Alberta Politics
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, at the start of a large march through Edmonton yesterday (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Massive Edmonton rally greets eco-activist Greta Thunberg; tiny truck counter-protest ignored by all but media

Posted on October 19, 2019, 2:26 am
10 mins

It would have been a remarkable accomplishment for any group to summon a throng the size of the multitude that enthusiastically greeted 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg in Edmonton yesterday afternoon.

To do it on three days’ notice in the capital city of Canada’s fossil fuel heartland where everyone supposedly holds the same rosy view of pipelines and petroleum extraction is not only a tribute to the incredible organizing skills of the young people who run Edmonton Climate Justice, but a barometer of the true level of concern about global warming in this province, country and world.

Ms. Thunberg, with some of her young supporters, on Jasper Avenue (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Especially with a federal election hours away, Alberta’s United Conservative Party and the federal party it supports arguably should take note of the potential long-term impact of denying climate change and stalling efforts to reduce its impact. Yesterday, however, the UCP mostly took a powder.

That included Premier Jason Kenney who seized the opportunity to re-announce a natural gas pipeline 70 kilometres out of town.

In addition to widespread concern about the environment, part of the explanation for the huge mid-day crowd was doubtless the star power exerted by Ms. Thunberg, who came here despite the threats of a group of Yellow Vesty truckers to disrupt the march and climate strike.

Ms. Thunberg addresses a crowd estimated at 10,000 people at the Alberta Legislature (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In the event, the counter-protesters’ threats were almost a total bust. Ms. Thunberg walked unhindered by cranky truckers, who were kept at a distance by police, six blocks through the streets of downtown. She was accompanied by about half the protesters who gathered at the Legislature, her small figure shielded by a retinue of young marchers.

When the march flowed into the Legislature’s plaza like a river of humanity, a massive crowd was already waiting.

Needless to say, the size of the crowd was soon controversial, with some of the usual suspects on the right questioning the organizers’ estimate 10,000 people filled the plaza in front of the Alberta Legislature. Some cited a police estimate of about 4,000, which would be close to the number of people who took part in the march from Beaver Hills House Park on Jasper Avenue.

Regardless of those opinions, the general rule of thumb among veteran Alberta protest organizers dating back to the days of mass demonstrations against Premier Ralph Klein’s effort to privatize health care is that it takes about 10,000 people to fill the plaza. Yesterday, the throng with Ms. Thunberg filled the plaza and overflowed into the square in front of the Federal Building. My personal estimate is that the crowd was closer to 12,000.

Part of the crowd flows into the Legislature’s plaza from the area of the Federal Building to the north (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Ms. Thunberg kept her remarks to about 10 minutes, and emphasized the gravity of the threat that faces the planet, not the specifics of the Alberta’s oilsands or its fossil fuel extraction industry.

“Today, it’s Friday, and as always we are on climate strike, young people all around the globe are again sacrificing their education to bring attention to the climate and ecological emergency,” she told the crowd. “We are not doing this because we want to, we aren’t doing it because it’s fun, we aren’t doing it because we have a special interest in the climate, or because we want to become politicians when we grow up.

The throng in the Plaza before Ms. Thunberg spoke (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“We are doing this because our future is at stake. We are doing this because in this crisis we will not be bystanders. And we are doing it because we want the people in power to unite behind the science.”

“We teenagers are not scientists, nor are we politicians, but it seems many of us, apart from most others, understand the science, because we have done our homework,” she continued. “If people really knew about the full consequences of the climate and ecological emergency, then they would join us in the streets.”

“And if you think we should be in school instead, then we suggest you take our place in the streets, or better yet, join us, so we can speed up the process,” she said to loud cheers from the crowd.

As for the counter-protesting truckers, they came in about 30 vehicles, mostly pickup trucks, honked their horns and revved their engines while passersby ignored them.

If there were two people in each truck, no certainty, they were outnumbered by climate protesters approximately 200 to one. And, anyway, their protest was no different from a normal driving day in Edmonton when the truck-nuts crowd comes to town.

Despite mainstream media’s efforts to make it seem as if the protests were roughly equivalent, and its strange shyness about estimating the size of the crowd at the Legislature, the truckers would have done better to save diesel fuel by staying home in Red Deer.

