OTTAWA, Ont. – The United We Roll Convoy for Canada wanted to make some noise, and this morning it did that very thing as it rolled up to Parliament Hill.
About two dozen commercial vehicles and twice as many pickups — many of which began their journey in Red Deer, Alta. – completed the final leg in a five-day trip, announcing their arrival with the blast of horns. One of the first protesters to step onto Wellington Street began playing the theme to Convoy over his megaphone, lest anyone forget the role of trucks in this protest.
The core messages were clearly supporting the energy sector. No to the carbon tax; no to Bill C-69, designed to overhaul the review of energy projects; no to Bill C-48, which looks to ban crude-carrying tankers along B.C.’s coast. And there was a resounding yes to the idea of building pipelines that would carry Canadian oil to tidewater.
“We cannot say how amazing it was to see the reception and the thousands of people that met us on the road,” organizer Glen Carritt told about 200 supporters. “Our voices are going to be heard. They heard our horns coming up … The politicians need to start listening to us.”
Brad Schell of Schell Equipment in High River, Alta., suggested it was hard to ignore trucks like his, with a trailer proclaiming that Canadians need pipelines. “It sends a big message,” he said.
“We drove here for all you folks,” a yellow-vested Mark Friesen added when it was his turn at the microphone. He was clearly happy with the sound of the horns. “Listen to that!”
Convoy organizers had at one time tried to distance themselves from the so-called “yellow vesters” known to express nationalist ideals and express fears about illegal immigration. But they were later invited back into the fold.
There was no ignoring the sea of fluorescent yellow among the crowd. Calls to cancel the carbon tax were joined by those questioning the United Nations’ Global Compact on Migration, and questions about “erasing” borders.
“We’re just carrying Canada on our backs with this convoy, and we’re reaching the small communities that are ignored by Ottawa,” Friesen said. “We’re frustrated, and we’re angry, and we’re standing up for what we as Canadians need. It’s been a great way to bring people together.”
This was clearly an anti-Liberal crowd. Chants echoed messages like “Hey hey, ho ho, Justin Trudeau’s got to go.” One protester wore a cap with the Trudeau name and a finger flipping the bird. There were signs that simply said “Trudeau out. No Trudeau,” and a button that proclaimed “never elect a Trudeau again.”
Trucks represented the biggest symbols of all, decked out with signs expressing messages like “we love oil and gas”.
The number of trucks was clearly lighter than original projections, however, and even lighter than the numbers seen during recent provincial convoys across the Prairies. About 160 trucks had originally departed from Gort’s Truck Wash in Red Deer. Carritt and fellow organizer Jason Corbiel had originally suggested upwards of 400 trucks would make the journey.
When one protester took to a megaphone to praise “thousands” of supporters in Ottawa, a nearby police officer quipped “I think their count’s a little off today.”
But there were supporters on the way, with a rally held yesterday in Pembroke, and hundreds of supporters in Sault-Ste. Marie. The drivers were even met with food, drinks, and letters for the prime minister during an unscheduled stop in Terrace Bay. Carritt’s lead truck was covered in signatures by those who support the cause.
The numbers that made it to Ottawa dwindled further as Tuesday morning wore on, to a point where they were matched by the number of anti-pipeline protesters that police corralled on Wellington Street. But chants of “take your dirty oil off indigenous soil” were still drowned out by the trucks.
“This is not about Bill 68. This is not about Bill 48. This is not about Bill 69. This is a clear attempt of the government to destroy the energy industry,” said Senator David Tkachuk, one of the first politicians to address the crowd.
Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer had already taken to Twitter with his support. “The #UnitedWeRoll convoy is a testament to the importance of Canada’s energy sector and the crisis it’s facing. Canadian energy workers deserve a government that supports their industry and champions it worldwide. Conservatives will fix the Liberal mess and get back to work,” he tweeted.
Jason LeBlanc of Estevan, Sask., referred to the convoy as a warning shot.
“Our little, peaceful convoy made it,” he said.
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