Our winter of discontent: Estevan truck convoy protest attracts 427 units, 15 kilometres long

Estevan – It took less than 48 hours, from the time the decision was made to go ahead with a truck convoy protest in Estevan, until the first truck rolled out of Bert Baxter Transport’s yard.

That decision was made just a day after trucks clogged the streets of Nisku and south Edmonton, and less than a week after a similar rally in Grande Prairie.

It was almost like a moment from the Christmas classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. When George Bailey was in desperate trouble, the call went out and people came. In this case, the call went out and 427 trucks of every type and size came. And while it wasn’t quite the 1,000 screaming trucks in Paul Brant’s song, Convoy, there was some inspiration drawn from that, too, with plenty of noise to be heard. That noise came from both the convoy and the 170 people who braved a cutting wind in front of Estevan City Hall, many wearing the yellow vests that have become the symbol of the movement. Some people who didn’t have yellow vests even chose to wear yellow garbage bags.

That 170 didn’t include the many people who sat in their vehicles lining the root, recording the biggest protest in Estevan in many years on their cellphones and posting them to social media.

The convoy started a little after 11:30 a.m, with a route that would take if from Bert Baxter Transport’s new yard, down the truck bypass, and along Estevan’s three main drags – 4th Street, King Street and Kensington Avenue. The lead elements passed the Estevan Shoppers Mall as the last trucks were finally leaving Baxter’s yard. That meant the convoy was a total 15 kilometres in length.

It took an hour from the time the first trucks passed the rally at City Hall until the tail end Charlie reached that point.

And of everyone Pipeline Newsspoke to, not one complimentary word was spoken of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Many of the signs and stickers on trucks gave the symbol his father was so famous for, the bird, to Trudeau, the younger. Several trucks had images of Trudeau splayed across the front of their grills, like parliamentary roadkill. Two men in the centre of the crowd wore shirts saying, “F--- Trudeau.”

That was very much a common theme of the sentiment, as the issues raised by the protesters on the street and those in the convoy were all in opposition to the policies of the federal Liberal government. The impending carbon tax, ongoing frustration on pipelines, the demise of conventional coal-fired energy production and federal equalization were significant issues for many. Some were also concerned about migration policies and Canada recently signing onto the United Nations Migration Pact.

Among those at the City Hall rally, Bobby Kyle, a long-time worker in the oil and gas sector, was carrying a Canadian flag at the rally, and even led the protesters in a rendition of O Canada while the Yellow Vest protesters were waiting for the trucks to reach the rally.

He said he was there because the energy sector shaped him into who he is.

“I’m proud of our oil and gas and our energy sector,” said Kyle.

Mel Fitzpatrick cited several reasons for attending. He’s frustrated with the regulatory hurdles that have kept pipelines from being built.

“A lot of these companies are trying to get something done in this country,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick also criticized the Liberals’ plan to impose a carbon tax on Saskatchewan.

“We have a better plan called the Prairie Resilience plan, and they have a really messed up plan, which is taxation,” said Fitzpatrick.  

He also said he didn’t enjoy being talked down to by Finance Minister Bill Morneau during the review of small business taxes last year, and he’s opposed to the government’s support for the United Nations migration treaty. 

Participants in the convoy focused principally on energy issues.

Mike Grant said, “We’re here to show unity in the West. There’s multiple issue wrong with this government here today, and we’re here to protest all of it.”

Sitting in his welding rig at the Baxter yard an hour before the start time, Lanny Martindale, a pipeline welder said, “I’m here from Oxbow, Saskatchewan, and I’m here to help support the oil industry and get some more pipelines built to get rid of our oil.

Ben Highmoor said, “I’m here to support the pipeline going across Canada.

Jerry Mainil Ltd. brought several trucks from its base in Weyburn. Calvin Tracey said, “We’re here to support our industry, the oil industry.”

