JOHNSON – Why the truckers’ protest in Ottawa was doomed to fail
SOOO, HERE WE GO … crowds of trucks jamming into Ottawa and packing Parliament Hill on Saturday and Sunday to protest the federal Liberal government, vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.
Many across Canada see this as a ‘fringe network’ of Canadian society, headed by truckers that can no longer cross the border due to a restriction that said truckers must be vaccinated to do so.
That was the message as it started across Canada; ‘the trucking industry protesting a work limitation,’ adding possible supply chain disruptions for both countries.
As the protest wound its way through Canada, the real numbers and objectives started to be known; 90 per cent of all truckers working in Canada including those that cross the border, have had the shot.
Let’s keep in mind that ALL of these truckers can still work in Canada unvaccinated as there are no inter provincial mandates, so the reality of the effect of this cross-border restriction is actually about 10 per cent of just the truckers that cross the border. That’s pretty ‘fringe’. Obviously add to that, other truckers joining in on the convoy just to be supportive of their brethren.
Add to them, the people who lost their non trucking jobs in Canada due to refusing the vaccine, and lump in the Remembrance Day / hospital protest / Superstore crowd, and pretty much anyone who just can’t say the name Trudeau without adding the word f*** to it, then let’s top it off with the cherry of the well organized far right neo fascist, anti immigrant lobby group seeing an obvious venue to get itself in on.
What we end up with is a get together of anti-miscreants, fringe political adherents and social outcasts, gaining major media exposure on the back of a few truck drivers upset that they can’t cross the border.
Before we move on, let’s keep in mind how protest optics works in the 21st century.
Those who do protests well, know to stay on track with messaging, and keep that messaging heavily focussed, even tunnel visioned on just the key points, with strict controls on how that message gets out to the media.
Protest success is achieved if the larger population generally accepts the goals of the protest, and the argument becomes part of the zeitgeist of society itself. Protest groups need the sympathies of the masses to get societal, governmental or systemic change to occur, be that through pressure on government to eventually change its approach or directly through the votes of the people themselves.
We have so many examples of this being done to good effect in Canada; Abortion rights, Greenpeace and many other environmental protests, LGTB changes in law, Indigenous land rights, #MeToo … the list goes on. Whether you like those specific changes or not, the way these protests were managed were critical to their success.
That’s where this one fell apart at the seams. What started as a targeted protest for cross border truckers turned into a ‘Freedom’ march, a Trudeau hate opportunity, and a tableau for anything anti-mask, anti-vax and anti-restriction.
I actually heard a CBC interview where an apparent ‘organizer’ spoke to “doing this for the freedom for all the little girls that can’t go swimming” … wait … what ?? I thought this was about truckers ???
There is no intelligent control over the mass media messaging. No cohesiveness, no attempt to keep the media on message, or get the general population behind the cause. Anyone who could reach a microphone … did, and the message was washed out by a sloppy return to all the ‘anti’ messaging we have all been inundated with for two years now.
Average Canadians have turned away or are sitting back watching the news … kinda like we watched the Jan. 6 U.S. insurrection last year. We just don’t care about the cause, it’s only about the train wreck we get to watch.
The cause we could have jumped onto, was whittled away by adding messaging we disagree with. As a protest with an objective, this failed big time because we will not vote for, or speak to a cause that includes objectives that we simply abhor.
So, before they even got to Ottawa … they lost us.
Sooo … what is the story on the actual day they all arrive in Ottawa?
– A ‘couple of thousand’ protesters, possibly growing to 10,000 by the end of the weekend. In a country of 36 million … that’s a severe fringe. And no … adding all those at the side of the highway in Valleyview and across the country who could not attend in Ottawa, but threw their support behind it, still doesn’t push the numbers beyond fringe.
Math matters: Even if this total support number is a million people … that’s 2.78 per cent of the general population.
That bears repeating: Less than three per cent of Canadians … is again … by definition … fringe.
… but let’s move on to what we are watching live:
– Some parked their trucks and pickups on the sacred ground of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier … showing they have no respect whatsoever. This is really, really bad optics and is reminiscent of Remembrance Day. So much for veterans or their supporters’ votes.
– Defacing the Terry Fox statue with their flags and signs, then the police take them down … so they put them back up. Commenters say ‘how dare they drag Terry Fox’s vaunted legacy into the ground like this’. The backlash to this alone has been massive, and this lost them a lot of support, to the point of their being an uplift of financial donations to his foundation today. This is people condemning this protest directly via their spending dollars.