Rachel Notley endorses Heather McPherson in Edmonton Strathcona

Better late than never, Opposition Leader Rachel Notley has endorsed Heather McPherson, the NDP candidate in the federal Edmonton Strathcona in which she lives.

NDP candidate Heather McPherson (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“With the emerging possibility of a federal government led by Conservative Andrew Scheer and supported by the separatist Bloc, I am deeply concerned for the future of our country,” the former NDP premier wrote in a social media post published yesterday, walking back an earlier comment that she hadn’t decided whom to vote for because of her disagreements about pipeline policy with federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

“Mr. Scheer’s plans with respect to rolling back action on climate change, making massive cuts to federal spending that would hurt Canadian families, and tolerating divisive anti-choice, homophobic and xenophobic views within his party, are deeply troubling,” she wrote. In the face of that, it has become increasingly clear, she said, that only one candidate can defeat the Conservative in the riding, and that is Ms. McPherson.

I know Heather McPherson to be an articulate woman of integrity, intelligence, determination and competence. I know she understands the importance of the energy industry to Albertans. I know she will stand up in Parliament, and in her caucus, to ensure Alberta’s perspective is heard — not just by those who agree with us but also by those who do not.

“Last Monday I voted for Heather McPherson. This Monday I urge voters in Edmonton Strathcona to do the same.”

Today marks 35th anniversary of Grant Notley’s death

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the death of Alberta NDP leader Grant Notley, father of Ms. Notley,

Mr. Notley was killed in a commercial plane crash while flying from Edmonton to Peace River to spend the weekend in his Spirit River-Fairview constituency.

Chosen as party leader in 1968, he was elected to the Legislature in the 1971 general election. In the 1982 provincial election, joined by Ray Martin, the two New Democrats became the Official Opposition.

18 Comments to: Massive Edmonton rally greets eco-activist Greta Thunberg; tiny truck counter-protest ignored by all but media

  1. Bill Malcolm

    October 19th, 2019

    Thunberg has such a clear voice and such a clean delivery of her lines, it really is quite remarkable. She seems to inherently know not to go on like a dull bore, but make her points short, sharp and direct, leaving supporters aching for just a bit more. That’s clever. And effective.

    Makes our two main “leaders” in this bloody awful election campaign seem like stumblebums. The only time Scheer sounds strong is when he’s lying as he did yesterday claiming the Liberal-NDP coalition, which doesn’t even exist, would raise GST. For which baseless assertion he got called out by a CBC reporter as pulling numbers out of thin air, and even CTV and Global didn’t feature him in a great light. There’s your main dope of the moment who needs to pay heed to Thunberg, and get a lesson in how to tell the truth at the same time — apparently, he is congenitally unable to do so. An obstinate dullard and social regressive who turns out to be a nasty angry piece of work. Kenney just put his hands over his ears and buggered off out of town — he’s the ultimate back room boy and hates direct confrontation, preferring to sleaze it out from a UCP bunker.

    Trudeau declared a Climate Emergency a couple of months ago, and after metaphorically pasting that poster on a billboard for a whole day promptly forgot all about it, other than attempting to worm his way into Thunberg’s confidence in Montreal for a hoped-for spot of selfie indulgence. That was a bust, because she took no notice of his posturing. What swirling nonsense runs around in that man’s head I cannot comprehend. It’s all froth and no substance and a need to be loved, while the old guard running him goes on acting pretty much the same as always, influencing his scatterbrain to act like a neoliberal at home, and a neoconservative overseas, all in the aid of business.

    I was glad to see so many attend the rally in the oil patch matching the Halifax turnout on Climate Strike day. And I’m also glad that Notley grudgingly managed to struggle with her soul and say she voted NDP in the advance poll. Singh turns out to be no flash in the pan — who’d have guessed that back in August? Certainly not many. And I love him sticking it to Quebecers, faux sophisticates at best, who justify nonsense by saying 70% of them believe in putting down wearing religious symbols for people in public service – the tyranny of the majority over the unable to be heard minority there has not gone unnoticed.

