Hundreds of oil workers backed by “yellow vest” activists rallied in Ottawa in protest at government curbs on pipeline construction (Lars Hagberg)
Ottawa (AFP) – A convoy of big trucks from Canada’s oil producing regions rolled into the capital Ottawa Tuesday as hundreds of people including “yellow vest” activists rallied in protest at government curbs on pipeline construction.
Parked outside parliament, they honked horns and waved placards reading “Canadians need pipelines and good paying jobs,” as they pressed for new regulations allowing the industry to expand.
“This country was built on natural resources,” Ottawa area farmer and former politician Jack MacLaren told a cheering crowd.
“What’s going on in the oil industry is terrible. The world wants to buy our oil but we can’t get it to them.”
Nearly 50 big rigs drove almost 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) from Red Deer, Alberta for the rally, which brought together about 500 oil workers, backed by farmers and “yellow vest” protestors.
They were met by a smaller counterprotest that included environmental activists calling for a “livable climate” and indigenous groups agitating for their rights.
Canada is the world’s fourth largest producer and exporter or oil, but almost all of it is sold to the United States at a discount.
Many efforts over recent decades to build new pipelines have meanwhile faltered or failed under intense opposition from environmental and indigenous groups.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has declared building conduits to move oil to tidewater for shipping to new overseas markets a national imperative, in order to ease Canada’s reliance on the US and to get a better price for its oil.
In August, the federal government bought the 1,150-kilometer (715-mile) Trans Mountain pipeline and relaunched consultations with Pacific coast indigenous groups after a court ruled the tribes should get a say in the project to move 890,000 barrels per day.
The tribes worried that increased shipping from a marine terminal at the end of the route in Vancouver would impede the recovery of killer whale populations in the area.
A new bill, currently in the Senate, also looks to break the deadlock by imposing new environmental assessment measures on mega-projects.
But that bill has upset energy workers who say onerous regulations have strangled growth in the oil sector.
The oil workers have drawn support from farmers concerned that oil is being increasingly shipped by rail, displacing grain shipments, and from opponents to a federal carbon tax.
United We Roll convoy organizer Glen Carritt told AFP: “We’re tired of our energy sector not being taken seriously.
“We need pipelines to be built,” he said. “There’s been too much procrastination by our government, and we need action now.”
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