CONVOY IS DRIVING OIL MESSAGE HOME
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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