In Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton, the character George Washington offers Alexander Hamilton a job.
“We are a powder keg about to explode. I need someone like you to lighten the load, so?” Washington says.
That’s a pretty good description of what’s going on in the oilpatch right now when it comes to frustration with the Justin Trudeau-led federal Liberal government.
On Dec. 5, the Yellow Vests Canada Facebook page was created. By Dec. 18, less than two weeks later, it hit 100,000 members and was climbing. Three days earlier, that number was only 55,000.
And on that day, Dec. 15, people dawned yellow high visibility vests across the country, but more specifically, in oilpatch town like Lloydminster, Red Deer and Grande Prairie (on Dec. 16.)
Grande Prairie formed a truck convoy. It was so large, at an estimated 750 trucks, mostly heavy trucks, that the convoy touched its tale, circling the whole city.
How does a movement go from 0 to 100,000 and organize rallies in communities across the nation in less than two weeks without being a powder keg about to explode? It takes next to zero effort to join a Facebook group. But to show up at a protest is something else entirely.
There were protests all over on Dec. 15. Grande Prairie had a huge one on Dec. 16. On Dec. 18, 2,700 rallied in Calgary. The next day, something like up to 2,000 trucks formed a convoy around Nisku then headed into Edmonton, where they played havoc with rush hour traffic. Another truck convoy is planned for Estevan on Dec. 22. This is militancy that is totally unheard of in the oilpatch, at least over the past few decades. And it is pretty much spontaneous in nature.
These are not earth muffin tree huggers who take their infants to a dozen protests before they reach six months old. These are people who have probably never carried a sign in their life. They are hopping mad. Some are even using the term revolution.
And all those trucks in these convoys? Many of them charge out for hundreds of dollars per hour. Their owners and employers were willing to throw away a day’s much-needed revenue to be there. The Nisku/Edmonton convoy took place on a Wednesday. Do you think these people wouldn’t have otherwise been at work? That that iron wouldn’t otherwise be used?
On Dec. 18, the federal government announced $1.6 billion, primarily for loans. Yeah, because that’s what we all need. More debt.
It could best be called unwanted corporate welfare. I can’t repeat what it was called at worst. And someone pointed out in one post online, it’s Alberta being bribed with money that came from Alberta in the first place. I don’t think he was off the mark.
The reaction can best be summed up as this: We don’t want your stinkin’ money! We want pipelines! We want to be allowed to do our job and make money honourably! Get out of our face!
Small wonder, then, that the next day saw the Nisku/Edmonton convoy take place. Initial estimates early in the day thought 100 trucks would show up. It turned out to be 20x that. The convoy was 22 kilometres long!
The Alberta government figures the Canadian economy was losing $80 million a day when the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) to Western Canadian Select (WCS) differential was at its worst. That means it would only take 20 days to equal this whole supposed bailout. That’s just a few days over the amount of time it took Yellow Vests Canada to hit 100,000 members on its Facebook page.
If Northern Gateway had been built, there would be no need for the Dec. 18 bailout, which, by the way is a very, very small drop in the bucket compared to the capital expenditures of just one oilsands project or pipeline. If Energy East had been built, which should have been in service somewhere around now, if initial plans had progressed, there would be no need.
Oil prices rise. Oil prices fall. We, in the oilpatch understand that. We’ve dealt with it forever. But the downturn since 2014, which seemed to be ending as oil reached US$75 for a barrel of WTI, has come crashing down on our heads again, and reinforced by the policies of this current federal government.
As one person said on the Pipeline News Facebook page, “They clearly Do Not Get It. This proves it once more.”
“We need pipelines and jobs not money handouts,” said another.
“Really? Just let us have our pipeline,” said a third.
Let us have our pipeline, indeed.