It’s October 2022, the House of Commons has just returned for its fall sitting and across the country, trucks are once again descending on the capital. The vaccine and mask mandates have been lifted since the summer, but the convoy is bigger, louder and prepared to stay even longer to push for its new demand — scrapping the government’s cap on oil and gas emissions.
Speculative fiction? Maybe, but given the history of the convoy movement and our federal government's approach to climate policy, it’s not that far-fetched to imagine the next one being against climate action.
This is a movement that has direct ties to the United We Roll convoy that descended on Ottawa in 2019 to oppose the imposition of a national price on carbon. And many of its leaders and prominent supporters have significant connections to the fossil fuel industry and the universe of fossil fuel astroturf groups that have emerged over the past decade. Remember, Tamara Lich, one of the Freedom Convoy’s named leaders, showed up to her bail hearing in an “I Heart Oil and Gas” sweatshirt.
Movements like the so-called "Freedom Convoy" and the United We Roll rally have a pretty standard playbook. Backed and funded by wealthy business, real estate and right-wing political interests, they find a working-class identity they can put forward as the face of their grievance. In the Freedom Convoy, it was truckers, but in the past, we’ve seen attempts to use farmers and oil workers. Remember, for example, the Bernard the Roughneck campaign that culminated in a man in oil-stained coveralls delivering a pro-oil petition to Parliament while flanked by Conservative politicians.
Once they have their front and frame established, they rally the considerable resources and reach of the right-wing political, media and activist ecosystem behind it. They frame things as a conflict between the “out of touch elites” and the identity they’ve chosen as the forward face of their movement, and they stoke outrage to try to build support towards an eventual standoff.
Now, imagine that Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government moves ahead with its plans to announce a legislated cap on oil and gas emissions. The right will inevitably frame this as an attack on hard-working fossil fuel workers. Once they have stirred enough outrage, it’s not hard to imagine the call going out for another convoy to descend on Parliament.
Of course, there will be some workers and small- and medium-sized oil and gas companies that genuinely believe in the cause, as we saw with the small number of actual truckers in the Freedom Convoy. But, like in this most recent example, the politicians and political organizers behind the scenes use these moments to push a broader far-right political agenda designed to protect profits and enrich already wealthy elites.
It doesn’t have to play out this way. The success of right-wing movements like the so-called “Freedom Convoy” depends on their ability to frame the conflict on their terms. In the case of climate action, that means politicians are hurting working people by putting in place regulations and policies that kill jobs and destroy communities. And there is a grain of truth in that. Getting off fossil fuels won’t happen without consequence. There are thousands of people working in industries today that — if we do what’s necessary to tackle the climate emergency and leave fossil fuels in the ground — won’t be able to work those same jobs in the future.
But, we don’t have to leave those people and communities hanging. We can pass an ambitious, sweeping Just Transition Act that ensures that as we tackle the climate crisis, no one is left behind.
Think of the Just Transition Act as a vaccine against the rise of the far-right. If the federal government passes a bill that guarantees good, well-paying jobs, it makes it a lot harder to land the argument that climate regulations are just policies to kill jobs. And if the Just Transition Act directly supports people and communities, instead of handing money and tax breaks to corporations under the false promise that it will eventually help workers, it inoculates against the accusation that it is just a scheme to enrich the government’s friends.
Opinion: Given the opposition to climate action, it’s not hard to imagine people planning another convoy to oppose any kind of oil and gas regulations, writes @CamFenton. #JustTransition #JustTransitionAct #cdnpoli #StopFundingFossils
The occupation that held downtown Ottawa hostage for nearly a month may be over, but the movement that gave rise to it is far from gone. And given that movement’s history of opposing climate action, it’s not hard to imagine people planning another convoy to oppose any kind of oil and gas regulations.
They’ll try to wrap that opposition in a facade of blue-collar rage and if Canada doesn’t have a Just Transition Act, they might succeed. But, if this government keeps the promise it made in 2019 and passes a big, bold, sweeping Just Transition Act, we can fill in the most important missing pieces of Canada’s climate legislation, help workers and communities, and inoculate our politics against the next “Freedom Convoy.”