Asked what issues he was concerned about, Tracey said, “Carbon tax! Pipelines! We need to get our oil to tidewater, and we need to get rid of this carbon tax.”

Kent LaCoste, also with Jerry Mainil Ltd., said, “We don’t need Trudeau’s carbon tax in this province. We need jobs. Pipelines will produce jobs. We don’t want handouts. We want to work.”

The cacophony of truck horns was so loud in the Baxter yard, it took a few seconds before Nick Mayer of Mayco Well Servicing Inc. in Oxbow could say his peace. When the din died down, he explained, “To be honest, I’m not happy about being here. I’d like to have this equipment out in the field, working, so we can continue to build infrastructure, roads, schools, hospitals. I’m concerned about the regulation that’s been smothering us in our industry right now.

Shane Blackstock of Excel Well Servicing, said, “I’m here to support the oilfield. I hope that I have a job in the new year.”

Ron Bye said, “(I’m here) to support the oil industry.”

Gordon Nelson said, “I’m just here for the UN and oil and gas and everything here. I’m not working no more. I’m retired.

Souris-Moose Mountain Member of Parliament Robert Kitchen was riding along with his son-in-law, Dylan Gilliss, of Gilliss Casing Services.

Kitchen said, “It was a great turnout and fantastic to see.”

“It says that not only Estevan, but the whole southeast corner is very proud of our energy sector. This sector brings a lot of wealth and prosperity, not only here to us, but also to all Canadians. And that’s what this movement is about – telling all of Canada that we want to contribute. We want to continue contributing by providing jobs and building this country.”

Jay Riedel and Buzz Shirley were two of the principle organizers. Asked if he expected such a turnout, Riedel said, “Not in my wildest dreams. That was such an overwhelming spectacle of people. We thought, maybe 100 people. The final count was 427. To see all the people lining main street and all the support of the convoy that went through, and the support of the people that came in the convoy, to bring this community together, I mean, it’s going to be forever in the history of Estevan.”

As for the message they were trying to send, Riedel said, “We’re trying to tell our federal government, look, things aren’t exactly the way you think they are, and Canada needs to come together as one. This isn’t between the east and the west. This is trying to get all Canadians together, to get our resources to market and get this country back on the top. We should have so much money in this country, that nobody should be worried about anything.”

“We get this country back online again, get everybody working, get some resources to market, we can bring all kinds of people in and have education and jobs for them. The way things are right now, without having pipelines, we have no jobs. This country is going to fail. We’re running out of money. It’s all going overseas.”

Darryl “Buzz” Shirley of Bert Baxter Transport said. “We had 427 trucks at this event.”

Was this what he expected?

“No!” he replied. “I expected maybe 150 trucks. The turnout and support is amazing. It’s astronomical.”

He went on, “The energy sector needs help. We need to be able to build pipelines to market our product. We need a government that can actually make business easy, not harder. We don’t need anymore taxes. We need a prime minister that cares about working Canadians, not the whole world.”

Baxter’s had a large representation. Hutt’s Trucking of Lampman brought their entire fleet of trucks, pickers and pilot trucks. The contingent from Carnduff clogged the highways coming into town, with Bandit Oilfield Hauling, Integrity Oilfield Hauling, Fast Trucking Service, Competition Environmental and Day Construction being just some of the companies represented. Element Technical Services brought in frac units from Carlyle. Trican Well Service of Estevan had a large contingent. As noted above, Jerry Mainil Ltd. of Weyburn had a substantial contingent.

Indeed, a very large share of the oilfield service sector in southeast Saskatchewan had representation in the convoy. Put another way, few oilfield services in the region didn’t show up.

David Heier of ALX sat near the Baxter yard and broadcast live on Facebook, listing off the companies as they drove by him. His posting was one hour, 14 minutes long, and had 15,750 views within eight hours. He started out his post by saying, “We just want to go to work.”


See photo gallery here.

A direct link to the YouTube documentary video is here.

See related column, Trudeau's policies are killing Estevan, here

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