    Personally, I got completely fed up with all the nonsense this time around, and voted in the advance poll myself for the first time ever. Apparently 4.7 million voters agreed. No matter how you slice it, having some party run Canada on about 30% voter support ain’t going to cut it. 70% of voters denied? If Scheer in particular, holder of such right wing views and willing to concoct lying nonsense on cue, tries to wrest control of the Commons when he doesn’t even know his Grade 10 Civics after being Speaker, he’ll engender backlash, I believe. In any case, no other party would support him on many matters, so he would be tossed in a non-confidence vote before he ever got started on his austerity nonsense. Ironically I think the Liberals would support him more often than the smaller parties because of that TM pipeline purchase. They’re both establishment. So where’s our proportional representation that was supposed to prevent crap like this? That’s Trudeau’s cross to bear for cancelling it, the dolt.

    When are our two main parties going to reflect the broader public opinion on issues of import? Ever, never or what? All we got was Scheer bashing Trudeau, and vice versa with a helping of dissing Doug Fraud, and about zero policy on real matters. We were instead offered a few hundred bucks apiece as bribes from both of them. The Greens tanked, which was disappointing, given Thunberg’s following. I think we’ll be back on the hustings next Spring, and then there’ll be a ding dong battle.

    Meanwhile, the real pressing problem of climate change has been essentially given a pass, despite Thunberg and young people. Talk about smoke and mirrors. It’s so easy for the moneyed influencers to change channels with the useless main street media they own breathlessly reporting on “leaders” bashing each other, rather than on issues. There was not a scrap of vision for the future offered by either Liberals or Conservatives. That’s the sorry state of Canada 2019.

    Reply
  2. Farmer Brian

    October 19th, 2019

    Interesting article in the Edmonton Sun about Rachel Notley declaring she will vote NDP in the federal election. The article talks about how the former Premier still disagrees with Jagmeet Singh on the Transmountain expansion and will continue to challenge him on that issue. There are two interesting quotes from her that follow. “However, it is also my view that there is no parliamentary makeup that will allow Mr. Singh to assert those views.” Then she says “A minority government brings us the possibility of a national pharmacare program, a national dental-care program and at long last, real progress on establishing a national childcare program. These are important to me, and they are important to many Albertan’s.” So what amazes me after reading the two quotes is that on one hand she believes that a minority parliament won’t allow Jagmeet Singh to stop Transmountain but on the other a minority parliament will allow him to get a national pharmacare and a national daycare program. What amazingly fuzzy thinking from our former Premier!! Enjoy your day.

    Reply
    • John T

      October 20th, 2019

      Interesting points. Have anything to say about this article?

      Reply
    • Farmer Dave

      October 20th, 2019

      Farmer Brian, just by your comments were you in Jason Kenney’s 30 million dollar war room making your comments while he was hiding 70 K west of Edmonton from Greta Thunberg?

      Reply
  3. John T

    October 19th, 2019

    Nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

    V Hugo.

    Reply
  4. Political Ranger

    October 19th, 2019

    It seemed that on Friday the children were playing the part of reasonable and reasoning adults while the contrived government of unctuous and devious adults played the part of petulant children.
    Kenney and his crew knew they couldn’t attack Greta or her companions, nor the cause they were fighting for. But do you think those man-children in the legislature could bring themselves to recognise the issue? Not a chance!
    And where are the other so-called leaders in this province? Crickets!

    Reply
  5. Alex Polkovsky

    October 19th, 2019

    Captured by the oil industry to one side and the oily Consecutive Party to the other, Alberta isn’t just landlocked, we’re so far behind, we think we’re ahead.

    Consider this piece in theTyee.can early this month, How Would Our Wartime Conservative Leaders Have Acted on the Climate Crisis? by Seth Klein. In the five years of Canada’s participation in WW-II, the nation of 11.5 million sent over a million soldiers to war, built 800,000 jeeps and trucks, 50,000 tanks, hundreds of warships and cargo ships, some 16,000 aircraft, supplied our soldiers and kept track of it all.

    Jason Kenny mostly just grins like he’s planning to fight forest fires with tax cuts. Andrew Scheer is so brave, he is contending a national election armed with only a vacuum where coherent policy, honest answers, and I presume his soul should be.

