Canadians are going through “difficult times,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday – but “angry” protests, he added, should remain peaceful despite those difficulties.
He made the comment after footage emerged on social media of the prime minister being swarmed by a small group of loud protesters in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday night, where the Liberal cabinet retreat is taking place.
Security guards and police pushed back protesters as they hurled insults at Trudeau, calling him a “tyrant”, demanding his resignation and shouting profanity.
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The reason they were protesting was not immediately made clear in the footage.
“It is really, really important in our democracy that people can express their disagreement, their dissatisfaction or even their anger against various governments. It’s really important,” Trudeau said when asked about the Wednesday morning incident.
“At the same time, our police services and institutions will ensure that these protests remain peaceful and law abiding. It’s something that really matters.
Canada will “always ensure” that people are “free to express” their views, Trudeau added.
“A handful of angry people don’t define what Hamilton is or what democracy is,” he said.
Harassment and threats against public figures has become a growing problem across Canada.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino warned over the summer that the increasing frequency of harassment against Canadian public figures posed a “threat to democracy” that must be taken seriously.
In late August, Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland was stuck outside an elevator in Grande Prairie, Alta., as a man hurled profanity at her while expressing opposition to COVID-19 health measures.
In June, Mendicino revealed that Canadian MPs would be receiving panic buttons amid an increase in death threats, intimidation and verbal harassment.
When asked if the increase in threats and anger over the protests had led Trudeau to withdraw from open public appearances, the prime minister replied that it had not.
“On the contrary, I continue to be there to meet the Canadians, to speak with them about their concerns. And I will continue to do so,” he said.
“Staying connected, especially after the difficult years of the pandemic, where we all had to change the way we do things, remains really important.”
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Canadians, Trudeau said, “are going through tough times right now.”
The country is grappling with soaring costs of living as an economic downtown has caused inflation rates to soar. Grocery prices have also skyrocketed and several industries have been hit by layoffs.
In a year-end interview with PKBNEWS last month, Trudeau warned Canadians that 2023 will be a tough year as economic challenges loom.
“Global recession fears, slowing global economy, still high interest rates, still persistent inflation – it’s going to be tough,” he said.
Randy Boissonault, associate finance minister, also said Tuesday at the cabinet retreat that the coming year was going to be “turbulent.”
It came the day after a joint report by the Business Council of Canada and Bennett Jones warned that the fiscal forecasts presented in the latest federal budget and fall economic statement were likely too optimistic.
The report, written by former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge and former Liberal financial policy adviser Robert Asselin, said the government’s forecast was based on a “plausible but optimistic” set of economic assumptions and interest rates that are unlikely to materialize.
They warn that there is a “high likelihood of a deeper recession” this year, and that Liberal promises on everything from health care funding and increased national defense spending to infrastructure improvements and to climate change, will cost much more than expected. projected.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Boissonnault said.
Despite these challenges, Trudeau said, “most Canadians roll up their sleeves and say, ‘You know what? It’s tough, but we’re going to be there for each other.
“We will see ourselves through this and we will build a better future. »
Trudeau ends his three-day Cabinet retreat before Parliament returns. Retirement, his office said, was focused on the cost of living and the economy.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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