Nobody who came out to the pro-pipeline convoy of trucks down Main St. in Slave Lake last Sunday could be in much doubt about the importance of oil and gas industry to the community. The parade of honking vehicles took at least 45 minutes to go past.
And just in case you didn’t think to count them, somebody else was taking care of that.
“Two-hundred-seventy-five trucks!” said Ken Vanderwell, leading off the indoor rally part of the event at the Legacy Centre. “Awesome!’
Vanderwell was the MC of the program. It started with Berlyn Broadhead singing the national anthem and ended with Lesser Slave Lake UCP candidate Pat Rehn’s pro-pipeline speech. In between were addresses long and short by Sonya Andrews (she initiated the whole thing), Candace Nutbrown of Grande Prairie, Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen, town councillor Brice Ferguson, Steve Dyck of Talmek Industrial Repair, local truckers Allen Fournier and Jake Braun, Jody Broadhead of Apex Well Servicing (and other businesses) and Bigstone First Nation Chief Silas Yellowknee.
“Why did I organize this?” said Andrews. “We need a change, We’re all angry. I think we need one in Slave Lake.”
Vanderwell gave a short history of the rallies in Alberta that began in early December with one in Drayton Valley. There have been at least half a dozen more since then, he said, and a big one being organized to go all the way to Ottawa in February. It already has 3,000 trucks committed to participating.
Viersen made what amounted to a campaign speech for Andrew Scheer for Prime Minister in 2019. He mocked and dismissed various policies and attitudes of the current federal government.
“The main reason we’re here today is to tell the Prime Minister to get out of the way of pipelines,” he said. “Alberta doesn’t need Ottawa; Ottawa needs Alberta!”
Viersen’s sentiments were more or less echoed by each succeeding speaker, although one of them – Broadhead – was gracious enough to acknowledge the provincial government’s efforts on behalf of the oil and gas industry.
Dyck and Yellowknee were probably the best two speakers of the bunch.
Yellowknee – recently elected as Bigstone Chief after a career in law enforcement and before that in the oilpatch – got plenty of laughs but got serious at the end. He said he’ll be bringing his support for pipelines to the Treaty 8 table. And if B.C. chiefs are opposed to pipelines, they’ll be fighting against Treaty 8, he predicted. That drew a big cheer from the crowd.
Rehn, who hopes to become the next Lesser Slave MLA next spring, said “Alberta is suffering under a barrage of bad policies,” and “needs our help.”
“Pipelines, pipelines, pipelines!” said Dyck, at the end of his presentation.
“And I mean more than one!
Attendees were urged to sign letters to the Prime Minister that were provided in the lobby. The person organizing the petition is from Grande Prairie – introduced simply as Candace. She read the letter from the stage.
“Are you listening yet?” it asked, more than once. “Build that pipeline!”