Editorial

The United We Roll protest convoy of truck-driving protesters rolled into Ottawa on Tuesday to complain about pipeline approval rules, the carbon tax and immigration. The immediate effect was to snarl Ottawa traffic with the 200 or so trucks the demonstrators parked close to Parliament Hill.

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This article was published 19/2/2019 (1066 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The United We Roll protest convoy of truck-driving protesters rolled into Ottawa on Tuesday to complain about pipeline approval rules, the carbon tax and immigration. The immediate effect was to snarl Ottawa traffic with the 200 or so trucks the demonstrators parked close to Parliament Hill.

The protest seemed unlikely to have much political effect, however, because the demands were poorly thought out.

The Alberta oilpatch workers who started it last week thought it was about speeding construction of pipelines.

As they gathered supporters along the way, however, they invited, as organizer Glen Caritt from Innisfail, Alta., said last Friday, "anyone who has a concern with the current government."

A protester stands in front of the gates to Parliament Hill. A convoy of angry Albertans and other westerners rolled up to Parliament Hill Tuesday.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

A protester stands in front of the gates to Parliament Hill. A convoy of angry Albertans and other westerners rolled up to Parliament Hill Tuesday.

That open invitation helped build the numbers, but the message became somewhat diffuse.

The protest started out as an expression of regional grievance from oil-industry people in Western Canada.

The 80 trucks that rolled by Winnipeg last Friday, however, grew to 200 as they crossed Ontario. The westerners and the oil workers, inevitably, became a minority in their own protest movement.

Canada’s pipeline companies and governments have been trying since 2006 to build a line across the mountains to bring Alberta bitumen to the coast for export. Enbridge abandoned its Northern Gateway project in 2016 in the face of opposition from environmental groups and Indigenous people who live in the mountains. Kinder Morgan prepared to expand its Trans Mountain line to Vancouver, faced the same kind of opposition and sold the line and the project to the federal government last year.

People who have been waiting to cash in on oil-industry expansion are naturally growing impatient. The United We Roll protest started out as an expression of their impatience.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS 
A pro-oil protester stands on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS A pro-oil protester stands on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday.

It is useful for the country to be reminded that the work of reconciling oil-industry expansion with the interests of the neighbours who fear damage to their homes and water supplies is not just an academic exercise — it involves real people who are experiencing real distress.

To win a national hearing, however, the impatient oil workers need to take account of what they are up against.

It is not enough to tell the government to hurry up and build a pipeline. They must recognize that the pipelines they demand will be built across somebody’s land.

If you just muscle in, they will get a court order and stop you. Parking a fleet of trucks near Parliament Hill doesn’t change that reality.

Many of the same people who are impatient for pipelines also don’t agree with a carbon tax. That became a second theme of the United We Roll protest.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS 
A man wears a "Make Canada Great Again" hat at the protest in Ottawa.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS A man wears a "Make Canada Great Again" hat at the protest in Ottawa.

But Canada has been trying without success, under governments from Brian Mulroney onward, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon tax appears, on its face — and from the experience of British Columbia — to be the fairest and most efficient way to curb emissions.

Those who oppose that solution should offer a better one.

Some of the same people also don’t like refugees entering Canada. A demand that Canada should not adopt the United Nations Global Compact For Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was therefore added to the United We Roll list of demands.

That 36-page document lays out a collaborative approach to dealing with growing global migration.

This has nothing to do with building pipelines, but including it in the protest seems to show that when you’re blowing off steam in the middle of a severe winter, any complaint will do.