Between 150 and 200 people attended the Rally 4 Resources outside the Saskatchewan Legislative Building Tuesday, despite bitter wind-chill.
Refrains of “build that pipe” erupted from the crowd throughout speeches from rally organizers and pro-resource advocacy group Canada Action, Regina Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins, Senator Denis Batters and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.
“We haven’t been getting pipelines built, we haven’t been getting things done and there are a lot of families that don’t have food on the table,” Canada Action founder Cody Battershill said.
Prior to the event, Moe was asked why he was attending this protest and not others, like the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp set-up across the street for over 200 days last year. He said this was a legal protest, and he was invited to speak.
At the rally, Moe railed against federal policies like the carbon tax and Bill C-69, which he called the “no more pipelines bill.”
“This is an industry that creates wealth for all Saskatchewan people and all Canadians, and an industry that we need to support across this country and we need to speak and speak loudly. There are some headwinds coming from our federal government,” Moe said.
Moe was accompanied by a number of cabinet members, as well as opposition members like Trent Wotherspoon and Ryan Meili.
“We were invited to join by the steelworkers and certainly wanted to show solidarity with workers that are concerned about their industries, wanting to make sure that we have access to markets for Saskatchewan resources,” Meili said.
Similar rallies have been taking place across Western Canada, especially Alberta. Canada Action is even organizing a truck convoy, running from British Columbia to Ottawa, next month.
In addition to energy policy, western alienation from Ottawa is a recurring theme in these rallies.
University of Regina political science department head Jim Farney said this current movement reminds him of the agriculture sector in the 1980s.
“It’s an industry that’s under pressure both globally in terms of changing price structures and changing technology, and they’ve got a federal government that’s not – in their view anyway- helping them out in the way it should and people are protesting,” Farney said.
The protests say getting pipelines built to ship oil to tidewater are key to easing Canada’s oil sector challenges. Farney said there are more hurdles than pipelines.
“If you’re out with the protest, and I’m sure Premier Moe will say it today, not having that pipeline is what’s killing our domestic oil industry,” Farney said.
“There’s lots of other people saying the pipeline’s not helping, but there’s really fracking in the U.S. or shifts the big industrial players made after the 2009 fiscal crisis that’s hurting Canada. We’re a high-cost place to drill and we’re just seeing that spin out.”
With this growing western unrest, Farney said it is an opportune time for Conservative politics, especially federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, to make inroads. This includes areas like suburban Ontario with high gas prices.
In the event the United Conservative Party wins the Alberta provincial election, Farney sees regionalism intensifying, with conservative premiers across the prairies.
“They’ll all be perfectly happy to run against Trudeau any chance they get, so that partisan regionalism is just going to be baked in and we’ll have a few years now where it will be very strong,” Farney said.