Hundreds of central Albertans are preparing to embark on a convoy to Ottawa next month to highlight their frustration over the lack of progress on expanding oil pipeline capacity.
The demonstration, now scheduled for Feb. 14, will cap a string of convoys that have been held throughout the area. Just last weekend, the drivers of about 100 vehicles travelled from Innisfail to Olds to bring attention to the beleaguered oil and gas industry.
Participant Reed Howell noted Canada has always depended on Alberta’s energy wealth, but conceded the province and its workers now require some assistance of their own. Those in the energy industry aren’t quick to complain. They’re accustomed to the roller-coaster nature of their livelihood, and willingly accept the lean times along with the good.
“We don’t want a handout. We just want to be able to go back to work,” Howell said stoically.
The fact is Albertans shouldn’t have to drive to the nation’s capital to be heard. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should travel here to meet the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs because of the downturn in the economy.
Trudeau should talk to those, as well as their families, who are paying the price for pipeline delays. Energy is, after all, Canada’s most important export product.
You can be sure if such an economic disaster were to happen elsewhere, Trudeau and his motorcade would spare no time in arriving to bolster weary spirits. He’d promise all sorts of relief, as he’s done in other regions of the country.
Yes, the prime minister hasn’t been entirely absent on this pressing file. He’s voiced some recognition of the hardship being faced by Alberta and its workers. And when Kinder Morgan lost confidence it could get the Trans Mountain pipeline built, he used tax dollars to buy the project for $4.5-billion.
There’s speculation that Trudeau only purchased the pipeline to avoid the embarrassment of having the proposal collapse. It’s certainly possible that he wants to leave essential energy infrastructure in limbo until after this fall’s federal election.
Still, Trudeau should come to Red Deer and display leadership at a time of crisis, which this certainly is. He recently conducted a cross-Canada tour of sorts where he held town-hall style meetings to engage with the public. There’s no reason Trudeau couldn’t hold a similar affair in our city, so he could hear from the people so desperate, they’re prepared to drive to Ottawa to register their disappointment with not only government inaction, but animosity toward a vital industry.
The Federal Court of Appeal has chastised the Trudeau government for not doing a better job of consulting Indigenous people and for failing to fully consider the impact oil tankers might have on the West Coast’s marine environment.
Fair enough. These shortcomings should be thoughtfully dealt with. But that’s no reason to leave central Albertans with no choice but to travel to Ottawa to demonstrate their frustration, burning a bunch of fuel and generating greenhouse gases in the process.
The prime minister should be in Red Deer, where the 2019 Canada Winter Games will be held in just a few short weeks, and demonstrate a sincere willingness to get the pipeline built.
Anything short of that simply confirms Albertans’ well-deserved belief they’ve been forgotten, or worse yet, abandoned.
David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.