Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Riding shotgun: anatomy of a protest

With a video camera in one gloved hand and a fresh Tim Horton’s coffee in the other, I strolled around the truck stop observing the rigs and waiting to meet the man who organized a grassroots protest against the Ontario speed-limiter law.

A police escort was queuing up nearby, and mainstream media reporters from television and radio were abuzz near a white Volvo VN. Affixed to the Volvo were placards stating that the government should enforce current speed limits and not infringe on truckers by making electronic speed limiters mandatory.

With a wind chill down to 25 degrees Celsius below freezing, or about minus-13 Fahrenheit, there was nothing “southern” about Southern Ontario on that frigid Monday morning of March 2.

The owner of the white Volvo, professional trucker Scott Mooney of Cambridge, Ontario, seemed oblivious to the cold as he graciously granted one media interview after the other. I waited nearby because I had an inside scoop. I was to ride shotgun with Scott as he led the protestors to Queen’s Park, the provincial government headquarters in nearby Toronto.

My first impression of Scott was that he is respectful, hard-working, and really cares about what goes on out there on the highways.

Reporters dream of these assignments, especially ones that involve familiar territory, as I grew up in Ontario not overly far from Cambridge.

The regulations Scott and a dedicated delegation of professional truckers were protesting came from the Liberal Party's calls to slow trucks down to below 105 kilometers per hour, or 65 mph.

We hopped in the truck and Scott introduced me to his two stepsons, Trenton, 9, and Laughlin, 10, and then gave the order over the CB for the small convoy to move out.

Scott made it a point to tell me that the average flow of traffic on the 400-series provincial highways is between 115 and 130 km/h, or 70-80 mph.

In my first video interview with Scott, I asked him to explain what the truckers were doing that day and why. Click here to view the first of a number of entries in the Land Line Magazine Video Blog.

We arrived at Queen’s Park just behind another delegation of drivers from Bowmanville, Ontario, led by trucker Jack Logan. Click here to see our arrival at the provincial headquarters. You’ll notice that the police are taking good care throughout to make protestors welcome and to manage traffic.

I interviewed Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada, on hand to give speeches at the rally. See my interview with Joanne here.

Next up, I interviewed Jack Logan, who is a company driver for Thorndyke Transport, which is based in Oshawa, Ontario. Jack does not pull any punches when discussing the speed-limiter issue. Click here to view the interview in front of his Peterbilt.

Click here to see more of Jack during the podium speeches as he symbolically tosses white gloves at the feet of reporters to say the “gloves are off.”

I ran into Laura O’Neill at the event. She’s the government affairs counsel for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

OOIDA has been against government-mandated speed limiters since the large motor-carrier associations led by the Ontario Trucking Association began lobbying the government for a law in November 2005.

Truckers with satellite radio hear Laura sometimes on Land Line Now talking about speed limiters and other important issues. She was kind enough to give us a few minutes on camera. Click here to hear what she has to say.

It was time for the speeches at the podium, so Scott Mooney did the introductions and stated why the delegation was there. He called on Gilles Bisson, Member of Provincial Parliament and transportation critic for the New Democratic Party. He is also running for party leadership.

Bisson stands with truckers on the issue. Click here to view Scott’s introduction of Bisson and the speech that follows.

A whole host of people spoke including Joanne Ritchie, her OBAC counterpart and regulatory specialist Jim Park, MPP John O'Toole of the Progressive Conservative Party who read Scott’s petition out loud, and Teamsters representative Bud McCaulay. Click on their names to see their speeches.

I also snagged a few minutes with owner-operator Diana Niedzwiedzki and her dog Hollywood. Diana wore an OBAC T-shirt over her coat that stated: “My speed governor is in the driver’s seat.”

After the event, Scott Mooney declared the day a success despite the cold and the relatively low numbers who turned out. He was grateful to those who did, and said he was not discouraged in his effort to keep fighting the law. Monday was about the message, not about numbers, he said.

On the way back to Cambridge, I switched on the camera one last time to get a wrap-up interview with Scott. Click here to view the last of the chronological videos – our anatomy of a trucker protest from the shotgun seat.

Back at the Cedar Creek Truck Stop, it was time to say goodbye and find a place to write my story.

When it was all said and done, I spoke with another lawmaker, MPP Frank Klees by telephone.

He has sided with small-business truckers throughout the proceedings on the speed-limiter law.

Klees told me he found it disappointing that more truckers weren’t at the protest. Still, he commended Scott Mooney and others for speaking their peace and said it’s a fight worth fighting.

5 comments:

  1. David!! Nice and thorough job covering this event -- and I could FEEL how cold it was watching all of your video reports!

    Sean Kilcarr

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  2. cheers to this hardworking trucker Scott Mooney and those who joinsed him.

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  3. Best video blog i've seen in a while. I miss truckin'. Go you Canucks!!!

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  4. Well done Scott!

    I tried to be there in person but missed you by only a few hours.

    You have my support and the support of many other Professional Drivers - keep up the fight and let us know whatever we can do.

    I have been speaking with any Canadian law maker who will listen via e-mail and phone calls.

    This legislation has made our North American Highways a much more dangerous place - it amounts to insanity and will directly be the cause of many, very possibly, fatal accidents.

    It is difficult to understand, in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary, why the law was pushed through. My only guess can now be that it was bought and paid for by some organization which stands to gain in some monitary way.

    My next questions would be:

    Who paid?

    Who was paid?

    How much was paid and do these people feel that it is worth the lives that will be lost as a result?

    What price do we place upon our own lives and the lives of our neighbours?

    Good work David - thank you.

    Peace, Love, Light and Many Blessings to all.

    Kevin DeSilva
    Professional Driver & OOIDA Member
    Cambridge Narrows, NB
    Canada

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  5. My wife and I are team drivers. She is fromAlberta.We have many friends in Ontario. I'm from Idaho.We very much appreciate OOOIDA's coverage of trucking issues in Canada.

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