Per­haps it’s no sur­prise, but some of the first words crack­ling over the CB ra­dios in the United We Roll Con­voy for Canada as it pulled out of a Red Deer park­ing lot Thurs­day morn­ing was: “We got a great big con­voy, ain’t it a beau­ti­ful sight?”Those words from the fa­mous song, Con­voy, were a 10-4. With Cana­dian flags flap­ping and huge signs declar­ing love for Cana­dian oil and gas, it was, in­deed, a strangely beau­ti­ful and, I’ll ad­mit, some­what emo­tional sight.See­ing 159 ve­hi­cles — ev­ery­thing from huge semi-trucks to sporty sedans — com­ing to­gether as one to drive home the mes­sage that West­ern Canada’s en­ergy in­dus­try is hurt­ing and de­serves the sup­port of the en­tire coun­try — was mov­ing in more ways than the ob­vi­ous one.“The main mes­sage we are tak­ing to Ot­tawa with this con­voy is that our oil-and-gas sec­tor is in trou­ble,” said Glen Car­ritt, the con­voy man­ager, who has done the bulk of the or­ga­niz­ing of this five-day trek to Par­lia­ment Hill.“We need a prime min­is­ter to be a cham­pion for the in­dus­try that has done so much to fuel this coun­try’s pros­per­ity,” said Car­ritt, a coun­cil­lor with the town of In­n­is­fail, who lit­er­ally shook from the cold as he stopped for numer­ous me­dia in­ter­views be­fore jump­ing into his rig that looks much like a fire truck and is used in his in­dus­trial safety com­pany.We’re proud of our oil and gas, a prod­uct ev­ery Cana­dian uses and ben­e­fits from in a huge way.“We need to get our pipe­lines in the ground and soon. We need to abol­ish Bill C-69 and Bill C-48 and we need the car­bon tax abol­ished,” said Car­ritt, re­fer­ring to the Im­pact As­sess­ment Act — Bill C-69 — that crit­ics say will make build­ing a pipe­line in the fu­ture vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble. Bill C-48 bans tanker traf­fic on the north­west coast of Canada, mean­while, OPEC oil trav­els up the St. Lawrence River all the time.Fol­low­ing months of pro oil-and-gas protests and truck con­voys through­out West­ern Canada, this con­voy al­most never hap­pened af­ter some grass­roots groups such as Canada Ac­tion felt that peo­ple who as­so­ci­ated them­selves with France’s yel­low vest move­ment were mud­dy­ing the mes­sage with racist is­sues.But Car­ritt, who does not wear a yel­low vest, says those yel­low vesters were kicked out and that is­sue is in the rear-view mir­ror now.“All re­spect­ful, peace­ful, non-rad­i­cal Cana­di­ans are wel­come to join in this rally. We will not tol­er­ate any racism, hate or any­one with those views,” he in­sisted. “They are not part of this move­ment. I’ll be very up­set if some­one like that at­taches them­selves to us and this con­voy. They have noth­ing to do with us. We’re proud of our oil and gas, a prod­uct ev­ery Cana­dian uses and ben­e­fits from in a huge way. That’s what this is about,” added Car­ritt, be­fore lead­ing the con­voy out of Gort’s Truck Wash park­ing lot in Red Deer a bit later than the sched­uled 8 a.m. launch.Amy Kin­sella, 12, said she wanted to join the con­voy from Red Deer to In­n­is­fail be­cause she hopes young voices will help change things for the bet­ter.Hold­ing Gigi, the fam­ily’s bi­chon-poo­dle cross wear­ing an I ♥ Cana­dian Oil and Gas T-shirt fash­ioned into a doggy coat, Amy says she will learn more Thurs­day morn­ing than she would have in the first hour of school that she was miss­ing by tak­ing part in the first 35 kilo­me­tres of the 3,260-kilo­me­tre jour­ney to Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa.Joined by her brother, Wy­att, 11, and her par­ents, Dave and Tracey, Amy said: “I think this teaches me that if you don’t like gov­ern­ment pol­icy it’s im­por­tant to speak out about it — to stand on guard for Canada.”Al­most on cue, O Canada was sung in the park­ing lot and a prayer for safety was ut­tered be­fore con­voy mem­bers moved into their ve­hi­cles to head down High­way 2.RCMP were lauded on the CB ra­dio for block­ing roads in Red Deer to al­low the con­voy to re­main united on the road.Amy’s dad, Dave Kin­sella, 45, an oil­field mea­sure­ment co-or­di­na­tor, is driv­ing his Ford F-150 to Ot­tawa with Gigi af­ter he drops off the kids and Tracey in In­n­is­fail. He says he’s join­ing the con­voy be­cause he feels aban­doned by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.“Ev­ery hos­pi­tal, school, road and so­cial pro­gram across this coun­try has been built in part and sup­ported by our in­dus­try. My hope is that Cana­di­ans out­side of West­ern Canada will lis­ten to us and un­der­stand that no­body does oil and gas de­vel­op­ment bet­ter than Canada,” said Kin­sella.De­spite the bit­ter wind chill that En­vi­ron­ment Canada said made the tem­per­a­ture feel more like -40 C, the at­mos­phere was warm, fes­tive and ju­bi­lant.That spirit con­tin­ued on High­way 2 south and the Trans-Canada High­way headed east as hun­dreds of peo­ple braved the cold to stand along roads or on high­way over­passes to show sup­port to the con­voy. Cars and trucks pass­ing the con­voy tooted horns and gave thumbs-up so of­ten that Terry Woodruff, who let me hitch a ride un­til Strath­more, an­swered each ac­knowl­edg­ment with a blast of his air horn.“I have to lay off my horn soon or I’ll have to get an­other air com­pres­sor be­fore we reach Regina, never mind Ot­tawa,” he said with a laugh.Wear­ing a yel­low vest, the 49-year-old grand­fa­ther and owner of Woody’s Bat­tery Ser­vices in Bellis, about 140 kilo­me­tres north­east of Ed­mon­ton, said he’s frus­trated by the dou­ble stan­dard Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has for West­ern Canada.“When 5,000 jobs are threat­ened at an auto plant in On­tario, Trudeau jumps into im­me­di­ate ac­tion and acts like it’s a na­tional emer­gency, but in De­cem­ber alone, Al­berta lost 15,500 jobs and in Jan­uary we lost 16,000 jobs and not a peep out of the guy. ”Ann Tay­lor, who is also go­ing the full dis­tance, said she al­ready feels more hope­ful about the fu­ture and she’s only driven 200 kilo­me­tres.“To see peo­ple com­ing out on all of these side roads with signs is heart­warm­ing,” she said. “We know we have a lot of sup­port.”To quote that song again: “Let them truck­ers roll, 10-4.”

Martin Zo­brist greets truck­ers and sup­port­ers as he stands on High­way 1 in Strath­more on Thurs­day as the United We Roll con­voy trav­els east­bound to Ot­tawa. Zo­brist said he left work in Cal­gary for the day to sup­port the pro­ces­sion and its pro-pipe­line mes­sage.

Sup­port­ers bun­dled up against the chill to stand along High­way 1 in Strath­more as the United We Roll con­voy headed east to­ward Ot­tawa.

Chris Gen­dreau in­stalls a sign as the protest con­voy leaves Red Deer.

Ve­hi­cles form a line in Red Deer on Thurs­day as the drive to Ot­tawa be­gins.

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