They came from far and wide, to show their support for Alberta’s beleaguered energy industry.
As Albertans continue to be frustrated with what they see as a lack of real, tangible progress on getting the province’s oil to foreign markets, a huge crowd converged for a convoy and rally south of Edmonton on Wednesday.
The 22-kilometre long truck convoy, which got underway at 11:30 a.m., made its way through the Nisku industrial area, where many oil and gas companies have been affected by the low price of Alberta crude.
WATCH BELOW: A massive truck convoy made its way through the Nisku area Wednesday. This is the view from the Global 1 news helicopter.
At 11 a.m., Leduc RCMP sent out an alert that due to the convoy traffic, there are extreme traffic delays on the Highway 19 and Airport Road overpasses.
RCMP said traffic westbound to the Edmonton International Airport was moving, although slowly. There were also traffic delays throughout Nisku and the Leduc North Business Park.
Truckers for Pipelines, which organized the rally and convoy, urged trucks of all shapes and sizes “to come out to show support for the Canadian oil and gas industry and Canadian families from coast to coast.”
“We’re just trying to get awareness out to the rest of our province, the rest of our country and recognize that we’re looking to go to work and we want to keep the industry going,” rally organizer Laurie Ryan from Laurlee Energy Services said.
“We’re concerned about going to work and providing for our families.”
About 100 trucks from the Drayton Valley area joined the convoy, which was also expected to attract people from elsewhere in central Alberta and the Edmonton region.
Ryan thought as many as a thousand trucks could join the convoy. It was impossible to count the exact number of trucks due to the sheer size of the convoy, however organizers said the turnout was much bigger than expected.
Organizers worked with Leduc County and RCMP to ensure the convoy went smoothly.
Ryan’s company provides transportation and logistics in the oil and gas, mining and construction industry. He said it’s been a tough few years.
“We’re working class and we just want to go to work. We’re here to do everything as ethical and as environmentally friendly as possible,” he said.
Those attending the convoy gathered at Blackjacks Roadhouse (2110 Sparrow Dr.), at 10 a.m. and departed at 11:30 a.m. The 22-kilometre route looped through the industrial park.
WATCH BELOW: Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer received a warm welcome and standing ovation when he arrived at Ensign Drilling to speak to demonstrators.
The convoy in support of building more pipelines coincided with the arrival of federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer. He attended a mini-town hall and site tour of Ensign Drilling at 12:30 p.m. hosted by Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, and another town hall in the city at the Edmonton Inn (11834 Kingsway Ave.) at 4 p.m.
Scheer used the event to criticize the federal government’s $1.6 billion aid package to the energy sector.
He says oil and gas workers don’t need handouts, they need a new pipeline.
“Give a province $1.6 billion you might feed them for a couple of weeks, but let them build a pipeline to get our energy to market and you can feed them for a generation,” Scheer said Wednesday.
WATCH BELOW: Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said: “Give a province $1.6B and you might feed them for a couple weeks but let them build a pipeline to get our energy to market and you can feed them for a generation.”
Alberta critical of Ottawa’s $1.6B for energy sector
The convoy came one day after Premier Rachel Notley said Ottawa’s new $1.6-billion aid package for the oilpatch will help, but is essentially tone deaf and won’t fix the pipeline bottleneck crippling the province.
Federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced the package in Edmonton Tuesday. The money, largely in the form of corporate loans, is aimed at helping companies stay afloat, buy new equipment and diversify.
WATCH BELOW: The federal government’s $1.6 billion for the energy sector is being touted as a way to support jobs, but as Quinn Ohler reports, it’s not going to get anyone back to work anytime soon.
Notley called the announcement a start.
“We don’t need help finding more markets. We need help moving our product, and I don’t know that we could have been much more clear about that,” Notley said Tuesday in Calgary. “Offering Alberta business owners and industry the opportunity to go further in debt is not any kind of long-term solution.
“Especially not when we are a province and we are talking about an industry that is very good at being profitable if given the freedom to do so.”
Political opponents dismissed the money as a politically motivated and ultimately ineffective gesture. Scheer claimed the money was an “election-year attempt to trick western Canadians into thinking (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) cares,” and United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney said it was “too little, too late for those families suffering.”
Pro-pipeline rallies popping up across Alberta
In recent weeks, there have been demonstrations and protests around the province, demanding Canada step up to help Alberta’s oil industry given its broader beneficial impact on the national economy.
Tom Hinderks with Rally Canada is one of the organizers of Wednesday’s event. He explained to Danielle Smith on 770 CHQR his issue with the $1.6 million in federal aid announced Tuesday for the oil and gas industry.
“It’s commercial loans to export product that we can’t export because there are no pipelines.”
Hinderks explained why the wanted to get in the face of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
“It’s about politicians having to stand face-to-face with the public.
“I don’t care what party they are. Every government in the last period of time has dropped the ball. It’s time they were held accountable and they had to step forward and answer to the people. Look them in the face, ’cause this is about people and families, and tell them how they’re going to fix it.”
WATCH BELOW: Kent Morrison spoke with convoy organizer Laurie Ryan about why Albertans are speaking out.
A rally organized by the pro-oilsands groups Oilfield Dads and Rally4Resources in Grande Prairie this past weekend was followed by a convoy of more than 600 trucks blasting their horns. RCMP estimated more than 1,500 people attended that rally in the northwestern Alberta city.
There was also a large, heated rally organized by Canada Action in Calgary on Monday.
Those demonstrations have included so-called yellow vest protesters. Some of those demonstrators came to Sohi’s news conference, standing in the back, videotaping the speech, and muttering their displeasure.
WATCH BELOW: Video of recent protests around Alberta
In recent weeks, Notley has ordered Alberta oil companies to cut production to prop up prices, and has called for Trudeau to help the province buy more rail cars to get oil to market in the short term. Sohi’s package did not include money for that.
Although the price for Alberta crude has rebounded slightly from just $11 a barrel late last month, it is still trading at between $26 and $28. That’s about half of what Texas producers get.
The price gap is costing Canada’s economy an estimated $80 million per day, according to both the Alberta and federal governments.
WATCH BELOW: Ottawa is pumping $1.6 billion into Alberta’s energy sector, but province says oil companies don’t need more debt. Mercedes Stephenson joined Dawna Friesen on Global National to explain what the industry really wants.
— With files from Dean Bennett and Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press