GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. – A rally in support of Alberta’s oil industry drew hundreds of supporters who cheered as speakers delivered a message that the rest of Canada needs to be thankful for the prosperity the province provides.
“We aren’t just a monumental cash cow for the government. We provide opportunities for families across the country,” Bernard Hancock, known as Bernard the Roughneck, told the crowd at a park in Grande Prairie, Alta., on Sunday.
“It puts chicken in the pot in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. It puts a roast in the oven in Miramichi, New Brunswick. It puts tortiere on the fork in Granby, Quebec. And it puts tofu on the table in Toronto and Vancouver!”
The event was organized by the pro-oilsands groups Oilfield Dads and Rally4Resources, which say government regulations are suffocating the Canadian oil and gas industry.
Grande Prairie is a hub for oil production in northwestern Alberta, known as Peace Country. Like the rest of the province, it has felt the pinch as the province’s oil industry struggles from a price differential that’s in part due to a lack of capacity to transport its oil to markets.
Many who attended Sunday’s rally held signs denouncing the federal government’s Bill C-69 to revamp the National Energy Board, which opponents say will make it impossible to build new pipelines.
RCMP estimated more than 1,500 people attended the rally. Afterward, a convoy of over 600 vehicles drove through the city with their horns blasting.
Alberta’s Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous, who spoke at the event, slammed the federal government for not doing more to help.
“There is not a road, a bridge or hospital that does not owe something to the Alberta energy sector and we need the prime minister to wake up to that,” he said.
Bilous also made a dig at a recent call by the council of Whistler, B.C. for the oil industry to share in covering the costs associated with climate change.
“The people of Whistler need to tell the truth: that they are using Alberta gas for their cars for their petrochemical products, and they’re using our oil and it’s time to smarten up,” he told the rally.
Whistler’s mayor, Jack Crompton, apologized in a Facebook video last week.
Alberta’s Opposition Leader Jason Kenney, who typically criticizes the NDP government’s carbon tax during public appearances, limited his salvos mostly for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and what he called “foreign money” that opposes Canada’e energy sector.
While Quebec Premier Bernard Legault, speaking about the proposed Energy East pipeline, recently said there’s no “social acceptability” for a pipeline that would carry what he called “dirty” energy through his province, Kenney blamed Quebec politicians rather than Quebecers.
“The vast majority of Quebecers are hard-working women and men who support our resource industries. They work in the forestry sector, they work in mining, they understand the people of the Peace Country,” Kenney told the rally.
“But they have political leadership that is saying they will take $13 billion in equalization money, largely from your industry, largely from this province.”
—By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton