Inquiry document says Bergen, PM talked about setting 'bad precedent' with convoy

OTTAWA — Notes taken during a conversation between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Conservative leader Candice Bergen shed more light on their discussion about reaching out to "Freedom Convoy" protesters.

Details of that Feb. 3 phone call have been released by the Public Order Emergency Commission, the public inquiry examining Trudeau's decision to use the Emergencies Act to clear blockades around Parliament Hill and at several U.S. border crossings.

Trudeau and Bergen spoke on her first day as the interim Opposition leader after the Conservative caucus ousted former leader Erin O'Toole.

The inquiry previously learned that one of Trudeau's aides suggested Bergen privately acknowledged there were "significant concerns" around engaging with protesters and "setting a bad precedent" during the call.

At the same time, Bergen was pressing Trudeau to extend an "olive branch" to the protesters blockading Ottawa's streets in the House of Commons.

In a statement Thursday, the former leader said she remembered raising that with Trudeau, but said it was the prime minister who said he didn't want to set a bad precedent.

Notes taken by a staffer in the Prime Minister's Office show Bergen said she wanted to see some resolution to the protests, to "find a way for people to head back home."

"If you have some ideas or some things you think could be done, extending an olive branch is one way of putting it, we'd love to be able to even work together to make that happen," Bergen said, according to the summary.

In response, Trudeau agreed there may be opportunities to work together, but said some of the things protesters were called for are "non-starters."

"I'm worried about setting a precedent where if anyone wants something they can set up a blockade on Wellington Street," he went on, according to the notes.

The notes show Bergen agreed and added, "I think that you do have to be cautious and as PM don't want to set a bad precedent. I'm sure you're talking and coming up with some ideas."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press