RAL­LY­ING IN ANGER OVER PIPE­LINES

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - TYLER DAWSON

CA LGA RY • “We’re on the end of a frig­gin’ pen­du­lum and we’re hang­ing on for dear life,” Lori Ack­er­man told the crowd at Calgary’s Stam­pede Park Tues­day af­ter­noon. The mayor of Fort St. John, the town in B.C.’S north­east­ern in­te­rior that is the heart of that prov­ince’s oil and gas in­dus­try, had come to south­ern Al­berta to de­liver her mes­sage to what or­ga­niz­ers hoped would be the largest event in sup­port of the in­dus­try in Cana­dian his­tory. “Re­source com­mu­ni­ties are foun­da­tional to this na­tion,” she de­clared.

Kill Bill C-69 signs, re­plete with im­ages of Uma Thur­man, sword in hand, from Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill, dot­ted the crowd. As Ack­er­man left the stage, a man stopped her: “Good for you, ma’am,” he said.

With a fed­eral cab­i­net de­ci­sion loom­ing on the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line ex­pan­sion, the pro-en­ergy in­dus­try ad­vo­cacy group Canada Action con­vened the rally, per­haps 4,000 peo­ple strong, to show sup­port for the project and lay into two pieces of leg­is­la­tion that have be­come the fo­cal points for the anger roil­ing the West.

Con­tin­ued from A1

The pipe­line ex­pan­sion has been mired in de­lays since a Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal de­ci­sion last sum­mer voided the project’s ap­proval. Add to that Bill C-69 and C-48 — re­spec­tively, they pro­pose to re-jig the pipe­line ap­provals process and ban oil tanker traf­fic off the west coast of Bri­tish Columbia — and there was enough fodder for all man­ner of protest sig­nage, speeches and chants.

“As long as there is breath in my body we will never stop de­fend­ing these in­dus­tries,” Saskatchew­an Premier Scott Moe told the crowd Tues­day. Moe’s was one of six gov­ern­ments — the oth­ers those of On­tario, New Brunswick, Man­i­toba, Al­berta and the North­west Territorie­s — that sent a let­ter to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau Mon­day urg­ing him to “re­fine or elim­i­nate” those bills. The five provinces, now all gov­erned by con­ser­va­tives, have formed a vo­cal and co-or­di­nated re­sis­tance against the fed­eral Lib­eral gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, most point­edly on en­ergy and car­bon tax­a­tion — is­sues that have fur­ther stoked anger and dis­trust to­wards Ot­tawa un­der the Lib­er­als, and that may de­fine this fall’s elec­tion.

The rally was a rel­a­tively pos­i­tive and up­beat af­fair, an at­mos­phere Moe said had the feel of a “’Rid­ers-stam­ped­ers game.” It did not in­clude an ap­pear­ance by Al­berta Premier Ja­son Ken­ney, who re­newed his pledge to sup­port the en­ergy in­dus­try in a speech ear­lier in the day at the Global Pe­tro­leum Show, one of the world’s ma­jor en­ergy con­fer­ences, be­ing held else­where on the Stam­pede Grounds. But the prov­ince’s en­ergy min­is­ter, Sonya Sav­age, was there in­stead, one of a se­ries of speak­ers that also in­cluded On­tario en­ergy min­is­ter Greg Rick­ford, Que­bec Con­ser­va­tive MP Gérard Del­tell and B.C. Lib­eral MLA El­lis Ross.

Sav­age told the crowd, many of whom work in the oil and gas in­dus­try, that bills C-48 and 69 are “pa­thetic” and “dev­as­tat­ing bills com­ing out of Ot­tawa” that would do “ir­repara­ble harm to your jobs.”

“We are no longer afraid to de­fend our en­ergy sec­tor,” she said, vow­ing that the Al­berta gov­ern­ment would launch con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenges against the bills if needed.

Ross, a for­mer Haisla Na­tion coun­cil­lor, said he didn’t “want to see Canada die like this,” with an en­ergy in­dus­try be­set by protesters and activists who, he said, were pre­vent­ing First Na­tions from pros­per­ing through in­volve­ment in the in­dus­try, and warn­ing that Canada risks be­com­ing like Venezuela.

“It’s not Cana­dian to do this to Cana­di­ans,” Ross said. “It’s not Cana­dian to do this to Canada.”

The rally came a week be­fore Trudeau’s cab­i­net is ex­pected to is­sue a de­ci­sion on what’s next for Trans Moun­tain, and as news broke that Ken­ney’s United Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment had started talks with the pri­vate sec­tor about Cana­dian oil pro­duc­ers tak­ing over crude-by-rail con­tracts signed by the prov­ince’s pre­vi­ous NDP gov­ern­ment, fol­low­ing on Ken­ney’s cam­paign prom­ise to scrap his pre­de­ces­sors’ $3.7 bil­lion crude-by-rail deals, which he has slammed as poor value for tax­pay­ers.

“There are con­fi­den­tial con­ver­sa­tions go­ing on be­tween our gov­ern­ment and pri­vate-sec­tor ac­tors. Our strong pref­er­ence is that the pri­vate sec­tor take over those con­tracts,” Ken­ney told re­porters in Calgary on Tues­day.

The rhetoric on pipe­lines and the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment at Tues­day’s rally echoed that at pre­vi­ous such protests. “It’s very un­fair and it’s very un-cana­dian,” said Danell Ste­bing of Calgary, who had an anti-c-69 and C-48 sign in hand.

Al Nielsen, from Olds, Alta., was one of the few at the protest wear­ing a yel­low vest — the sig­na­ture at­tire of a protest group that pur­ported to sup­port the oil and gas in­dus­try but which be­came mired in ac­cu­sa­tions of racism — said the leg­is­la­tion was “dis­crim­i­na­tory.”

“Al­ber tans just d o n’ t un­der­stand why we are be­ing per­se­cuted,” Nielsen said.

GAVIN YOUNG / POST­MEDIA NEWS

Sev­eral thou­sand pro pipe­line protesters ral­lied at Stam­pede Park dur­ing the Global Pe­tro­leum Show in Calgary on Tues­day.

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