United We Roll convoy '100%' successful, says organizer, despite concerns over funds raised

“Because of all the Canadian people we met along the way, right from the day we left … and all the people we saw in Ontario. That’s what it was all about, all of those people we saw," said Glen Carritt.

Glen Carritt says he feels group's message was received by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

United We Roll Convoy head organizer Glen Carritt called the trip from Alberta to Ottawa a success. (CBC)

The lead organizer of the United We Roll convoy says rallies held in Ottawa last week were "100 per cent, unequivocally," a success.

That's despite some members of the group now questioning how fundraising dollars are being spent and academics wondering if the pro-pipeline message was overshadowed by other concerns.

"Bigger than we even expected," said Glen Carritt, who organized the convoy which saw nearly 170 semis and trucks leave Red Deer, Alta., on Feb. 14 bound for the nation's capital where they held rallies over two days on Parliament Hill.

"Because of all the Canadian people we met along the way, right from the day we left … and all the people we saw in Ontario. That's what it was all about, all of those people we saw."

The group has said its chief complaint was that the federal government's energy and environmental policies are hurting Alberta's beleaguered oil and gas sector, but members also protested the Liberal government more broadly, globalism and migration. 

Now about 50 vehicles strong, the group stopped in Dryden, Ont., overnight Saturday on their way back west.

"Some people, we dropped a few off in Ontario and some went their own way," he said.

"But we're going to gain a few here and there who want to travel with us for a little while."

Protesters with the United We Roll convoy demonstrated on Parliament Hill on Tuesday after crossing the country to share their pro-pipeline message. (CBC)

Carritt said the plan is to make it as far as Regina, Sask., on Sunday before completing the trip home to Red Deer, Alta., on Monday evening.

"Everybody's in good spirits," said Kevin Peters, one of the road captains for the convoy. "The rest of the country is waking up and there is nothing the media can do to hide it."

Racism became a focus: political scientist

The goal of the convoy was to have their message heard by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government, something Carritt feels they accomplished.

"I think it was received," he said. "If they don't see what this message is, then they're even more arrogant than I thought they were."

Critics are divided, however, on whether or not the convoy was as effective as it could have been, given that some of its participants seemed more interested in protesting Ottawa's immigration policies than arguing for specific fixes for Alberta's oilpatch.

"The problem was some of the participants were engaging in messages that were arguably racist, questions about that racism got raised, and then it became a matter of defending whether they were racists or not," Calgary-based political scientist Lori Williams told CBC News earlier this week. "Now that's not the message they wanted to focus on."

The convoy, originally called a yellow vest convoy, was renamed after it was linked to hateful rhetoric.

Organizer won't say how much was spent

Social media posts also questioned how more than $141,000 raised through a GoFundMe account for the trip was being spent.

Carritt, who is also a town councillor in Innisfail, Alta., said he has been paying out of his own pocket for hotels and gas for the group.

"Because GoFundMe money doesn't just come in all at once, it trickles in," he said.

"I would suggest that rather than taking any of your information from a Facebook page that is jealous of what we have accomplished … you would realize that Glen Carritt is taking care of all these people and Glen Carritt will not walk away from these people and Glen Carritt is the guy that's making sure all of these people get home safe."

Carritt wouldn't say how much he has spent during the trip.

Convoy vehicles roll along Wellington Street towards Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 19, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

"A lot," he said. "I've got some good lines of credit and I'm making sure that everybody is taken care of. All of it is being funded right now and then it will all get straightened out by a chartered accountant when we get back."

Carritt said members of the group with receipts will be reimbursed for the cost of fuel and lodging during the trip.

"I would say by the end of the day, there's going to be over 100 people start to finish [to be reimbursed]," he said.

"Some people have left but they're still going to have receipts to hand in. When they left, I gave them my email address and said make sure we get it all fixed up when we're done."

Some of those who left the group early said they did so over safety concerns.

"We're supposed to be united, we're supposed to be as one. It's come to my attention that people are trying to get people against each other," said Cathy Monteath in a Facebook video post.

Monteath said she received death threats after posting a video which showed her infant daughter out of a car seat while the family's truck was on the highway.

She also questioned how the funds raised are being used.

"I've put fuel in people's vehicles out of my own money, all on the hopes of handing in a receipt and getting reimbursed," she said.