107. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Thank you.


  108. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That is correct.


  109. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    First of all, it was actually a comment that was mentioned to me by Minister Sawhney, that they also see it as, because it's a point of entry, they see that the Federal Government is implicated in this. So -- and that the Federal Government needed to play a leadership role in it. And so this was based on a comment that I had received from the Minister. Second, you know, I think -- I can't comment, you know, on the RFA. That's a -- that's not necessarily where my comment had come from.


  110. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    You know, when I asked Minister Sawhney, and I -- Minister Sawhney and I have a very good professional relationship where we're in regular contact when she was the Minister of Transportation, when I asked if she would be willing to issue a joint statement, because we -- I felt having a joint statement by two levels of government calling on the blockaders to go home would send a strong message to those who are thinking of staying or those who are thinking of joining, she refused to do that because she said that this is a federal issue because what the blockaders are objecting to has nothing to do with us. So that’s -- I’m sharing this with you to explain to you where I received that sense, that Alberta was saying that this is the Federal Government’s problem.


  111. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    This is a readout and my memory is that, and it’s not really that off from the readout. My memory is that she said that the protestors and the blockaders are opposed to the federal mandate and that’s why she was reluctant to appear like she’s supporting the federal mandate and she was reluctant to be appearing to be involved with us on this.


  112. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I was aware that the blockade continued, so I ---


  113. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yeah. I mean I was aware that there are different reasons, including towing capacity. So, yes. And, again, overall the outcome for me is that these blockades continued.


  114. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Again, the common response that I was getting as to when I kept asking why are the blockades at Coutts and other places continuing; there were different reasons. Some of them were safety, operational, including availability of tow trucks, and tow truck operators by the way; it wasn’t just tow trucks, tow truck operators.


  115. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  116. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I was aware that Alberta is seeking to purchase tow trucks; I can’t recall when I found out that those tow trucks were purchased but I was aware that Alberta had made a decision to purchase tow trucks. And I was also informed that there was an issue with operators for those tow trucks.


  117. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I don’t recall if I knew on the 13th or not, I can’t recall that.


  118. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    No, I can’t recall that.


  119. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Look, the Emergencies Act was needed because we had a national issue. We had problems across the entire country, including a threat of other emerging trouble zones. So I think -- and let me repeat. Coutts as well had during those three weeks or two and a half weeks, was on and off. So there was also still no confidence that the whole issue is going to be resolved this quickly. So the short answer to your question; no, I don’t think it would have changed my mind.


  120. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    So first of all, I mean maybe to even set the broader context, are supply chains have been going through a lot of disruptions because of Covid -- mostly Covid measures with lockdowns, with border restrictions, that had an impact on our economy and on our supply chains. So it was really critical for me personally and for our government, to keep monitoring our supply chain and the health of our supply chain and in fact one of the rationale that we believed the vaccine mandate would be good for our supply chain, is to protect the health and safety of the workers in the supply chains. With absenteeism being high because of Covid, with spread of Covid, with the risk of contracting Covid, the vaccine mandate, one of its rationale is that it ensured some additional resilience within our supply chain, including for our truck drivers. So when we -- and there was coordination; you’re asking about truck drivers across the borders; there was coordination between us and the U.S.; they also required similar measures for truck drivers to cross the border. Prior to invoking -- or implementing that measure, I had many consultations with trucking associations, with industry and it had come to me that about 90 per cent of truck drivers were fully vaccinated, that this measure would not have a measurable impact, however, we’ll continue to encourage the remaining who have not been vaccinated to get vaccinated. So all that long preamble to say is that I kept an eye on the volume of our truck activities across the border on a regular basis and published those on my social media to reassure the public that while the vaccine mandate is working, it has not had a measurable impact on the flow of our goods and our truck drivers across the border.


  121. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Not a Canadian truck driver. A U.S. driver maybe, but not a Canadian truck driver.


