Carnduff, Virden, Man. – After immense growing pains, the United We Roll! Convoy for Canada kicked off in Red Deer, Alta., early in the morning on Feb. 14. It made Regina, actually Emerald Park, that night. The next morning they set out again, stopping in Moosomin, then Virden, Man., before spending the night in Kenora, Ont.
Their destination is Ottawa, where a rally is planned for Parliament Hill on Feb. 19. The key issues for the participants include pipelines, carbon tax, and energy policy.
Glenn Carritt, owner of OP Fire & Safety in Innisfail, Alta., has been the leader of the convoy in more ways than one. Much of the effort has been due to his leadership, despite a falling out with other organizers in late January. That falling out led to the dropping of the Yellow Vests moniker, and the renaming of the effort to “United We Roll.”
His truck, a big red industrial fire truck, is number two in the convoy, following a pilot car. At each stop, he would pop the hood of the fire truck, allowing people to sign it, which they eagerly did.
Speaking to Pipeline News in Virden, Carritt said, “You know, I can’t believe the support. We just pulled into Virden, here. And it’s been like this everywhere we’ve been going. We’ve got another 10 or 15 trucks going to join us. Some big rigs. Jason LeBlanc’s got his truck all decked out with the farmers.
“This is about everybody. This is about everybody that’s got a disconnect with our current government. You know, veterans. This is fantastic.
“We went through Strathmore, yesterday, and we had 200 people. Medicine Hat, another 200. Everybody on the side of the road, they’re just supporting us like crazy. On the overpasses, it’s fantastic."
This was evidenced as the group pulled out of Virden, with several groups of vehicles, as well as individuals, parked along service roads and at intersections, delighting to the blaring of horns as they waved the convoy on.
A substantial number of those waving, both there and in various online posts as the convoy progressed, were wearing yellow vests. A substantial number of convoy participants did, too.
At the Virden A&W, participants were able to grab donated bagged burgers, made for them, ready to go. A couple came up to Carritt in front of his truck and made a donation. The previous day at Maple Creek, a man provided free fuel for several vehicles running on diesel.
“I can’t believe the amount of support,” Carritt said, wearing his flame-themed toque to ward off the frigid -30 C (and colder) temperatures that characterized their entire trip across the prairies.
“No matter what the walk of life is, we’re just trying to band together and get the oil and gas industry and all of the issues back in order in this country,” he said.
Earlier that morning, ten vehicles – five smaller trucks, and five big rigs, departed Carnduff. As far as Pipeline News was able to determine, that group was the bulk of the Saskatchewan content going forward from Virden.
As the convoy passed through Saskatchewan, several times people joined the convoy, travelled for a while, and turned back. This was something the organizers encouraged, as they understood many people couldn’t make the commitment to travel all the way to Ottawa. In Swift Current, the service road was lined with pickers from Dynamic Heavy Haul Ltd. On Day 2, a lowboy hauling a mammoth sideboom, manufactured in Regina by Brandt, joined the convoy up until Moosomin. (Brandt also provided a sideboom for the rally in Regina in early January.) In Moosomin, Carritt estimated 40 or 50 people came out to see them.
“We had 159 trucks leaving Red Deer. The core is 60 or 70 trucks. This is going to put us over 80,” he said. “We’ve got probably another 50, 60 trucks joining us in Ontario and a few in Winnipeg as well. So it’s growing. This is fun.”
However, those numbers did not jive with the count Pipeline News conducted just a few minutes later, on the east side of Virden. They are also substantially lower than the close to 300 Carritt said on Feb. 6 that they were expecting. Our count of clearly identifiable members of the convoy came in at 57 vehicles, plus or minus two.
Additionally, the vast majority of vehicles leaving Virden were not “trucks,” in the sense of heavy trucks. Several other media outlets reported that the convoy was composed of semis, but that was not the case. The addition of the five semis (including two highly decaled grain trucks) from southeast Saskatchewan brought the total count of semis departing Virden to 15.
The rest of the convoy was principally light vehicles, cars, vans, SUVs, minivans, a few medium duty trucks, and a passenger bus which was largely empty. Except for the flags, decals and signs, the convoy was nearly indistinguishable from the common traffic on that stretch of highway.
A couple men who farm just east of Virden were parked along the TransCanada Highway near Pipeline News, waiting for the convoy. When cameras were being packed up, they asked where the convoy was, and were told it had just passed by. They couldn’t tell the difference.
