Another so-called ‘Yellow Vest’ protest has sprung up in Central Alberta resulting from the growing political discontent between the province and Ottawa over the struggling energy sector.
A Yellow Vest Convoy that organizers say will consist of hundreds of trucks, as well as smaller vehicles, is departing from Red Deer Feb. 14th for Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Protesters are calling on the federal government to speed up oil pipeline construction.
Innisfail resident Glen Carritt owns an oilfield safety company and is the lead liaison with the group making the four-day road trip to Ottawa. The aim, he said, is to ensure Ottawa knows Albertans are not happy with the current state of its energy industry.
He said he believes the Yellow Vest protests that took place in the province last month have not done enough.
“We want to create awareness in Ottawa that we want pipeline shovels in the ground,” he said.
Government action on the stalled Trans Mountain Pipeline is a focus, but he said the Convoy is calling for any pipeline to get Alberta’s oil to the country’s coastlines.
The Federal Court of Appeal rejected the approval for the 1,150-km Alberta-to-West Coast Trans Mountain expansion last August. It cited insufficient consultations with First Nations and the need for greater examination of the effects on marine ecosystems.
“I don’t know why the government didn’t appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court level,” he said. “Everybody feels that Trudeau and the people in power have not done enough to get these pipelines going. It is just procrastination, and delay after delay.”
The Convoy protesters are also against Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act.
The federal bill would ban tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of crude oil from stopping and loading and unloading along British Columbia’s north coast.
Bill C-69, Impact Assessment Act, is another point of contention for the group. Premier Rachel Notley has criticized the bill, saying the federal government is wading into the province’s territory when it comes to managing its energy sector.
“They are going to put a handcuff on any oil and gas companies in our province and in our country,” said Carritt. “We’ve got enough government regulations already in place and it has been hurting the industry.
“The more product we can get out to the world and stop backlogging all our product in Alberta then that price will come up so at least we can get work even if (oil pricing) has dropped somewhat.”
The federal government promised more than 1.6 billion dollars to help Alberta’s struggling energy sector in December. Much of the money, largely in the form of corporate loans, is for oil and gas exporters who want to invest in new technologies and diversify their markets.
Another $500 million is to be made available through the Business Development Bank of Canada over the next two years to help smaller oil and gas companies navigate the downturn.
A further $150 million is to be used for clean growth and infrastructure projects.
But Carritt said he feels the money will not help the energy sector: “They give government handouts and want to have people dependent on government handouts.
”We’re hard-working Albertans who don’t want handouts,” he said. “We just want to get back to work.
Yellow Vest protests gained attention around the world in December when massive protests broke out in France. The protesters were objecting to the country’s high cost of living, income inequality and the policies of President Emmanuel Macron.
But Carritt said the Convoy has only adopted the symbol of the Yellow Vest movement. The group is very different from the one in France, he said, it also does not want to associate with some of the extremist views that have been attached to the protests.
“We have taken on that symbol only because it is recognized,” he said, adding its Facebook page, Yellow Vest (Official) Convoy to Ottawa, is monitored by eight to 10 people, on a 24-hour basis to ensure there are no racial slurs, hate comments and other forms of misconduct.
Among other issues, the Convoy is protesting the carbon tax as well as Ottawa’s adoption of the UN Global Compact for Migration, a 36-page guide on how countries can address challenges related to human migration.
The UN compact has drawn criticism from the federal Conservatives who say the compact could erode Canada’s sovereignty. But advocates say it is not legally binding and will have no impact on Canadian sovereignty.
The convoy departs Feb. 14th. It was originally scheduled for Feb. 15th, opening day of the 2019 Canada Winter Games, but was changed to not distract attention away from the national sporting event.
“We certainly don’t want to take attention away from the Winter Games – that’s for sure,” he said.
-with files from the Canadian Press