A group of oil and gas advocates is planning a counter-rally in Edmonton Friday at the same time Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is scheduled to attend a climate rally in the city.
United We Roll, the group that organized a massive pro-pipeline convoy to Ottawa earlier this year, is rallying support for people “to come out in unity to show Greta we do not need her yelling at us,” according to a post on the group’s Facebook page.
However, the event is intended to be a peaceful one and any nastiness directed towards the young activist is not welcome.
“That’s absolutely unacceptable, and threatening is criminal. There’s no room for that,” said Joel Mullan, the convoy co-organizer.
“No time for that at all. If that’s the attitude you want to bring — this is a family friendly event — go somewhere else. You’re not welcome here.”
Mullan said participants want to showcase the good people behind Alberta’s oil and gas industry.
“We also want to make the message very, very clear that this is the most ethically produced and cleanest-produced oil in the world. Our environmental standards are second to none.
“It’s a long way off before we phase out oil and gas entirely and in the meantime, why shouldn’t the world get its oil and gas from Alberta?”
Mullan said he hopes Thunberg learns something while she’s in Alberta.
“I hope that she sees the families behind the industry. I hope she learns just how brilliant the engineering is in our oil and gas sector and the stringent environmental standards.”
The convoy is scheduled to leave from Gorts Truck Wash in Red Deer at 7 a.m. Friday, making its way up the QEII and arriving at the Alberta legislature in time for the climate rally.
“This is a call to action,” read the Facebook post. “We in the province of Alberta are tired of celebrities coming into our province and trying to tell us how to run our oil and gas sector. This is a (sic) short notice but we need to let the world know we are proud of our clean energy.”
Blackjacks Games Room in Nisku will also serve as a staging area for the convoy Friday.
“It’s an industry that’s vital for the economic benefit for Canada and Alberta has been beat down the last four or five years,” owner Clarence Shields said.
“We’ve been beat down. And we want the rest of Canada to know that if we’re hurting, the rest of Canada is going to be hurting.
“I think the message that everybody’s trying to get across in Alberta is that we are leaders in the technology and environmental stewardship of the oil and gas industry. We are leaders in the world and we provide that incredible technology to other countries to reduce their carbon footprint.”
Thunberg, 16, is expected to join activists in a march from a downtown Edmonton park to a rally at the legislature. The teen has been making international headlines with her chastising of world leaders whom she accuses of letting down youth by doing too little to tackle climate change.
“We’re expecting young people, old people, anybody who is really concerned about the climate crisis, anybody who is concerned about the future of our planet,” said Stephen Buhler, an organizer with Climate Justice Edmonton, of Friday’s rally.
“Greta is a huge name. I’m sure it’s going to be a really big pull to bring people in. It’ll be like the big headliner coming to town.
“But also, it’ll be a really great time to showcase and talk about the communities and the people who’ve been doing this activism long before us and long before Greta as well.”
He understands why supporters of the oil and gas industry are organizing a convoy as well.
“A lot of people are scared, they’re afraid of how they’re going to put food on the table for their families. This is just a reaction to people thinking their job is going to get taken away. But really what we’re calling for is a transition to a zero carbon economy that leaves nobody behind.”
Edmonton Climate Strike organizer Olivier Adkin-Kaya said there is a lot of excitement among environmentalists about Thunberg’s visit, but he recognizes many in Alberta don’t embrace her views.
Communications strategist Justin Archer will be watching closely on Friday to see how the climate rally and convoy unfold.
“I’m not surprised that people have decided to organize and try to tell the other side of the story. On the other hand, I’m not sure we’re doing ourselves any favours by exhibiting those behaviours when she’s here.
“I think it’s very important to remember, on her visit, that these are images of Alberta that are going to be broadcast globally. So whatever we choose to do tomorrow, that’s going to be how we’re seen. There’s going to be footage,” Archer said.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson extended an invitation to Thunberg to visit city hall. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he hopes Thunberg is warmly welcomed, but there are no plans for the UCP to meet with her.
Edmonton police are aware of the climate rally and convoy counter-protest, and have prepared for these events as they would for any other major city event, the force said in an email Thursday afternoon.
Specialized resources have been assigned to “maintain peace and ensure the safety of citizens” and people should “expect a police presence where the rally and protests are scheduled, including any required traffic diversions.”
“We would like to reassure the citizens of the Edmonton that the EPS is working to ensure sufficient resources are in place to manage the demonstrations,” Insp. Jonathan Coughlan said.
Police said traffic congestion in the downtown core is expected during the rally and protest and motorists should make plans to take other routes.
Police said “the presence of Miss Thunberg does not change the EPS’ priorities.”
With files from The Canadian Press.