    Reply
  6. Scotty on Denman

    October 19th, 2019

    Greta Thunberg is certainly making an impression upon environmental activism, starting in Northern Europe where such controversy as exists about climate-change is more about how fast to do something about it, and mobilizing her high school climate-strike straight to one of the beating hearts of the global petroleum octopus in Alberta where such controversy rather roils around whether climate-change exists at all, of whether it’s just the weather.

    One of the first impressions I get from her remarkable sojourn is that her student supporters on the Great Plains can’t be branded as foreign-funded fifth-columnists so easily by tiresomely repetitious climate-change deniers—and that’s plainly great! To see those Albertan students, among whom “a retinue of young marchers” shielding “her small figure” from the impotent contingent of Albetarian Bitumanoids that droves of Thunberg’s well-wishers expected, is to admire marchers’ determination, instead of fanaticism, to work together around the world seriously, not merely celebrate stardom.

    The spectacle is particularly heartwarming for me because it reminds of the Alberta I know and love— down to earth and get-down-to-business —where friendship and familiarity is easily found for anyone who goes there, but perhaps recently obscured by political polling in an icy climate of polarity over whether the polar regions are really melting —which might be the only impression everyone who’s never been to this great province gets, especially in this climate of political tumult and caricature.

    Big thank you to organizers who supplied police protection for the yellow-vested truck-revvers intent on disrupting the protest else they get trampled by the “river of humanity” and massive crowd already waiting for the tiny climate-striker in-chief. Pray that the real disruption has been to the cultic intransigence of the petro-chauvinists to accelerate through their darkest, secret doubts and fears about the petro-industry and their jobs and throw brilliant daylight on realization that these determined, sunny faces present their futures, their very families getting down to the business of helping them with both science and love.

    What heart, even the stoniest bitum-o-bumpkin bachelor’s, would want to separate from these wonderful students—our children and grandchildren? What petrified brain isn’t nagged by the amply demonstrated fact that, like Greta has so movingly articulated, we’ve left them no other choice but to strike for the climate just as surely as we have no other choice but to let them take helm. The time has come as surely as too much of the past has overstayed its welcome.

    Belligerence failed to disrupt or provoke reaction in kind. Let the rest of Canada know this side of the Wild Rose province, too.

    Thank you, all.

    Reply
    • Death and Gravity

      October 22nd, 2019

      Thank you for this, Scotty. Sometimes, I am driven to despair by Alberta politics and the Alberta electorate, and start to hate them. This was a good reminder that even most of the conservative voters are not really members of the troll army.

      Reply
  7. Gillian Steward

    October 19th, 2019

    I came up from Calgary by bus for the rally and was amazed to see about 10,000 people gathered in front of the Legislature.
    That was a story in itself! But the news media, in my opinion, really skewed the coverage. They tried to make it about conflict between pro- oil truckers and people who want to combat climate change. But as far as I could see the truckers had hardly any presence at the rally. The skewed coverage was duly noted by the people on the bus heading back to Calgary as further evidence that the Alberta media is completely cowed by the powers that be.

    Reply
    • Sheldon

      October 20th, 2019

      I arrived at the legislature grounds at 11 am. At that time with only a small crowd starting to gather the pro oil group appeared to number three hundred people and were a good percentage of the crowd. By 12:30 when the marchers arrived the crowd was overwhelmingly pro Greta. I’d add the estimate of 10,000 people supporting the rally is a conservative count.

      Reply
  8. David Grant

    October 19th, 2019

    Great to hear that Greta made the impression that she made even though her presence overshadowed the AUPE rally I attended later in the day. By the way, I think I saw David C in the crowd. If he was there, then great. Perhaps he can give his perspective on that one.

    Reply
  9. Jim

    October 19th, 2019

    Sad day indeed I remember the event, left to wonder what Notley could have accomplished. Also makes one remember the time when politicians were more civil he was on a very small plane with the PC MLA from a neighbouring riding.