The cost of going is significant. One person, driving a decaled pickup, figured it would cost him $4,000 in expenses for this trip to Ottawa. Three people who sent semis from Saskatchewan estimated their total cost at around $10,000, and that didn’t include lost production from those vehicles or their drivers, either.
The convoy, which was largely organized through a Facebook page, had some difficulty in getting the word out on social media, as that Facebook page was a “closed group.”
“We cannot put out any of our videos publicly on our site,” said Pat King, in a video he posted to the page while in Emerald Park. Despite this, the convoy received coverage from major media outlets, and several reporters road along with the convoy, one from The Star, and another from PostMedia.
Where they expecting the warm reception they got in Virden?
Carritt said, “We’ve been talking to the folks here in Virden for quite a while. They’ve been anticipating us coming out. This is oil country. Our company does lots of work down here for Corval, Corex. This is just fantastic. I can’t say enough about this community,” Carritt said. “It shows that everyone’s hurting in the oil and gas industry, and they want to get behind what we’re doing, and behind the issues we have going on in this country.”
The stop in Virden was significant, in that, as the oil capital of Manitoba, it’s the home of the last significant oil production eastbound in Canada until you go to offshore Newfoundland.
And as the last pumpjacks faded in the convoy’s review mirrors, the convoy trekked across Manitoba into Ontario, running into their first counter protest just outside of Winnipeg.
As seen by numerous live broadcasts to social media, the convoy generally received a warm reception as it trekked across the prairies. Small knots of people, individuals in their cars or trucks, larger groups waving flags; this was seen throughout their journey across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It was only as the sun was setting that the convoy came across a group of less than a dozen counter protesters. most of those counter-protesters were wearing scarves or balaclavas across their faces in the cold evening air, as were the RCMP members present.
The counter-protesters, blocking the right lane of the TransCanada Highway westbound on the edge of Winnipeg. CBC was there with the counter-protesters, as were several RCMP members and cars. Their sign said, “Great Plains Resistance. No Line 3 expansion. Shut it down.”
Many in the convoy declared it was “Antifa” in their social media posts; counter-protests by a left-wing group who have stirred trouble at other protests and commonly wear masks. Many participants of the Facebook group have expressed concern to the point of paranoia about possible Antifa action in their online posts. This was also indicated in some conversations Pipeline News had with participants.
The dashboard thermometers at the Carnduff rally point early Feb. 15 showed -34 C.
Guy Mehler of Estevan is travelling with his cousin, Ken Mehler, who had decorated his pickup with numerous pro-energy slogans. Guy said, “I’m a welder. I’ve been in this for a lot of years. I’m on my way out, but I’ve got a son and two grandsons on their way in. So there’s got to be a future for them, too." Asked what his issues were, he said, “Basically the same as everybody: pipelines, carbon tax. The two big ones.”
Kent LaCoste with Jerry Mainil Ltd. in Weyburn, along with Joshua Mainil, was driving a decked out semi with plenty of signs and flags. LaCoste said, “We’re going down to try to get the people down east to understand we’re looking for work. We want to work. Our industry is suffering because of policy and our federal government.”
LaCoste supervises lease construction. The number of people he’s looking after now is down substantially than it was a few years ago.
Mainil worked for several years with Panther Drilling, starting as a roughneck and working his way up to derrickhand. These days he spends most of his time with Mainil Farms. “We just want our message to be heard. It doesn’t seem like Ottawa wants to listen. We want pipelines built. We want this carbon tax scrapped. It’s hurting agriculture. It’s hurting oil. It’s hurting literally every industry in the west. If they’re not going to listen, and the national media won’t report the rallies that are going on here, we’re going to take the fight to them,” he said. “We’re going to Parliament Hill. The truck’s loaded, and we’re on the way.”
Brett Bedore had his 11 year old daughter riding shotgun in his pickup. The owner of an excavating company in Weyburn said, “My issues is the trickle-down effect of this. I’m not in the oilfield personally, myself. The trickle down effect effects my business, my family.”
In Virden, Dick Clancy, from Vancouver Island, was in the convoy as it stopped in Virden. Asked why he was driving through a frozen wasteland in the middle of February, he replied, “To support our hard-working brothers and sisters in Alberta.”
Asked what issues he was concerned about, Clancy said, “My issue is that Canada is importing dirty Saudi oil while we have people in Canada who are unemployed, and that isn’t right.”