Albertans struggling in an oilfield crisis feel betrayed by the rest of Canada, said a protester at a convoy demonstration in Innisfail on Saturday.
“There’s no co-operation between east and west” — or even Alberta and British Columbia anymore, said Reed Howell, who drove a rig in a 100-vehicle line-up to Olds to help raise awareness of hardships in Alberta’s oil and gas industry.
“For as long as anyone can remember Alberta has helped out the rest of Canada” with its energy revenues, Howell explained. But now that Albertans are losing their jobs and homes because of an industry slow-down — who is helping Alberta?
Amid the pipeline protests and court appeal of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Howell said, “You feel betrayed…
“We don’t want a hand out. We just want to be able to go back to work.”
Speaking to a grim faced crowd at a mustering point in Innisfail, convoy co-organizer Paul Hoffman related how work reductions that have plagued oilfield companies. As health and safety director at Parkland Pipelines, Hoffman said his company’s workload has dropped from 2.3 million hours in 2016 to 200,000 in 2018 — an 80 per cent reduction.
The inability to get Alberta oil to international markets via pipelines to the coast is impacting more than just oil workers, he added. It’s local farmers who need rail car space to get their grain to market and local shop owners who are losing business because so many Central Albertans are unemployed and can’t afford their products.
“We are here to say we are positive contributors to the community…. to the province — and we’re damn sure positive contributors to Canada!” said Hoffman. “We want our voices heard… We’re hurtin’.”
Some oilfield workers brought their children to the demonstration. Others carried signs that expressed support of the oil and gas industry and opposition to the carbon tax.
Before the long convoy of honking semi tractor-trailers, pick-up and service trucks pulled out for Olds, Innisfail Mayor Jim Romane said his community is “frustrated” by government inaction.
Maybe the federal Liberals have given up on Alberta thinking they won’t get any votes here anyway, he added.
Regardless of politics, he said, “we need people to get on our side,” because families are being badly hurt by the protracted debate about pipelines. Like many others at the rally, he stressed that pipelines are still the safesty way of transporting oil and gas.
Angela Henderson, of Caroline, said since both she and her husband work in the oilfield, they are very concerned about the future and whether oil prices will ever rebound. “This affects us directly.”