Convoy Finance: Assessing effectiveness and learning lessons
Convoy finance series number 10
In this 10th (and hopefully close to last!) edition of the convoy finance series, I look at what the emergency measures achieved, and what lessons can be learned from their implementation. Thanks to all who have subscribed recently — it really helps to keep this newsletter sustainable! And my apologies for the duplicate emails on the last newsletter. Substack tells me that the bug that caused you all to receive two emails has been fixed. Also, in the next few weeks, I should have a special surprise for you all — a new author! More on that later. For now, let’s learn some lessons about convoy finance.
Need more background on convoy finance? Here’s the series:
What the emergency measures did
The emergency measures, particularly the financial ones, were drafted to include the potential freezing the funds of designated individuals (designated individuals included much more than just the convoy organizers or protest attendees). I walk through the potential applications of the emergency measures here. In practice, the measures were applied in a more limited way. According to statements by public officials, the freezing of accounts was limited to individuals on an RCMP-provided list. Most of the affected accounts were unfrozen within a few days, except for accounts subject to restraint orders, funds that were transferred to escrow accounts, or perhaps accounts frozen pursuant to a law enforcement investigation.
What the police say the measures did
Public officials have argued that the emergency measures, and specifically the financial ones, had an impact on the convoy. According to Public Safety Minister Mendicino, the emergency measures helped police go after the money, and gave law enforcement the tools they needed.1 Other public officials argued at committee that the measures gave law enforcement tools that were not available before, and that protesters left because their accounts were frozen.2 Officials further argued that when the powers came into force, they didn’t know when the protest was going to end; so these powers were forward looking and could have had more utility had the protest continued.3 However, officials provided little in the way of evidence to support these assertions; in practice the emergency measures were in place for such as short time that the effect was likely minimal. These arguments would be more compelling if officials were to provide evidence of an impact during the forthcoming inquiry, such as statements from convoy participants, social media posts, or other information to support the assertions.
There has been plenty of controversy surrounding the use of these measures; what I think most Canadians forget is that the police actually have the power to freeze accounts during investigations. These measures didn’t so much re-write these rules as allow police to circumvent the usual checks and balances, and enable information-sharing in ways that is not usually possible.