LICIA CORBELLA, CALGARY HERALD
The grassroots are aflame and one of the main sparks to the growing blaze of pro-energy activism in this country is a group called Suits and Boots.
Founded by Rick Peterson, an Edmonton financial adviser and owner of Peterson Capital, SuitsandBoots.ca has racked up many significant wins since launching in September.
The group’s main raison d’etre is to “Kill the Bill”. That a huge swath of Canadians even know what that’s referring to — Bill C-69 — has much to do with Peterson’s brainchild, which brings together everybody from white-collar investment and energy executives to blue-collar roughnecks and all the other people in between who owe their livelihoods directly or indirectly to the energy sector and other resource industries.
Suits and Boots already has 3,600 committed members — more than two-thirds of whom are from outside of Alberta. The initiative started with citizens committing to write three senators every day to press them to either kill Bill C-69 or radically amend it. Bill C-69 — the Impact Assessment Act — has been described by Peterson as “the hammer that drives the nail in the coffin of resource-sector investment in Canada.”
Brad Schell, who lives near Okotoks, is leaving Wednesday to drive more than 3,260 kilometres to Arnprior, Ont., just outside of Ottawa to get a one-day head start on the United We Roll convoy to Ottawa made up of hundreds of truckers.
The 67-year-old grandfather, who owns a 53-foot-long truck, had the logo of Suits and Boots applied to the side of his Kenworth, to be a moving billboard for the group that he says helped mobilize him “to do something” against “the complete lack of leadership and common sense in this country that can’t seem to build anything anymore and that is more intent on hurting Canadians than helping them.”
People power is gaining steam.
Bill C-69 is the catalyst behind much of what’s happening. Chris Bloomer, president of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, warned the Parliamentary environment committee last spring that “it is difficult to imagine that a new major pipeline could be built under the Impact Assessment Act, much less attract energy investment to Canada.”
Martha Hall Findlay, a former high-profile federal Liberal and now president of the non-partisan think-tank Canada West Foundation, says if the current Bill C-69 becomes law, “kiss our investment climate goodbye.”
As written, Bill C-69 will completely overhaul Canada’s resource project assessment process, including replacing the National Energy Board with a new Canadian Energy Regulator. On June 20, Bill C-69 passed third reading in the House of Commons and is now in the hands of a Senate committee to come up with amendments that will hopefully fix the myriad flaws contained in this bill.
Once Suits and Boots’ initial letter-writing campaign ended, Peterson urged group members to write all the senators again, particularly those on the Senate’s Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, to take its committee meetings on the road to hear from concerned Canadians across the country.
Last week, the Senate committee voted unanimously in favour of doing just that — a huge win for Suits and Boots and all of Canada.
Former Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons, who was appointed to the Senate in October by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, put forth the motion to debate going on the road to hear the concerns of Canadians “from a variety of interests and across all party lines.”
Simons says she and Patti LaBoucane-Benson — the only two Albertans on the committee — are “seized with the responsibility” to represent all Albertans with regard to the bill.
“The senators on the committee understand that this is a really important bill and that the committee is the last chance to get it right,” said Simons.
Alberta Sen. Doug Black, who is not on the committee but has been an outspoken critic of the bill, says he’s never seen the kind of volume of letters on any other topic in the past — even doctor-assisted suicide.
Did Suits and Boots move the needle on motivating the Senate to commit to going through the almost 300-page bill line by line?
“Without question,” said Black. “I’ve received less letters than some of the senators because everyone already knows that I’m very opposed to Bill C-69, and I received thousands. I would say some senators have received tens of thousands of emails and letters, and what that communicates loud and clear is that this bill will hurt already hurting people. This bill needs radical fixing or it needs to be put through the chipper.”
Peterson says if this campaign helps Canada dodge the bullet that is Bill C-69, all of the cost and effort will be well worth it.
“The magic of Suits and Boots is that it gives a voice to severely normal people across Canada who up until now have felt powerless.
“I get senators calling me back and their staff saying, ‘Rick, we’ve never had a campaign like this before,’ ” says Peterson.
“I believe that now that this spark has been lit, there is no stopping it.”