Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer embraced a convoy of pro-pipeline, anti-carbon tax demonstrators on Parliament Hill Tuesday, telling the crowd, “It is time Canada has a prime minister that is proud of our energy sector.”
Scores of vehicles ranging from 18 wheelers to pickup trucks arrived in Ottawa after a cross-country trip from Red Deer, Alta, ostensibly to support the oil and gas sector, which has been hurt by a lack of export capacity.
Brock Harrison, a spokesman for Mr. Scheer, said “the United We Roll convoy had a clear and common message for Justin Trudeau, to stop his attacks on the energy industry … This is a message Mr. Scheer has always supported and he was proud to attend the rally today to show his support.”
Mr. Scheer joined the United We Roll protesters for photographs, indicating his support for their message on resource development but ignoring signs held by some in the crowd that accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of treason.
Last year, Mr. Scheer and some of his MPs said the Liberal government was sacrificing Canadian sovereignty by endorsing a non-binding United Nations resolution of the rights of refugees. That message was widely echoed by convoy members, including members of the right-wing Yellow Vests movement, who also voiced their concerns about immigration and globalism.
Glen Carritt, the lead organizer of the United We Roll protest, wrote on the convoy’s GoFundMe page that the group is in favour of pipelines and opposes federal legislation overhauling the assessment process for major resource projects. He said it also opposes the carbon tax introduced by the federal Liberals and Alberta’s NDP government, as well as the “UN impact” on Canadian borders.
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said he understood the frustration of Albertans over the lack of export pipelines and is determined to fix the problem. However, he condemned Mr. Scheer for associating himself with the anti-immigration elements of the United We Roll movement.
“He had the opportunity to denounce some of the display of hatred and the negativity around that – he should have done, which he failed to do,” Mr. Sohi said.
Mr. Harrison said, “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Sohi is ignoring the very real hardship that people in the energy sector are facing. Instead of trying to deflect attention from his own government ‘s failures, he should fight against Mr. Trudeau’s policies that are causing so much hardship.”
People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier also spoke at the rally, thanking the crowd.
“You’re not asking for handouts, you’re not asking for any privileges, you’re just asking for being sure that this country will be able to build pipelines. That’s important not only for you, that’s important for all Canadians," Mr. Bernier said.
Rick Boswick, a member of the Yellow Vests in Ottawa, said the protesters have “many grievances." He added that he had not seen any “racist tendencies or tactics” by other members of his movement.
“I think it’s not just what they’re saying on the Hill right now, it’s not just energy sector and pipelines – that’s one symptom of globalist cancer," he said.
As members of the convoy honked their horns, the counter-protest of an Indigenous group made its way to Parliament Hill chanting, “Water is life."
Crystal Semaganis, an artist living in Ottawa and a member of the group, said it’s important to see the other side in the pipeline debate. “I’m pro-Mother Earth and long-term sustainability. These people up here on the Hill are fighting to preserve their standard of living and they’re not really seeing beyond their pocket book,” she said.
Former Rebel Media personality Faith Goldy was also on hand, speaking briefly from the back of a truck where some protesters took turns with a microphone.
“If you don’t like our country, leave it," Ms. Goldy told the group of Indigenous counter-protesters.
Evan Balgord, the executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said it’s impossible to untangle the pipeline protest from the hate. Mr. Balgord tracked social media postings by members of the Yellow Vest movement who supported the convoy but also proclaimed their “white pride” and used racial epithets toward Muslims and racialized people.
Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, appeared at a Senate committee hearing late Tuesday to urge senators to make amendments to Bill C-69, which changes the way major resource projects are reviewed by the federal government.
Liberal cabinet ministers insist the legislation will speed up reviews and ensure good projects are approved more quickly, while protecting the environment and Indigenous rights.
However, Mr. McMillan said the changes threaten to tie up projects such as pipelines and oil sands developments in an endless review process and then litigation.
In an interview, he said the United We Roll convoy was a clear indication that Canadians value resource development and worry about policies that are driving away investment.
“We’re seeing these rallies and this convoy and hard-working Canadians across the country standing up and saying: We’ve had too many self-inflicted wounds, and if this bill passes it’s just one more rock in our economic backpack that is weighing us down."
With files from The Canadian Press