Regina – The wind was cold, desperately cold, on the steps of the Saskatchewan Legislature at noon on Jan. 8. It was perhaps a fitting metaphor for the supporters of Saskatchewan’s energy sector, who have been out in the cold for a long time now. And that metaphor was not lost on several of the speakers, including Premier Scott Moe, when they addressed the crowd of rough 200 attending the Regina rally.
The rally was put by Canada Action and Rally 4 Resources, along with the Regina Chamber of Commerce. There was a strong presence from Brandt, which brought out a sideboom on a lowboy trailer with a sign saying “Pipelayers built in Regina by Brandt.” The United Steelworks and United Association also had significant presence, part of the building trades unions representation. May of the people held signs saying, “I love Oil & Gas.”
The cold resulted in something akin to a flash mob. Ten minutes before the start, next to no one was standing outside, but once it did start, people departed their warm vehicles and gathered, sometimes using signs to shield their faces from the cold wind with a -30 C wind chill. And as soon as it was over, they were gone.
Cody Battershill, founder of Canada Action, started out, saying, “We’re out here today because we know how hard we work to feed our families, working in our oil and gas, mining, agriculture and resource sector, but we’re not seeing support for our families, with policies from the federal government right now. This isn’t partisan, this is about policy, bad policy like Bill C-69.
“The reality is you can’t say you support the energy sector if you’re going to ignore energy investors, energy workers, energy families, energy municipalities, First Nations, and executives, that are all telling the federal government Bill C-69 will mean no more pipelines.
“We’ve also got Bill C-48, the no oil exports from northern B.C. (bill), that many First Nations are against. We need support for Trans Mountain. We need support for Energy East. And we need to all work together, because we’re all Canadian, and we’re all in this together.
“I’m standing out here in the cold, because the federal government is leaving us out here in the cold,” Battershill said, to applause.
Battershill added that Canada Action is positive, non-partisan, and respectful. “That’s why we’re focusing on our issues, energy and our energy families, and we’re not talking about other issues.”
This was an oblique reference to his earlier request that those attending not wear yellow vests, but rather, their work coveralls. There has been growing schism between the long-established pro-energy activists, like Canada Action and Rally 4 Resources, and the upsurge of yellow vest protestors over the past month. Many in the yellow vest movement have included among their causes opposition to the recent United Nations Migration Pact, in addition to energy issues. Canada Action and its allies have sought to distance themselves from the Yellow Vest movement as a result, and next to one wore high-visibility gear to the Regina Rally.
That didn’t sit well with everyone, however. One man from Ralph, Sask., expressed to Pipeline News he wasn’t happy about being told not to wear yellow, and he wore his high visibility yellow jacket anyhow.
Premier Scott Moe
The premier did have a work jacket on, a dark green fire retardant one (with stripes) provided by HSE Integrated. And he spoke to the crowd in a rallying-style speech.
Moe thanked those present for coming out saying it was, “On a day, when, I think many of us agree, we feel like we’ve been left out in the cold here in Western Canada and Saskatchewan.”
“We have here, with us today, rig hands, we have welders, we have pipefitters, we have steelworkers, we have truckers, we have miners, we have farmers, we have the folks that built that pipelayer, sitting beside you here today, built out at Brandt Manufacturing, right here in Regina. And we’re coming together for one reason, in support of our resource sector, a resource sector that powers, not only the Saskatchewan and Alberta economy, but powers the Canadian economy. A resource sector that supports hundreds of thousands of families across this great nation, providing hop and opportunity to so many,” Moe said.
“And I dare say, a resource sector that pays for the quality of life that we enjoy in this great nation of Canada,” he said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are here today because you care about our resource sector. You care about our province and you care about our nation. And I also know, sometimes, it just seems like no one is listening. Let me tell you, here today, let me tell you this clearly, and let me tell you this emphatically: we’re listening to you.”
“We hear you, the government of Saskatchewan hears you, and we will advocate on your behalf, every step of the way, so that, very soon everyone in this nation is going to hear you,” Moe said to applause.
He recounted telling the prime minister to “just watch me” when it comes to fighting the carbon tax. “While that still stands true today, ladies and gentlemen, we’re facing so much more than just a carbon tax. We now have Bill C-69, the no more pipelines bill. In Canada, we already have one of the most stringent review processes in the world, a review process that we can be proud of. We don’t need a complete overhaul of the federal review process, what we need is an environmental process that actually works.”
“That’s why Bill C-69, the no more pipelines act needs to be scrapped.”
He said that bill caused the proponent for the Energy East Pipeline to leave. “Now it’s causing the very slow death, by strangulation of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The federal government says no to big oil tankers with their no oil tanker ban, now, which essentially killed the Northern Gateway Pipeline. But they say yes to big oil tankers coming into Quebec. They say yes to big oil tankers coming into Quebec carrying oil from Saudi Arabia, from Venezuela, from Nigeria,” Moe said as the crowed booed.
“In this nation, we have one of the largest proven oil reserves in the world, clean, sustainably produced energy products. Yet, each and every day, from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, we import over 700,000 barrels of foreign oil, because we just can’t get a pipeline built in this country.”
He noted what Saskatchewan has gotten from the federal government are tougher methane regulations, a mandated coal phase-out that will kill thousands of jobs in Saskatchewan, and a carbon tax.
“A destructive, and ineffective policy that will kill jobs in our province and in our nation, and it will drive investment out of Saskatchewan, and out of Canada. A carbon tax that quite simply will not work, will nor reduce emissions. It only reduces jobs,” Moe said. “Today we are dealing with a federal government that, quite frankly, doesn’t get it. A federal government that doesn’t understand our industries, and it doesn’t understand how we support our families. A federal government that doesn’t understand us here in Saskatchewan. We are developing resources here, in Western Canada, in our nation, resources in the most efficient manner possible. We are developing our resources in the most environmentally sustainable manner possible, when compared to anywhere else in the world, and our federal government just doesn’t understand.
