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No truck convoy to Ottawa may mean no glory, but no Conservative PR disaster either

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Andrew Scheer at CPC Convention - 2018. Photo: Andrew Scheer/Wikimedia Commons

If you were one of those cynics who wondered how far that heavily publicized Ottawa-bound truck convoy demanding new pipelines and demanding them now would get, you have your answer: Nowhere.

The promised slow-moving, horn-honking, eastern-annoying convoy from Alberta was supposed to depart Red Deer on Feb. 15. But Monday afternoon, the self-described "grassroots movement" behind the trans-Canada rolling blockade or whatever it was supposed to be pulled the plug on the entire venture before the trucks even left the depot. The reason? It was "no longer viable."

The basis of this alleged lack of viability was not explained, so supporters and skeptics alike are bound to engage in a little harmless speculation and then yell at each other on social media about it. Well, so be it.

Rally 4 Resources, the Red Deer-based group nominally behind the effort, promised Monday to refund anyone who donated to the group's GoFundMe campaign online.

"This event was planned in response to the overwhelming momentum that's been building from our resource rallies," the group said. "Unfortunately, we have come to the decision that it is no longer viable to proceed with our planned convoy."

So, in the event -- or, rather, not in the event, or at least in the non-event -- the momentum turned out to be something less than overwhelming. Whatever could have gone wrong?

It's possible, of course, that the organizers realized the actual number of truckers who would be available to drive all 3,500 kilometres to Ottawa without pulling a load was bound to be seriously underwhelming.

People do want to work, after all, and if you're a trucker that means you have to be available to pull loads with your truck if you want to make any money.

Others have suggested that the group -- which seemed suspiciously closely connected to the Conservative Party of Canada -- may have been quietly asked to drop its plans. This theory says Conservative Party of Canada pollsters must have been getting back answers that suggested the potential for a large group of trucks from Alberta creating a nuisance on the highways of Ontario wasn't going to win any friends for Conservative federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer.

After all, the instant a grinning Scheer just happened to turn up at the huge truck rally that snarled traffic around Edmonton International Airport on December 19, and then made sure his face was plastered all over social media aboard some of the rigs, his name and party were inextricably linked to the convoy's organizers in the minds of Canadians.

Protesters who were there that day can deny it all they like -- and they might even be right -- but the idea that the convoy and others like it was in fact organized to bring publicity to Scheer's Edmonton visit and embarrass Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now firmly embedded in the public's consciousness.

If voters outside the Prairies weren't enamoured of this spectacle, you can certainly see why Scheer's strategists might want it to quietly go away.

Unfortunately for Scheer, a group of so-called "yellow vests" -- the people who are giving a bad name across the country to high-visibility fabrics -- apparently plans to continue with its own cross-Canada convoy protest.

If they turn out to have the organizational skills to keep their act together and find some trucks for the trip, Scheer and his party are not only going to be blamed for everything they get up to, but for everything they say.

And given the kind of poisonous garbage some of them have been spewing up to now, that could be very bad for Scheer. And when he says he has nothing to do with them, lots of voters just aren't going to believe him.

On to Ottawa? The Conservatives had better hope the story of the still-planned yellow-vest protest also turns out to be a case of no guts, no glory, and, above all, no trucks!

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Andrew Scheer/Wikimedia Commons

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