– Using Nazi symbols on upside down Canadian flags and Confederate flags, and people actually waving trump MAGA flags … we are now thinking that the individuals in this group are truly disconnected with what it even means to be Canadian.
– They have attracted support from Trump Jr. and some Fox News personalities … ya … enough said there. You know you’re on the wrong side of history if those are your supporters.
– The forced cancellation of a Saturday memorial event for the anniversary of the fatal shooting at a Quebec City Mosque in 2017, citing the convoy. A good decision for safety’s sake; can you imagine if these two groups found each other? Its not a stretch to think it would have twisted into an anti immigration and anti-Muslim moment caught on camera. The anti-protest organisers are probably breathing a sigh of relief over the near miss.
– Saying they wouldn’t leave until ‘public-health restrictions are lifted or Trudeau is forced out’ … bizarrely misunderstanding not just how Parliament and elections work, but simply ignoring that all health rules are provincial, which includes all mask mandates, business and school closures, and other public and private gathering limits … but don’t let that stop this crowd.
They literally don’t care that Trudeau has zero authority (outside of the federal mandate of border crossings), but this crowd is too busy sticking bumper stickers to their vehicles to consider reality.
So, did this have anything to do with cross border trucking?
What the media originally picked up on as a ‘Truckers Protest’, apparently has no connection to the trucking industry but has shifted to a separate agenda operated by a larger alt-right political protest group.
The majority of actual truckers in Canada coast to coast do not share in their opinion, even if they share the passion for the industry and the country. These organisers are taking advantage of a few rigs parked at Parliament Hill for media friendly optics, when in reality by their own messaging, this is not a trucking protest at all.
So, we have a tiny fringe group showing the world that we, too, have a contingent willing to jump on someone else’s bandwagon so they can blurt out incorrect, inappropriate nonsense to themselves and exist entirely on an adrenalin shot of misguided group dynamics.
I expect them to dwindle and wander away after the weekend, even if some say they will stay. These few will be the most unstable (or be out of a job by their own doing), and will try to use up their temporary media popularity, but in the end they too will wander away. They didn’t earn the ears of the general populous, and have been attacked or distanced by almost all political or industry leaders at all local, provincial or federal levels. They achieved nothing.
The protest in a nutshell has been a complete failure, and could be installed as a textbook ‘how not to organise a protest’ example.
Not everyone was optimistic that the government would fold to their demands.
“It’s a nice thought, but I don’t think anything will happen”, one truck driver said, who parked his trailer truck in front of Parliament Hill. “This is the Canadian space to have the debate, so that’s why we’re here.” One calm, intelligent reading of the situation from ground zero.
In the end, real Canadians literally don’t want the kind of ‘freedom’ this group calls for,
and the news cycle will move on, leaving them behind as a footnote… that did absolutely nothing.
But they did burn fuel as their empty trucks crossed the country; thanks for the carbon.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.
As it drags into week 3 I so wish it had dissolved after that first weekend. I believe you are right – this fringe group doesn’t have a clear message as they have become a front for more sinister things. And it was all so ill conceived from the beginning. No one said they had to get vaccinated – they could drive in Canada or chose to quarantine. Bernie
How is Trudeau so tone deaf? As an American, I don’t get it. Why not just meet with them?
Considering that similar convoys are now happening in other countries I’d say the Canadian convoy is a bit of a win in some regards. The message being given in successive countries is that people have had enough. Of course there are better ways to do things and get a point across but with all opposition to covid management effectively silenced protesting is the only option left open before civil disobedience to put it politely.
Thanks — a good column as usual. I guess that the fact that we are talking about the truckers means that they have achieved something. It’s a dumb spectacle, but then again so was Trump.
Good writing Dave. One thing needs to be added is to highlight to those people the difference between “liberties” and “doing whatever one wants” which can deleteriously affects others.
“This is the Canadian space to have the debate, so that’s why we’re here.” said by a trucker.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
The Truckers Protest is a huge success.
The propagandists for vaccine mandates will soon be seen for the reprehensible sell outs that they are.
Thanks, David, from one of the many near silent but definitely pissed majority. They remind me of a bunch of noisy spoiled little kids having a group tantrum because things aren’t going their way.