CALGARY, Alta. — Trucks have become a symbol of support for Canada’s ailing oil and gas sector, with several convoys rolling through Western Canada in recent months. Now some are preparing to take their arguments eastward, with United We Roll! – Convoy for Canada! planning to reach Parliament Hill on Feb. 19.
The first rally that included a truck convoy popped up on Dec. 17 in Grande Prairie, Alta., attracting more than 600 trucks. That exceeded expectations, says Rob Petrone of the Grande Prairie Petroleum Association.
Two days later, a group known as Truckers for Pipelines formed what was reported as a 22-km convoy. Related traffic delays even forced federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, in the area to give a speech, to ditch his vehicle and walk to the community’s town hall.
About 450 trucks organized by Bert Baxter Transport flooded the streets of Estevan, Sask. Then more than 1,000 protesters took to a convoy in Whitecourt, Alta., on Dec. 30, moving from LB Energy Services and along Hwy. 43. On Jan. 5, a different 10-km convoy stretched between Brandon and Virden, Man. About 650 vehicles including trucks took to the roads around Medicine Hat, Alta.
The focus these days is on taking the message from Red Deer to Ottawa.
Several online campaigns to help cover related costs have come and gone, leaving United We Roll! Convoy for Canada! as the sole initiative standing.
“We have been doing convoys in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan for over a month, and the government just isn’t listening,” said Glen Carritt, one of the organizers. “We decided that the only way for them to listen to what is happening to all of Canada is to drive theses trucks to Ottawa.”
Carritt, a member of Innisfail town council and operations manager for an oilfield safety company, said the effort is about creating awareness.
“We need our product to get to tidewater to the rest of the world, as well as to Canada,” he said, referring to the need for pipelines. “We need to stop spending $50 million a day on foreign oil. Our product is backlogged, thus dropping the [Western] Canadian Select price.”
Western Canadian Select is the heavier grade of oil drawn from Canada’s oil sands, and its’ sold at a lower price than other grades because of export-related challenges and a backlog of oil in Alberta.
But the group that is “united” in word hasn’t enjoyed an entirely united approach. Originally called Convoy to Ottawa, it broke ranks from so-called Yellow Vest protesters because of differing opinions. Yellow Vest protesters in Canada have voiced concerns about topics such as immigration policies and the United Nations. They’ve since been invited back to participate.
“This is a peaceful protest and accepts no hate or radical individuals in this protest,” Carritt said of United We Roll. “We welcome all Canadians who have an issue with our government to join the rally … truck or not.”
Some of the donors who contributed $127,000 through two separate GoFundMe pages have requested refunds, potentially because they were confused about which convoy they had supported. But United We Roll has since raised more than $35,000 for the cause.
Similar plans by groups known as Canada Action and Rally4Resources abandoned fundraising efforts of their own. Roy Craigen of Transcom Fleet Services continues his GoFundMe campaign called Convoy Support 2019 – Western Canada to Ottawa, meant to support various convoys, raising just over $1,200 of a $25,000 goal.
United’s co-organizer Jason Corbiel, a wellsite supervisor for Husky Energy, says he expects around 350-400 trucks to take part in the journey to Ottawa, with 1,500 personal vehicles and selected buses joining them. The plan is to depart Red Deer on Feb. 14, with a stop in Regina before making Ontario stops in Dryden, Sault Ste. Marie, and finally Arnprior on the evening of Feb. 18. They expect to be joined by convoys from the Maritimes and Southern Ontario before heading into the Nation’s Capital on Feb. 19.
About 250 of the trucks are expected to head into Ottawa to converge along Wellington Street and other thoroughfares near Parliament Hill, for two days of protests and speeches.
“Many trucks are coming, and as that number increases the goal may change,” said Carritt. “We are confident we will achieve our goal, as we know all of Canada is not happy with our government.”
— This article has been updated to reflect updated arrival dates for Arnprior and Ottawa, as well as a decision to once again welcome yellow vest protesters to participate.
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