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Bank CEOs warned Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland about threat to Canada’s reputation during convoy protests

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Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland at the Public Order Emergency Committee in Ottawa on November 24, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

The CEO of a Canadian bank warned Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland of the risk of damaging the country’s reputation on the eve of the federal government’s imposition of emergency legislation, warning several critical borders Canada said it was being called a “joke” because checkpoints remained blocked by protesters.

On a conference call on February 13th, a bank CEO relayed investor comments. The investor said, “I will not invest another cent in Canada’s Banana Republic.” Readouts from the phone were filed alongside an investigation into the federal government’s invocation of the emergency law last winter. The leader’s name has been redacted.

“If the investor you’re talking to is American, tell them we’re not America, who literally let people invade Congress,” Freeland told CEOs. rice field. “If they’re British, remind them of Brexit. If they’re French, remind them of their yellow vests. If they’re Germans, look how badly they’re treating Russia now.”

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Another leader expressed concern that the banking system would be seen as a “political weapon of the government” if told to close bank accounts, another said on Fox News that Canada’s denial I have filed a report.

She told leaders she was “determined to end this occupation of our democracy” and said she would never support negotiations with those who were “holding our democracy hostage”. .

In testimony before the Public Order Emergency Committee on Thursday, Freeland said the CEO’s comments about Banana Republic were “heart-stopping” for her. She described it as a moment that crystallized her understanding that the protests were “grossly endangering” the Canadian economy.

Freeland said the CEO who relayed the comments had been talking to US investors who wanted to invest in Canada. She testified that she tried to rally her leaders to stand up for Canada, recalling that she said: Don’t take it from investors. ”

A bank leader expressed concern that the banking sector was being “used as a department of government,” saying the government needed a plan to lift pandemic-related restrictions, with Canada having the most stringent regulations. commented. among OECD countries.

Last week, the Treasury Department’s most senior civil servant, Michael Sabia, said: testified against time Stop the growing economic damage created by the blockade and the risks to Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner. These concerns have risen to the point of being debated between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden.

On February 10, Freeland spoke with Brian Deeds, a senior Biden administration official. In an email summarizing the conversation, Freeland wrote:

“He surmised that this proved that we had previously pointed out to them how tightly integrated our economies are. (He does not seem to see this as a positive thing.) ),” writes Freeland.

At that time, an important trade route, the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, was closed for four days. In the early morning hours of February 14, the road was reopened to traffic, before the state of emergency was invoked.

“It was really the first time I could see Americans flashing this amber light in Canada. I told you,” Freeland said.

Ms. Freeland also testified that the Emergency Act has the power to freeze protesters’ bank accounts without a court order. About 280 accounts totaling about $8 million in assets were frozen using powers under the Emergency Act, according to a Treasury Department report submitted to the commission.

“I really regret what happened to those people,” Freeland said. “I wish I didn’t have to do this, but what I really believe is the tens and hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs and families we’ve protected.”

In an interview prior to his testimony, Freeland said, “A very serious threat to Canada’s economic security can also be a threat to national security. That was the case,” according to the interview summary.

The Emergency Act states that in order to declare a public order emergency, there must be a “threat to Canada’s security” severe enough to indicate a national emergency. The legal definitions of these threats are based on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. The CSIS Act outlines four types of threats to Canada’s security. None mentioned the economy.

On Thursday, the commission’s co-lead attorney, Shantona Chowdhury, asked Freeland about the link between economic security and threats to national security.

“I truly believe that our national security is built on our economic security. When economic security is threatened, all security is threatened,” Freeland replied.

If supply chains with the United States collapse because Canada is not seen as a reliable partner, it means people across the country will lose their jobs in related industries, she said.

Referring to Russia’s war and energy targeting in Ukraine, Freeland said, “If that sounds too abstract, you can actually see economic tools being weaponized in a real war.” I think we’re looking at it today in the geopolitical space that’s been around,” he said. infrastructure.

The Deputy Prime Minister also said the threat to Canada’s economic security from the motorcade protests was a “personal threat” to many Canadians.

“They felt the government wasn’t protecting them. And they were right. We haven’t been there in a while.”

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