Trucks lined up near Weyburn, prepared to join the Rally Against the Carbon Tax on April 4, 2019. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

WEYBURN, ESTEVAN – Long before the “truckers convoy” protested COVID-19 pandemic measures in Ottawa, a series of convoys in and from Saskatchewan and Alberta paved the way, as it were. And those protests over four years ago have finally seen success, in the form of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on Oct. 13 that found one of their major issues unconstitutional.

 

Around Christmas time of 2018, a spontaneous truck convoy protest took place in Estevan. In less than three days, a protest was organized with a 14 kilometre long convoy of trucks rolling through town. Their drivers were protesting federal energy policies including the carbon tax, pipelines, Bill C-69 (the Impact Assessment Act, a.k.a “No More Pipelines Bill”, and Bill C-48, the oil tanker ban. That led to similar, quickly organized protests throughout western Canada. Local truck convoy protests occurred in almost every significant oilfield community from Virden, Manitoba, to Grande Prairie, Alberta.

A Jerry Mainil Ltd. truck parked at the very gates of Parliament, February, 2019.

Left: Jason LeBlanc’s truck parked at the gates of Parliament, right, a truck belonging to Jerry Mainil Ltd. The same site, three years later, would see truckers line these exact same streets, this time fighting COVID-19 measures imposed by the federal government as opposed to energy policies. Since then, trucks are all but barred from this street in front of Parliament.

A few weeks later, now in February, 2019, a convoy to Ottawa took place, with similar motivations. It picked up several participants from southeast Saskatchewan, including Dale Mainil of Weyburn and Jason LeBlanc of Estevan, both of which contributed a truck to the protest through their businesses. Those trucks ended up parked right at the gates of Parliament. LeBlanc gave a speech standing in a snowbank in front of Parliament, as they were forced off the sidewalks by security personnel.

Jason LeBlanc stood in the snow in February, 2019, because House of Commons security would not allow the protest to stand on the wide, empty sidewalks in front of Parliament. Photo by Stacey Wempe

And from that, several of those participants determined it was time to organize their own convoy, this time to Regina to protest the carbon tax and those other energy policies. Mainil and LeBlanc were two of the lead organizers, in a group that numbered around two dozen.

Jason LeBlanc, in red, centre, during an organizational meeting for the Regina truck convoy. Dale Mainil is in the bottom left, facing away. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

While there are some activists that protest their respective causes on a frequent basis, both oil patch workers and farmers rarely, if ever, are the type of people to join a protest.

After weeks of preparation, a convoy of 860 trucks, both oilfield and agricultural, rolled into Regina on April 4, 2019, parking at Evraz Place. And there they were greeted by Premier Scott Moe in a rally which focused on those very energy issues – carbon tax, pipelines, Bill C-69 and C-48.

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Supreme Court ruling

On Oct. 13, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that most of Bill C-69, now in law as the Impact Assessment Act, was unconstitutional.

Pipeline Online asked to of those convoy organizers, Dale Mainil and Jason LeBlanc, what they thought of the ruling.

The Jerry Mainil Ltd. contingent for the 2019 convoy to Ottawa: from left: Darcy McCormick, Dale Mainil, Josh Mainil, Calvin Tracey and Terry Benning.

Mainil, one of the owners of oilfield construction firm Jerry Mainil Ltd., said on Oct. 17, “It’s progress. You know the courts are so political. I was surprised, but happily. And it’s a start, but we got a huge hurdle still ahead of us to right the ship to make our industry what it is.”

Asked if the judgement is too late, Mainil said, “I’m an optimist. Nothing’s ever too late. It’s just going to take a long time to stop the train and turn it around. And, you know, we’ve got the best industry in the world, in our oil and gas, in the safest and the most environmentally friendly. Yet, when you have politicians down east that don’t recognize that, whether it be in Estevan and a carbon capture of CO2 or, or how we do things environmentally friendly in our industry here in Western Canada, oil and gas. That is, it’s frustrating.”

He added, “There’s no renewable energy that is going to replace oil and gas tomorrow. So we need this industry, regardless of what the politicians say. We need this industry, and we have the best in the world. So, I believe we’re definitely it’s an uphill battle as your business and my business know, but we have choices do we have?”

