While one of two planned convoys to Ottawa to support the oil and gas industry has been scrapped, organizers of the other say it is full steam ahead.
The two protest convoys started organizing close to the same time. One called itself the Yellow Vest (Official) Convoy to Ottawa; the other called itself the Resource Coalition Convoy to Ottawa. The latter, being organized by a coalition of groups including Canada Action and Rally 4 Resources, bowed out on Jan. 14.
On January 15, Pipeline News spoke to Glen Carritt, who has taken up the reins of the Yellow Vest convoy. Carritt owns and operates OP Fire & Safety based in Innisfail, Alta. The company has operations in Grande Prairie, Airdrie/Calgary, Fort St. John and Estevan. He’s also a member of the Innisfail town council.
“Right from the get-go, before I even decided to really get on board with doing this, I reached out to all the groups that were involved, including Canada Action and R4R, which are, of course, the same, and I asked if we could work together. Let’s just work together, you can do your own thing, but let’s make sure the coordination is working. This is a big, huge logistical nightmare that we’re trying to work with,” Carritt said.
“And right from the get-go, they really didn’t want to associate with the Yellow Vests. And I tried to convince them, saying you can do your own thing. You don’t have to fly the yellow vests, let’s just make sure we’re communicating and being on the same page.
“They went out of their way trying to discredit Yellow Vests, by portraying that we were radicals, et cetera, in some of their newscasts. We still maintained the high road here. We respect your decision not to fly the yellow vest, but they just didn’t want to work with us,” he said.
Carritt said he and his team have been working on getting the logistics sorted out for making this protest convoy happen. He also felt the other convoy was not as far along in their preparations, and suggested that may have been a reason for them bowing out.
“We’re full steam ahead. We’ve got all that stuff handled,” Carritt said.
“We went ahead and registered our protest. We’re leaving a day early,” he said, noting that the departure date from Red Deer is now Feb. 14, not Feb. 15. The schedule gives one to two days of contingency for bad weather.
“We’re due to arrive Feb. 19, in Ottawa.”
The rally is expected to be a three-day event, with trucks starting their way back on Feb. 22.
“There’s one highway, with 1,000 trucks, so there will be a convoy coming back,” Carritt said, but the return will be somewhat more loosely coordinated, as some drivers may drive shifts on the way back with multiple drivers.
Letters have been sent to every premier in the country, inviting them to speak, he added.
The convoy will stay overnight in Regina the night of Feb. 14 and depart the city the morning of Feb. 15.
There’s a limit to how many units they’ll be able to get at Parliament Hill; trucks will also have to park elsewhere. They’re not going to be able to totally clog Ottawa.
“There’s going to be some congestion, that’s for sure,” he said.
And trucks won’t be parked on Parliament Hill for three days, either. He’s working with Ron Barr of the Greater Ottawa Truckers Association to organize that portion.
“We want to make sure it’s peaceful, but also that we’re heard.”
How the convoy started
Regarding how this whole movement started, Carritt said, “It obviously grew very fast.”
He got involved with the Ottawa convoy around Christmas time. The convoy Facebook page was initially set up by C.J. Clayton., who has since stepped back.
“I saw that the page was lacking a business leadership and somebody that could take the reins and pull this off. I was going to some of the rallies. I sent our fire truck to one of the first rallies in Nisku, and some of the other ones. They’ve been to just about every rally we can get to. And not that it was an original idea, by any means, but I took the bull by the horns and said, ‘The only way that anybody’s going to listen, that Trudeau is going to listen to us is to get these trucks parked in Ottawa.’
“We’ve been voicing our concerns for years here, and of course, it’s getting louder and louder. But it’ll just carry on and on, 24/7, 365, we could have protests here.”
The organizational Facebook page is Yellow Vest (Official) Convoy to Ottawa, which, as of Jan. 16, had 4,380 members. This is not to be confused with the Yellow Vests Canada Facebook group which has 120,348 members as of the same date.