“Let me tell you: we get it. Our provincial government gets it.”
“So I stand with you here today and I say this, I say to our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberal government in Ottawa, I say this with you, when you’re wondering how far we will go to stand up for our industries, and you’re wondering how far we will go to stand up for our Saskatchewan families, just watch us,” Moe concluded.
Senator Denise Batters
Senator Denise Batters spoke about Bill C-69. She called C-69 “The anti-pipeline bill,” saying it was horrible and unfixable, and that Conservative senators have been fighting it tooth and nail. However, independent senators, including those from Western Canada, supported the bill in principle. She called out various independent senators, including Senator Pamela Wallin of Saskatchewan, for supporting it.
“We know the oil industry downturn, which has devastated Alberta, has also harmed Saskatchewan’s economy. We are fighting for pipelines, and for resources development, and against Trudeau’s do-nothing, costly carbon tax,” Batters said.
John Hopkins from the Regina Chamber of Commerce also spoke, saying, “Today, we stand united, government, labour and business. We are all in this together. All of us, here, support sustainable, environmentally responsible resource development. But there are those who, in this country, who seek to shut us down. They have but one goal in mind, to keep it in the ground. Ladies and gentlemen, we need to say enough is enough. Let’s put Canadians first! We are the true grassroots movements in this country. We have no foreign money funding us. We have not professional protestors, and we have no secret agenda.
“We have one agenda, sustainable, environmentally responsible resource development. Canadians working for Canadians. In Regina, thousands of people work in the resource sector. Thousands. We are here to stand up for you.”
Dion Malakoff, executive director of Saskatchewan Building Trades, said, “We are here today to support getting our resources to market, whether it’s oil and gas, potash or grain. It wasn’t too long ago we had our grain backlog, in much the same way as our oil is backlogged, discounted at ridiculous prices.”
“Everyone here understands that if we can’t get our resources to market, then we don’t work, period. This province is rich in natural resources. Our ability to mass produce their resources is the backbone of our province. When these resources cannot get to the people or country that need them, the factories cannot simply turn off or on a switch. It doesn’t work that way, depending on the day’s market. We need a smooth, reliable, and above all else, a safe way to move our resources. We Canadians, whether we like it or not, have bought a pipeline. Now it’ s time for the federal government to build it,” he said.
Mike Day, president of United Steelworkers Local 5890 (EVRAZ), said, “We represent 1,100 workers out at EVRAZ. That’s 1,100 direct jobs to this economy. We make this pipe. Four times that is the indirect jobs, that’s 5,000 jobs, strictly from the workers at EVRAZ. Built that pipe! We’re making that Trans Mountain, let’s get it done! Let’ get it in the ground! Let’s get Energy East going. You’ve got both sides of the fence. You’ve got the NDP here. You’ve got the Sask Party here. It’s great to see everybody fighting for the same thing.”
One singular woman staged a counter protest. Identified by the LeaderPost as Pamela Blondeau, “a Regina resident from the Pasqua and Muskowekwan First Nations,” the woman bellowed at the top of her lungs throughout almost every speech, at times drowning out the four public address speakers in place. She crowded the personal space of the speakers at the podium, including the premier, carrying her red flag as she went. She even crossed briefly in front of the podium at one point, screaming, “Pigs!” into the microphone, gaining more courage even as her screams were ignored.
Bernard the Roughneck
It was a bit too much for Benard Hancock, as service rig roughneck who has come to be known as “Bernard the Roughneck.” He drove down from Grande Prairie, Alta., to speak at the event, as he as addressed the press on Parliament Hill in the past.
Hancock just couldn’t ignore her, saying, “Members of the media, I really want you to turn your cameras to the people who are protesting here today. This is the face of people who are against our oil and gas industry. I want you to see that, because I want the people at home to see how ridiculous those people are. I was trying to talk with that lady there, and she said, ‘I don’t eff-ing care about your job.’ That’s what she just said to all you people here today. What do you think about that?”
Saying he supported her right to express herself, Hancock went on, noting, “This is why we can’t have an educated conversation about this. Because every time, only the most extreme elements of the conversation get included.”
Exasperated at the woman as she was screaming at the top of her lungs, just a few metres behind him, Hancock said, “I just came from Grande Prairie. My friend has had seven days of work in the last six weeks. And this is what we need to deal with.
“This is the face of people who are opposed to pipelines.”
Hancock led the group into a chant of “Build that pipe!”
“We need to be able to speak to eastern Canadians and convince them on this issue. And a lot of the problems that we can’t get our pipelines built to the east, is political. But the answer is not political. The answer starts with every one of you here today, to be literate on these issues, to speak around, to your families, about why this issue is so important, and to always hold yourself with integrity and respect when you talk about these issues. Never act like that,” he said, referring to the woman screaming at him from just behind his left shoulder. “People shut you off, and people in Toronto and Quebec are not going to listen to you.”
While there were NDP MLAs present, none took the podium.
In an emailed statement, NDP Leader Ryan Meili said, "We were invited to join the rally by steelworkers and wanted to show solidarity with them and all the workers that are concerned about jobs in their industries.We wantto ensure access to markets for Saskatchewan resources because it’s vital to the province’s economy. It was disconcerting to see the Sask. Party attempt to use this to pretend they are concerned for workers when their own actions, such as increasing the PST on construction labour and restaurant meals, refusing to increase the minimum wage and implementing policies that make it harder for workers to organize have made life harder for Saskatchewan families.”