It all started in early December to mid-December – when protests, many of which had participants sporting yellow vests, sprouted up in most significant oilpatch towns in Western Canada.
Before the end of the year, many, including Estevan, Lloydminster and Virden (in our coverage area) had held convoys made principally of heavy oilfield trucks rolling down their main drag, or in the case of Manitoba, from Virden to Brandon. The one in Estevan saw 427 units, the vast majority heavy trucks, take an hour to roll down the centre of town, blaring their horns.
The frustration with the current Justin Trudeau-led Liberal government’s energy policies had reached a tipping point. After years upon years of watching anti-oil, anti-pipeline, anti-everything protesters fill the airways, of our industry being beaten down, the oilpatch collectively decided to fight back.
Like a boxing movie, where the hero is beaten senseless throughout most of the fight, he gathers his strength in the final round to summon up one roundhouse punch. That was the United We Roll! convoy to Ottawa.
Now let me be clear – this convoy was not as large as most of the media, and its organizers, made it out to be. I stood along Highway 1 east of Virden in -30 C with a strong wind and counted as the convoy rolled by. I had three video cameras rolling plus my still camera. My count was 57, +/-2. Only 15 were semis, and one was a bus.
Virden is important because it’s the last significant oil production eastbound until you swim 315 kilometres offshore of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Now, the question is, is that a big deal? Does it matter if it was 57, 157, or 570? Obviously, more is better. But was it enough?
Yes, apparently, it was.
The reality is the convoy was big enough to make an impact. It got noticed, with much more hitting power per participant than most protests in Canada ever accomplish.
Two national party leaders, Andrew Scheer of the Conservatives, and Maxime Bernier, of his own newly created Peoples Party of Canada, spoke to the gathered protesters who for some unknown reason were forced to stand in knee-deep snow instead of the wide-open sidewalks. (On the much more sedate Day 2, the convoy protest was allowed to hold their rally on the dry sidewalk. Draw your own conclusions from that.)
In addition to speakers that took part with the convoy, a number of Conservative MPs also spoke. Even more posted photos on social media of them with the convoy parked in front of Parliament.
While it wasn’t the lead story, almost every major media organization covered it for several days as it approached Ottawa and then held its rally.
A very significant portion of the columnist class (myself, included) has written about them. Rex Murphy, of the National Post, clearly understood the significance of this convoy.
I don’t know if this is a new thing in protests, but the convoy also happened upon a new tactic that I’ve never seen before – a weapon of mass audio destruction – the semi air horn. Whenever the small number of counter protestors standing amongst the semis got a little antsy, those in the trucks let out a collective blast for which they had no response. As in, “I see your yelling at us and raise you 150 decibels of air horn.”
Watching the live feeds was almost comical. I feel sorry for the cops who formed a wall between the protesters and counter-protesters. Their ears must have been ringing for days.
Many of the trucks were parked just below the Prime Ministers Office. Certainly, those windows shook with the convoy protesters’ collective rage every few minutes.
Those semis present, along with the rest of the convoy, were sufficient to line Wellington Street in front of Parliament. They were enough to get the message across to those inside.
Will this convoy’s efforts stop Bill C-69 from being passed by the Senate? Not likely. If the unelected Senate starts regularly defeating bills from the elected House of Commons, we are soon going to find ourselves in a constitutional crisis. And I don’t know if the Senate can make enough changes to defang the bill and still pass it. While many people and organizations are hanging their hopes on the Senate, I fear they will be disappointed.
The reality is, for the convoy’s energy-focused message of defeating Bill C-69 (the no-more-pipelines bill), Bill C-48 (oil tanker ban off B.C.’s norther coast), the carbon tax, and construction of export pipelines (Trans Mountain, Energy East) are to be accomplished, there’s really only one solution: a change in government.
There’s no way Maxime Bernier will accomplish anything except split the vote. If he does that sufficiently, there will be no change in government, and thus no change in energy policy.
That means, like it or not, the only hope those who drove across the country have is to see Andrew Scheer elected as prime minister in the fall.
That he joined them as they stood in the deep snow to stand at their podium and tell them he’s with them speaks volumes. That he would do so despite all those who have sought to discredit the convoy, also speaks volumes.
There’s one person who can defeat Trudeau in the fall, and he said, “We’ve got your back, we’re fighting for you.”
If they sought to change energy policy, to that end, did the convoy accomplish its goals?
Yes, it did.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.