It’s not very often you see the provincial leader of the opposition smear someone you know during question period, but I saw that on April 1, when NDP Leader Ryan Meili smeared Jason LeBlanc, an Estevan farmer and auctioneer.
Back in 2016, Jason hired me to do a photo and video project documenting a year on his family farm. Having grown up on a farm myself, I was amazed at the scale and complexity of his operation, 15,000 acres in size. But more significantly, I got to see a work ethic that is next to impossible to match. If he sleeps, I don’t know when. The video series just rolled over half a million views on YouTube for the primary video, and 800,000 views for another one. In it, you can see for yourself just how hard he and his family work. This is one serious farmer.
Since that time we’ve become friends. We agree on most things, but not everything, and I’m not afraid to tell him that, and he’s not afraid to tell me the same. This is what is called a relationship built on mutual respect.
So imagine my surprise when I watched NDP Leader Ryan Meili take a run at Jason for 13 minutes during question period on April 1, fittingly, April Fool’s Day. Conveniently he did this where he had parliamentary privilege, and can say whatever he wants without reprisal. I say that because his allusions bordered on slanderous.
Jason is not a politician, nor does he intend to be. He will be the first to tell you that he’s a farmer, first and foremost, but I will expand on that and note he is a damned good one, and a successful auctioneer, to boot.
The last three months have been rather remarkable for him. Being an ardent opponent of our current prime minister, he made sure he was right at the front of the line to get into the very-short notice town hall session Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held in Regina on Jan. 10. Doing so placed him front row, centre, opposite the TV cameras so that he was in almost ever shot. And being there, he was fortunate enough to be handpicked by Trudeau to ask a question. Jason let him have it on the carbon tax. Trudeau promptly turned that around to talk about “putting a price on pollution.”
This led to Jason being invited to take part in a convoy to Ottawa to protest that very thing, among others, on Feb. 19. This became known as the United We Roll! convoy to Ottawa. It very specifically dropped any association with the yellow vest movement, but did not tell people who wore yellow vests to stay home.
Jason never once wore a yellow vest, nor did he carry a sign with some of the yellow vests more questionable issues, like the United Nations and immigration. When I wrote a column regarding how the yellow vest moniker had become tainted (which Meili, himself, quoted last week), it was precisely with this in mind.
Jason delivered the longest speech on Parliament Hill when that convoy made it to Ottawa, saying, “In my hometown of Estevan, Saskatchewan, we are known as the Energy City. We are proud of that claim and proud of our city, but Prime Minister Trudeau’s policies have had profound impacts on our community. The state of uncertainty has clouded investments, killed jobs, eroded community support for programs, made it difficult for businesses to obtain and retain qualified employees, decreased property values and turned people’s dreams and hopes of an amazing life into a nightmare.”
Pretty radical stuff, huh? He spoke in particular about climate change, clean coal, and the carbon tax, and I watched all of it on live feeds on Facebook.
Coming back from that convoy, several of the participants, including Jason, soon started planning one of their own, to Regina. Their message would be four points, and four points only – fight the carbon tax, build pipelines, kill Bill C-69 and kill Bill C-48. And that’s it. No talk of anything that would take away from that energy and carbon tax message.
I wasn’t there on Day 1, but I was there on Day 2, and pretty much every other day, covering this planned convoy and rally in Regina from the get-go.
And I was there when Jason LeBlanc, at the very beginning of that first key organization meeting, stood up and said they needed to be clear, in no uncertain terms, “yellow vests prohibited.”
And it was at his insistence, with the concurrence of the rest of the organizers, that those very words appeared on the poster, drafted that morning. That was a group decision, but one led by him. And a lot of people who had been die-hard yellow vesters slagged him mercilessly as a result.
At the time, I expected that if any of the key organizers of the United We Roll convoy with former ties with the yellow vest movement became involved with this new rally, they would be tarred and feathered by those in favour of the carbon tax. I had expected it from the CBC. I did not expect it from the leader of the opposition.
Meili led off question period by quoting a post online questioning climate change, goading the premier into identifying how might have said it. Premier Scott Moe did not take the bait.
Then Meili smeared Jason by saying the following, “And one of the main organizers and the spokesperson for this rally — the spokesperson for the group that the premier has accepted to address — is a fellow by the name of Jason LeBlanc.
“And Jason attended the rebranded yellow vest convoy event in Ottawa, the event that featured Faith Goldy among other great luminaries, Mr. Speaker. And he gave a speech at that rally, and in his speech he described himself as a ‘man-made climate change doomsday denier.’ And he said that the Prime Minister is someone who ‘. . . manipulates society through basic human needs and wants to make the globe a one-world government,’ Mr. Speaker.
“Far-out-there conspiracy theories, climate change denial, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic sentiment — this is what the yellow vest movement has become, Mr. Speaker. And I do not understand, but I’d like the Premier to explain why he wants to be associated with that group,” Meili asked of Moe.
Let me point out some the glaring issues with that statement. First, having followed the United We Roll! convoy intently through the lead up and the event, at no point did Faith Goldy come into the consideration. To the best of my knowledge, she just showed up and started talking, making a scene right in the centre of the counter protest. I don’t think Jason had ever even heard of her before that day, and yet Meili tried to draw some sort of association to one of the most politically blackballed people in the nation.
Regarding being a doomsday denier, yes, Jason did say that. And I have said similar things, many times, questioning the argument for anthropogenic climate change. I have pointed out in this column numerous times that no one, including climate change scientists I have spoke to, have been able to give me an adequate answer on how is it Canada was almost entirely covered with ice for 80,000 of the last 100,000 years, and yet it melted, and it wasn’t my gas guzzling SUV or the two coal-fired power plants six miles from my house that caused it to melt, either.
But you see, Meili used the strategy of calling anyone who does not conform to current orthodoxy, the religion of anthropogenic (man-made) climate change, for all intents and purposes, a heretic. They should be totally discredited in all that they say and do! Burn them at the stake!
That is what Meili implied in his line of questioning. If Jason LeBlanc had the audacity to question climate change, then how could Premier Moe dare associate himself with anything related to Jason, including the rally he has been working to organize.
I am just waiting for the day when I am given the same treatment. Heretic! Burn him!
And let’s not forget the biggest slur of the all – in the same breadth, Meili seemed to associate “anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic sentiment” with Jason. Those were precisely the things that Jason stood up against when I saw him vehemently argue for “yellow vests prohibited.” And there wasn’t any real argument, because the organizers were all on the same page.
But don’t let reality get in the way of a good smear job, Mr. Meili.
What Jason has been fighting against is this carbon tax. By one estimate he’s seen, it may cost his family of five $6 per acre, each year. Now this is my argument: His farm, at 15,000 acres, equates to $18,000 in carbon tax impact for each member of his family. Should his 12-year old daughter who, goes to school with my son, be responsible for $18,000 in carbon tax, and going up every year?
Are those numbers accurate? We don’t know. And one of the motivating factors here is the fear of the unknown. We don’t know for sure what the impact will be. But we do know it will double in two years, and keep going up beyond that.
That is the reality Jason LeBlanc will soon have to contend with. That is the reality farmers across this province will contend with. That is why he’s went toe-to-toe with Trudeau in Regina. That’s why his grain truck was parked at the gates of Parliament. That’s why he gave a speech in a snowbank. And that’s why he’s been working so hard to get this Regina Rally Against the Carbon Tax on April 4.
Maybe more people should be following his example.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at email@example.com.
You can watch the video of question period here. Go to time index 2:01:00. The Hansard written record of the debate can be found here on Page 5646.
Jason LeBlanc's speech on Parliament Hill can be read, in its entirety, here.