  122. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Sure, I just explained to you how vulnerable and turbulent our economy was at that moment as we are coming out of the acute phase of COVID after significant disruptions. Supply chains certainly were impacted. And what our government wanted to do and what I wanted to do is go to action on figuring out what can the federal government do to strengthen our supply chains to respond to the ongoing challenges that we were facing. And we held a summit. I hosted a summit that invited key stakeholders, industry leaders from different sectors to come together and talk about they’re hearing, what they’re seeing, and what their recommendations are for the federal government to ensure that we have stronger, more resilient supply chains. And by the way, it included representatives of the trucking industry.


  123. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I have to say, I'm impressed at how fast you pull the documents.


  124. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes. This is a press release by the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturing Association -- Manufacturers Association.


  125. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes. In fact, I think I met with them on that day. So I met with different industry associations and representatives including the Vehicle Manufacturers Association. It included the Auto Part Association. It included the Retail Council. It included the manufacturers and exporters and they -- to talk t them about the impact that the blockades is having on their industry, to hear from them. And I can,. You know, go through some of what I heard, whether it was from the Vehicle Manufacturers, GM, Ford, Honda, Toyota, all of them had shift disruption. And some of them were considering shipping on planes engines because some lines were being shut down and some production is being delayed. I also heard from 3M, a medical company, the Retail Council and grocers. It was quite evident., again, not only just through data but I mentioned earlier, in their voice how anxious they were about the wellbeing of their business, about the impact that this is going to have on investment in their business, about decisions that their -- some of them had U.S. headquarters in the investment decisions that their headquarters was going to make. So there was a great concern and they at the time issued the statement to again articulate that concern.


  126. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  127. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  128. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Trucking Alliance.


  129. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    The Canadian Manufacturers Exporters.


  130. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  131. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes. Ninu is a staff in my office.


  132. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  133. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes. This was with, I think, either the president or the executive director at the time of Teamsters. And expressing their concern about the blockades, and how much flak they were getting from those who are supporting the blockaders because they had publicly spoken out against the illegal activities. And you know, they were again asking us to do something to end these issues.


  134. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Yes. The Canadian Trucking Alliance said the same thing because again they were -- they issued -- again, a statement, I think, on January 31st, right at the beginning of the illegal occupation, that they distanced themselves from those activities and that they do not represent truckers and the profession of truckers. But they then told us that they did receive a lot of threats by those, I guess, who are sympathetic to the blockaders.


  135. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  136. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Ms. Kusmierczyk.


  137. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I can’t recall, to be honest. If the sheet says it was done on the 10th, then it was done on the 10th. I know they were all done within a few days. So within that week. But this, as I alluded earlier, this was a conversation with representatives of Toyota and Honda. And they were explaining to about the severe impact that these blockaders are having on their business, the shortage of parts, the impact on assembly lines, the impact on workers, and the impact on confidence. And again, don’t forget, we’re at a time where there’s a transformation in the auto sector, the building of new vehicles, electric vehicles. There’s competition between different jurisdictions. Who’s going to get which plant? Obviously Toyota Canada and Honda Canada and others were competing with their fellow other regions around the world for investments. They felt that this put a lot of the plans that they have in place at risk.


  138. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)



  139. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    That’s correct.


  140. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    I don’t think I saw it, no. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.


  141. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Correct. And these were part of the outreach that I had been doing for a while, and I had a call with my B.C. counterpart, Minister Fleming, and I had a call with my Nova Scotia counterpart to talk about -- B.C., by the way, at the time, even though when I’d spoken with him, and I think it was the day the Emergencies Act was invoked, ---


  142. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Correct. But at that time, if I recall correctly, the Surrey Port of Entry was still blocked. So we had a conversation about the fact that the Emergencies Act was invoked. He told me that his government supported it. And I asked him for the situation in Surrey. He said it’s still blocked but that, you know, now hopefully we’ll find a resolution to it. So that was the extent of the conversation. With Nova Scotia, you know, there were also threats of blockades and protests around ports, around the legislator. They had, I think, invoked their own state of emergency. So I just reached out as well as part of my effort to reach out to many of the provinces who were impacted to speak with her, to get a sense from her about what she and her government felt about the invocation of the Emergencies Act and about the current situation in the province. And she also indicated, I think, that they were supportive of the Emergencies Act.


  143. Omar Alghabra, Minister (GC-TC)

    Thank you, Your Honour.