of The Crossroads
The oil and gas industry is not pleased with the Canadian government. Members of the industry and their supporters have rallied to send a message to Ottawa.
More than 100 people gathered in the parking lot at the Kindersley Mall on Dec. 15 for their version of a yellow vest protest. Several people made signs and flew Canadian flags in the show of support for Canada’s oil and gas industry.
The peaceful protest included a march. A large group of the protesters marched along a service road from the Kindersley Mall to the Shell gas station before returning to the mall. The marchers held up traffic on the service road, but no one seemed to mind and several motorists and truckers honked as a show of support.
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The industry wants pipelines to get its products to market, but most pipeline projects are at a standstill for various reasons. People are also protesting Bill C-69, a bill that would change the regulatory framework for pipelines.
Ryan Orton, a Kindersley resident who organized the protest, said he had his reasons for spearheading the yellow vest protest. He said he is a proud Saskatchewan resident and proud of the oil and gas industry, but he could also be considered a third generation oil industry worker.
He noted that he had a grandfather who worked in the oil and gas industry in the Gull Lake area and he had a grandmother who worked for Enbridge, so the industry has been a big part of his family’s history and livelihood. His father also worked in the industry.
Orton spent a brief period of time as a councillor for the Town of Kindersley, so he recognized that he cares about his community and the industry is a big part of the community. Orton said he was thrilled to see great support for the rally.
“I was excited that we got a good turnout here,” he said, recognizing he got the idea after hearing about protests in other places and it was awesome to see more than 100 people at the protest in Kindersley because he only started to spread the word about three days prior.
There were reports of other protests in Saskatchewan on Dec. 15 including rallies in Lloydminster, Swift Current, Yorkton, Saskatchewan and Regina. Orton said the protest was peaceful unlike yellow vest protests in Europe.
The organizer said the industry is pro-pipelines, and he wanted a platform for people to speak up and show their displeasure for the current situation. He noted that another important aspect of the protests are to seek greater respect for the industry and its people from other parts of Canada.
“We’re Canadians, too, and we’re just trying to make our paycheque just like the people in Oshawa, or people that are losing their jobs in the auto industry,” he said, adding it is an important topic for oil and gas workers. “It affects more than just one factory.”
Orton said he believes the concerns with the oil and gas industry are not going to go away any time soon, so he hopes to organize a couple of future protests in the spring and summer. The turnout last Saturday was still nice despite the weather, he said.
The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price of oil has reached its lowest point since October 2017 in recent weeks. The WTI price of oil on Tuesday had dipped below $50 per barrel, a price not seen in more than a calendar year.
Kindersley MLA Ken Francis joined the protesters at the rally and he marched alongside the protesters. Francis worked in the oil and gas industry for several years before being elected as MLA. He said the industry is vital to Kindersley’s economy, so the rallies are important.
“We’re under attack by the federal government’s policies and we’re sick and tired of taking it,” he said, recognizing that protests in Saskatchewan are also showing support for Alberta because the neighbouring province is really under fire. “We’re showing support for the industry and our neighbours to the west.”
When asked what the federal government could do for the industry in light of impacts to the industry from outside of Canada, Francis said it is not a global issue. He said the issue is getting oil to market and Canada needs pipelines to tidewater.
He noted that the federal government has an ability to get pipeline projects going, and the markets are there for Canadian crude if the industry could get its product to tidewater. He stressed that the industry is vital to all of Canada, and the protests are attempts to make it clear to the rest of the country.
Gary Holland, a strong supporter of the industry, was marching on Saturday. He said it was important for him to be there to show his support for Canada as a whole, and his displeasure for what the federal government is doing. He said it was great to see the large turnout.
“It’s very nice to see this many people out supporting each other,” he said, noting that the prime minister is really out of touch with Canadians. “We’re all in this together. We want to see change and maybe this is one way to do it.”
Clarissa Bluett, who is from Kindersley, said the industry has really slowed down and she has noticed it as a result of her job at a frack sand facility. She said there has been a big reduction in staffing at the facility. She added that it was her first protest and she hopes the rallies build momentum to bring positive changes.
Jake Burnard, who has worked in the industry for 14 years, owns and operates a high pressure hot oiling unit. He said it is important for him to show his support because oil companies are slowing down and it is affecting everyone in the industry.