    The details have faded over time but wasn’t the final destination of the flight Peace River? The crash occurred while landing in High Prairie where Larry Shaben lived and was the PC MLA. I have seen the Grande Prairie reference in numerous places, perhaps because that is where the prisoner on the plane was being transferred? Maybe someone can correct my memory, did at one time have a copy the book Larry Shaben’s daughter wrote.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      October 20th, 2019

      I just took another look at the book — which I read a couple of years ago from the public library, but don’t own — in Preview on Goodreads, and the flight in question was a milk run between Grande Prairie & Edmonton Municipal Airport, with stops at High Prairie & Fairview scheduled for the return leg, but only if there were passengers stopping there, which there were on that awful night. The crash happened at High Prairie.

      Reply
    • Simon Renouf

      October 20th, 2019

      Jim, your recollection is correct. I just checked Carol Shaben’s “Into the Abyss”, a book about the crash and its survivors. The first chapter is readable on-line at Ms Shaben’s website carolshaben.com. The flight was scheduled to go from Edmonton’s municipal airport to High Prairie and then on to Peace River. The crash occurred in heavy snow on the approach to High Prairie airport.

      By coincidence I had been driving from Edmonton to Grande Prairie that Friday night. As a union rep I had stopped to meet with nurses at the hospitals in both Slave Lake and High Prairie on my route. When I left Slave Lake it was starting to snow. I was at the hospital in High Prairie for about an hour. When I came outside there was probably 20 centimetres of snow on my car. The drive to Grande Prairie was probably the worst of my life, but I did survive. I was able to attend Grant Notley’s funeral in Fairview the following week.

      Reply
  10. Dave

    October 20th, 2019

    Whatever the number, it was an impressive turn out. I think the 4,000 was a very conservative estimate, but there is a conventional thinking in Alberta that almost all people are only interested in supporting the energy industry and I think many let that influence their reporting. Certainly that does not seem to be the case, particularly with the youth of Alberta. There is hope for the future. However, too bad Mr. Kenney was no where near to see for himself the actual size of the crowd. All those people will be voting in a few years – I think not a good sign for his long term political future. The big trucks made a bit of noise, but it seemed like the same few driving around and around in a circle. I actually thought the counter protest would have been bigger, this one actually seemed much smaller than the one the big truck rally they had several months ago to welcome or support Scheer. Maybe their heart is really not in protesting against our youth and fellow Albertans, as much as it was for protesting against Trudeau.

    Greta is an excellent communicator, she keeps her message focused, short, to the point and avoids needless controversies. She even talked about that the environment should be a non partisan issue and she is absolutely correct. As I recall, at one time many conservatives actually supported a carbon tax as the best and most effective way to reduce emissions. Unfortunately, their current crop of so called leaders is not so visionary and has substituted total short term political expediency instead. Their hope is to obviously play to peoples fears about increasing energy prices, which is why the never seem to acknowledge the existence of rebates which will offset the carbon tax for most people (the money raised from the carbon tax will mostly be recycled – now, there is an environmentally friendly approach), but then most of their campaign has been based on lies, half truths and misleading people.

    I often think of Mr. Kenney as the Don Quixote of our time, tilting against wind mills, fighting imaginary, but ultimately losing battles first against social progress as a leader of the social conservative side of the Conservative Party. Now, he has retreated to the strong hold of Conservatism to fight Canada and the world against climate change. Although he still looks powerful locally now, I suspect it will ultimately be another losing battle for him. I think history will not be kind to him or the other current reactionary Conservatives leaders with their desperate appeals to populism at a time when we really should be thinking about how to do more about the issue of climate change, not making excuses to less or nothing.

    Reply
  11. Andrew

    October 20th, 2019

    The young people organizing with Edmonton Climate Social Justice are doing great things. Whip-smart on the social media, terrific job at terrestrial organizing, and unafraid to poke a stick at the comfortable Alberta “progressive”. Get at it.

    Reply
  12. David Grant

    October 20th, 2019

    I am not surprised that the media did skew the coverage. I cancelled my subscription for the Herald because of the terrible coverage of labour and environmental issues. I think it is hard to underestimate the depths of influence that exists in the province. Even at the annual AUPE convention that I attended, there were boos when Greta’s name was mentioned. There is a big section of the members there that do support the oil industry and see any criticism as demonizing the oil workers. Clearly we still have a lot of work to do and I don’t think that the younger people will give up on this issue.

    Reply

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