Ottawa – The United We Roll! Convoy for Canada! made a loud noise on Parliament Hill on Feb. 19, with the horns of semis, pickups and cars blaring full blast.
Those vehicles lined Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill. With their stage relocated, most of the participants stood in the snow on the lawn, freezing in -9 C weather for the two-hour rally.
The issues raised by the speakers focused primarily on energy policy of the federal Liberal government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This included Bill C-69 (changing the National Energy Board and impact assessments), Bill C-48 (which bans oil tankers off the northern British Columbia coast), export pipelines, carbon tax, agriculture and immigration.
The list of speakers was long, and included two federal party leaders, Andrew Scheer of the Conservatives, and Maxime Bernier, of the Peoples Party of Canada. Numerous Conservative members of parliament and a few senators also spoke.
But perhaps more importantly, many members of the convoy took the microphone. Saskatchewan content included a lengthy speech by Estevan farmer and auctioneer Jason LeBlanc, whose semi and grain trailer was parked right up near the gate to Parliament. Jay Riedel and Ken Mehler, also of Estevan, and Joram Olweny, of Weyburn, also took the podium.
Saskatchewan parliamentarians included Senator Dave Tkachuk, and MPs David Anderson (Cypress Hills-Grasslands) and Cathay Wagantall (Yorkton-Melville).
A counter protest gathered on the opposite side of Wellington Street, on the other side of the semis parked in front of Parliament. A strong shoulder-to-shoulder police presence separated the groups. The banners carried by many of the counter protesters said, “Separate oil and state,” “Water is life, water is sacred,” and “No one is illegal.”
When the counter-protesters got a little excited, a long, loud and concentrated blast of the air horns from those sitting in the semis quickly and emphatically drowned them out. This could be seen from social media live feeds.
One counter-protester carried the flag of the Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle, beside another person carrying the Canadian flag. When the rally on the first day wrapped up, the counter protest ensured the trucks didn’t move anywhere for quite some time. A wall of police officers, coincidentally all wearing yellow high-visibility vests, slowly moved the counter protesters out of the way, allowing the convoy to depart about an hour later.
Saying what they came to say
Glen Carritt, principle organizer of the convoy, said, “This is Canada. We’re the hard-working people of this country, and we’ve united this country by driving across it and meeting every single one of you.”
Carritt said they’ve had an amazing reception. And he was followed by the singing of O Canada and Amazing Grace, as well as a moment of silence which happened to coincide with the ringing of the bells from the Peace Tower.
Jack McLaren, a former seven-year Ontario member of provincial parliament, used to work in the Alberta oilpatch. When he lost the election, he became an Ottawa area farmer. He said, “This country, which used to be the best country in the world, was built on natural resources — oil, number one, mining, forestry, and agriculture. Always was, is today, and will be in the future, so we’re with you!
“I used to live in Alberta for seven years. I was there in the 70s with my wife Janet, who’s over here. We went through that 1980s crash in the oil industry. I was one of those easterners in the 1970s that went west to get a job, because that’s where the jobs were, in Vancouver and Alberta. And we were doing well, until everything crashed. We lost our jobs. I lost my job. Janet and I were married. We had two babies, a mortgage and no job. So that is tough.
“I know what is going on in Alberta right now, and in Saskatchewan, anywhere the oil industry is. It’s terrible. We have a huge supply of oil, the world wants to buy it, and we can’t build goddamn pipelines! Because of Justin Trudeau!
“He should have received that message before now. I think he has. He’s turning his back on the people that create the wealth that’s built this nation and will build it in the future,” McLaren said.
Jason LeBlanc spoke at length about the impact of a carbon tax on agriculture, the impact of the current federal government’s energy policies on Estevan, coal power generation, and carbon capture and storage.
“This is a peaceful rally. It’s a bit of a warning shot. We want the prime minister to hear our message,” LeBlanc said. “The naysayers said it couldn’t be done. The keyboard warriors called us racists, bigots, and any other names they could think of as we made our way across this great country. The protesters tried to stop us just outside of Winnipeg, but our little peaceful convoy made it, and we’re here.”
Jay Riedel has been the principal organizer of Estevan protests, including the 427-unit convoy that passed through the Energy City on Dec. 22.
“Once we got to Ontario, we didn’t know what to expect,” Riedel said. He recounted how some communities along the way set off fireworks when they arrived.
“The emotional part of it, I can’t explain it until now.
“We came across this country united.”
He noted about the carbon tax, “You’re going to be paying this carbon tax on a loaf of bread in the store.”
Riedel spoke of how Estevan used to have many jobs and there was a shortage of housing. “Now there’s vacant houses. People are suffering.”
