Saskatchewan

Estevan truck convoy organizer says protest is not just for oil and gas, but 'for a basic way of life'

Frustration with the federal government and an ailing oil and gas sector brought hundreds of trucks to Estevan to mass together, with an organizer and Estevan business owner describing it as an “astronomical” turnout to demand change.

Organizer say more than 400 trucks came to Estevan to take part in convoy

Workers stood outside in the snow to show their support for more than 400 trucks that gathered in Estevan for a truck convoy that took its inspiration from a similar event in Alberta, earlier in the week. (Submitted by Darryl Shirley)

Frustration with the federal government and an ailing oil and gas sector brought hundreds of trucks to Estevan to mass together, with an organizer and Estevan business owner describing it as an "astronomical" turnout to demand change.

"Everybody is so sick and tired of all the spending, all the taxes," said organizer Darryl Shirley, who, along with his brothers, owns Estevan-based business Bert Baxter Transport.

"They want to show the federal government that we are upset and this is just one small way to do it."

He estimated that more than 400 trucks came to Estevan for the Saturday rally, which took its inspiration from a truck convoy that took place on Wednesday in Nisku, Alta., to show support for the oil and gas sector.

Trucks came from places like Carnduff, Carlyle and Weyburn to Estevan for a Saturday rally. (Submitted by Darryl Shirley)

Estevan, like other Saskatchewan communities including Lloydminster and Kindersley, is dependent on its oilfield industry, said Shirley.

His business, which transports oilfield equipment, has seen the pinch of a downturn in that sector. It has dropped from a workforce of about 160 employees to 60 employees and several trucks in its fleet are parked, with virtually no demand from others to buy them, according to Shirley.

This is actually a protest for a basic way of life out here, our energy.- Darryl Shirley, truck convoy organizer

The federal government has made little progress on building a pipeline to move oil products, despite purchasing the Trans Mountain expansion for $4.5B. That project is going through a new round of consultations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the federal government is committed to the project, that triples the capacity to carry oil to tankers on the west coast.

Speaking to a business crowd in Calgary in November, he described oil and gas economic challenges as stemming from "a horrific confluence of events," including global oil pricing and a dependence on the U.S. as a sole customer for oil. 

But Shirley also takes aim at the federal government's policies like a carbon tax and a move to phase out coal-fired electricity which communities like Estevan depend on.

"This isn't just an oil patch protest," he said. "This is actually a protest for a basic way of life out here, our energy. Anybody involved in energy sector is being targeted right now."

The federal government has also announced $1.6B in financial aid for the energy industry, but energy groups were among those panning that announcement. 

Another truck convoy protest is planned for Dec. 29 in Lloydminster, as Saskatchewan and Alberta workers continue to transmit their feeling they are not being heard by the Liberal government.

"The federal government's lost reality with what hard-working Canadians are living with and it seems like they don't really care," said Shirley.

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