The convoy page is run by volunteers, Carritt said.
“I’ve got an admin group on the page that’s monitoring, moderating the Facebook page to make sure there’s no radical comments, any hate comments, any derogatory comments towards our prime minister. Trying to keep it 100 per cent respectful,” he said.
Some of the comments made on the Yellow Vests Canada page were of concern for organizers of the other, now defunct, convoy.
There’s a team in Ottawa from the Greater Ontario Trucker’s association. There are others taking truck registration, both in Western and Eastern Canada. “This is just going so, so fast, and everyone is reaching out and helping.
“There’s a lot of issues right now with Yellow Vests Canada with radicals and stuff in there that they’re trying to control. Yes, it’s Yellow Vests, but we don’t condone any of that behavior, so they’re trying to get that under control.”
The decision to go ahead with a convoy was made Dec. 18.
As for the commitment in mid-January, “we’ve probably got hundreds, to close to a thousand trucks,” he said.
That, in itself, can be a challenge, as fueling up that many units could literally run a town dry of diesel. So part of the planning behind the convoy is to bring along and supply fuel for participants to a certain extent.
One company, ADF Petroleum, is bringing along 48,000 litres of fuel to dispense, and there will be fuel trucks taking part to fuel up overnight, he said.
“Fuel cards, we could do some, but one of ten people that are coming are looking for assistance. Everyone else wants to pay their own way, but that’s going to change, depending on funding.
“We’re going to have to figure out how many B-trains we’re going to need,” Carritt said.
He added they are working with the Ontario department of transportation on getting a no-work exemption to take provincially-run trucks and go across the country.
February is typically the busiest month of the year for the Canadian oilpatch, far exceeding drilling activity in the busiest part of the summer. But Carritt says its important to go then, as opposed to waiting for spring breakup.
“I’ll tell you why. Because Trudeau’s bringing to the table, back in session, Bill C-48 and Bill C-69. That’s why the timing is crucial that we go on Feb. 19 so that we can put demands on him that we squash those two bills. That’s the reason,” Carritt said.
“We took into huge consideration that, yes, this is the middle of our busy season. It’s the middle of my busy season, too. At the end of the day, if the trucks are working, they’re likely not going. But we have lots and lots of companies with trucks that are not working.”
Asked what the convoy’s main issues are, Carritt said, “We need our product to get to tidewater. We need our product, B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta, to get to the rest of Canada. We have to stop spending $50 million a day on foreign oil. So we have to get it to the rest of Canada, we have to get it to tidewater. We can’t depend on the only customer being Americans. We have to expand our product to the world so we can get our Canadian price up to actually do some work in this country.”
Energy East and Trans Mountain are only two of the options to get to tidewater, he noted.
As for the carbon tax, he said Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna needs to revisit it.
“The plan they have right now, to tax the average family, does not work. It hasn’t proven to reduce emissions one bit. It’s also part and parcel a detriment to the oilpatch, because they’re being taxed heavily, with carbon, when we have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world.
“We need to protect our sovereignty, to protect our identity in Canada. We need a Canadian identity. It’s starting to diminish. You know what that means? I don’t know, but what they’re doing isn’t working. We need some sort of control. We can’t be having criminals to be coming into our country, time and time again. We’re not against immigration, by any stretch of the imagination. Immigration is great for this country. That’s how this country has grown. But we have to have some sort of control over it.”
He said everyone’s got their main reason to go on this journey, but his is oil and gas.
He said critics of the Yellow Vest movement “paint the picture of everyone being radical racists, but that’s not the case. They paint the picture that we’re anti-immigration, but that’s not the case.
“I can only speak for our page, and we’ve got moderators to make sure those comments don’t come through. It’s not acceptable, and it’s a minority. The Yellow Vests are peaceful. This is about bringing Canadians together. It’s a way of demonstrating and getting attention, so we can voice our concerns on Parliament Hill, all of us,” Carritt said.