“We have to get all our resources to market — oil, gas, or anything else,” Riedel said. “To unite this country, that’s what this is all about. United we roll!”
Joram Olweny of Weyburn explained how he migrated lawfully to Canada 23 years ago, and through a long and difficult process, became a citizen. It took four years to become a citizen in 2001. He now works in the oilpatch and runs a business. He expressed frustration at how current immigration policies are operating, and how lax it has become to walk across the border.
“I love the oilpatch. I love farmers. And that’s why I became a Canadian citizen!” Olweny said.
Ken Mehler said, “I’m in oil. I’m in coal.
“Oil is dead, and coal is becoming dead. Trudeau is tearing everything down.”
Mehler spoke of the two coal-fired power plants at Estevan, and a third at Coronach, and how they are all at risk with the current government. “He wants to kill it,” Mehler said of Trudeau.
“The last guys leaving Estevan, turn out the damned lights, because you’ll be charged a carbon tax.”
Mehler added, “Our western oil should be a lot more important than oil coming in on tankers from other countries.”
Senator Dave Tkachuk said, “This is a clear attempt by the government of Canada to destroy the energy industry. And with that, destroying the energy industry, they will, of course, destroy the pipeline industry.”
Yorkton-Melville Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall said, “You have touched and motivated the hearts of Canadians across the nation.”
Cypress Hills-Grasslands Conservative MP David Anderson thanked the convoy for driving through his riding to get there. He said that riding depends on agriculture and energy.
He spoke of attending a recent gathering with 2,000 people in Kindersley to talk about what has been happening. Anderson said that people there were sick and tired of having to lay people off, and being pressured by a government that wouldn’t listen to them.
“We need to build those pipelines,” Anderson said.
Maxime Bernier, leader and founder of the People’s Party of Canada and MP for Beauce, said: “You’re not asking for a hand out, you’re not asking for any privilege. You’re asking to build a pipeline.
“We don’t need a carbon tax. We don’t need Bill C-69. We don’t need Bill C-48.”
He promised to scrap those bills if elected prime minister, as well as to privatize the recently nationalized Trans Mountain Pipeline.
Bernier talked about using the constitution to push a pipeline through. “It’s safer to build a pipeline today,” he pointed out, noting that Quebecers remember the Lac-Mégantic disaster seven years ago.
“We need to have a fair equalization formula,” Bernier added. “We need to ensure it is fair for everyone.”
Leader of the Opposition and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said, “I want to thank you in the United We Roll convoy that came all the way from Western Canada that your voices have been heard.”
“I am sick and tired of watching people chain themselves to trees and lying down in front of bulldozers, trying to block Canadian energy from reaching markets, but yet, day after day, we see tanker after tanker of foreign oil coming into our markets. It’s time for that to stop.”
Regarding his pipeline plan, Scheer said, “There was a time when the governments didn’t have to build pipelines, because the private sector did it with investors money.”
He said the Conservative plan would be to scrap Bill C-69 and the carbon tax.
“We’re going to build pipelines to get oil and gas off the railway,” Scheer said.
“We will work to build a west-to-east pipeline to get western Canadian oil and gas to eastern markets, so you don’t have to import oil from countries like Saudi Arabia, Algeria and the United States.
“We’ve got your back, we’re fighting for you,” Scheer said.
Pierre Polliviere, Conservative MP for Nepean-Carleton, Ont., said the Conservatives would use Section 92 of the Constitution Act to approve pipelines.
“The good news is Canadians support pipelines.”
Pat King, who had done a lot of the live video feeds from the convoy, said, “We need to take this country back.
“This is a responsible movement. I just drove across this country. The country went viral. It was an absolutely amazing moment to watch.
“Ontario loved us coming across.”
Dane Lloyd, Conservative MP for Sturgeon River-Parkland, Alta., noted he was a former officer in the armed forces. “My stepdad’s a truck driver. Truck drivers are out of work. We can’t get a pipeline built.”
Pointing out there’s a perception that Ontario doesn’t understand the plight of Western Canada, he said, “Ontario does understand.”
Lloyd said he saw that with the convoy. “The whole country is standing up with us.”
Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative MP David Yurdinga said, “We need our pipelines now. Look at the social implications, across Alberta, across Canada. There’s no hope, no future, without the pipelines.
“We need more pipelines, a pipeline to the East Coast and a pipeline to the West Coast.”
Peace River-Westlock Conservative MP Arnold Viersen said of they do three f’s in his constituency: forestry, farming and fracking. “Since Trudeau became prime minister, it’s all f’d up,” he added.