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Jason LeBlanc, an Estevan-area farmer and retired auctioneer who is currently reeve of the RM of Estevan, took a lot of personal flack as a result of the protests. He was personally (and wrongfully) maligned as having “anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic sentiment” by none other than the NDP Leader of Opposition Ryan Meili, speaking in the Legislature under parliamentary privilege, which protected him from slander litigation. Meili’s verbal assault on LeBlanc, a man very well known in the agriculture industry, led to the number of participants taking part in the convoy doubling in the space of two days. By the time the convoy rolled into Regina, more half the trucks were from the agriculture sector.

Speaking to Pipeline Online on Oct. 17, LeBlanc said of those federal energy policies, “Well, the whole thing was a farce from the start, when you’ve got an activist in charge of Canada’s largest checkbook, which is Steven Guilbeault. He should have never gotten that far, but that you got activism, you got a federal government that was bound to kill it all in the name of climate change. And they didn’t care who they stepped on all the way. And we did some push backs. We got behind our premier. We supported them on the fight back and it’s paying off. People are slowly waking up to it. Now they’re very quickly starting to see the damage has been done.”

As for Meili’s comments, LeBlanc noted it’s a common left-wing theme to attack the person they disagree with, as opposed to their points of contention. “The left wing seems to know you’re right. So they changed the narrative a little bit. They started calling you a racist and a bigot and a yellow vester and all that because they can’t argue the facts, they just want to change the narrative a little bit. We can all see that now. He quit. He was so upset over it.”

LeBlanc thinks similar tactics are being used against Premier Scott Moe. LeBlanc said, “He’s got his hands full all the time. There’s somebody coming at him from different angles all the time. But if you look at it, it’s the same group of people that try to discredit him and take him down, from a different angle, all the time. And now they’ve lost this, the majority of their concentration now is on pronouns. They just jump from one thing to another, never leave him alone. And he’s done a very good job but so we’re happy with the decision because it was the right decision.”

LeBlanc thinks one of the reasons behind the ruling against the Impact Assessment Act was the Supreme Court is realizing there are winds of change afoot in the discourse of the nation. He said, “One of my reasons is that the Trudeau government’s polls are falling. Any judge who is to go down with them, or they’re starting to look after themselves a little bit, too, and realize, hey, we can’t just slide this stuff in. There has to be reality check now.”

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Right side of history  

Asked if he felt they were on the right side of history, Mainil said, “Well, I hope so. This whole thing, what I call a climate cult, is starting to wear thin when it affects people’s pocketbooks, which it is, today. People are realizing that, yes, sure, we want to have a good environment, good climate policies. But we’ve gone too far. It’s like anything, whether it’s climate or whether it’s oil, or that’s agriculture, the pendulum always swings too far. And it’s got to come back.”

LeBlanc said of history, “I think we were. I think we were trying. We went into the pit of fire, because that was right after the Greta Thornburg thing and all that. The schools were against us, the teachers were against us. Pretty much anybody that wasn’t in the oilpatch was against us. Now, those are the same people that are coming back and saying, ‘Hey, yeah, you guys were right all along.’”

Rally in Regina, April 4, 2019. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

Mainil added, “We’re all for a cleaner and healthier planet. But we do a pretty good job right now. And we’ve improved, in my 40 years in the industry, hugely. And we’re gonna keep continuing to improve. But that doesn’t mean you should kill an industry, which this federal government has tried to do, and have been pretty successful.

“Back to the court, your original question, that’s a step in the right direction. And I’m pleasantly surprised.”

He didn’t expect such a ruling from the Supreme Court because, as Mainil said, “They’re more of a left-leaning court.”

He pointed out Alberta and Saskatchewan had challenged the carbon tax in court and lost. “This is the first win. So maybe that train is slowing down, and we’ve got to turn it around. And like I said, I’m an optimist.”

 

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Reaction to Supreme Court ruling “No More Pipelines” Bill C-69 largely unconstitutional

Danielle Smith and Alberta react to Supreme Court Bill C-69 decision, verbatim

The Supreme Court rules the federal impact assessment scheme is largely unconstitutional: ruling