[Update: Reports on Monday, Jan. 24 tallied the amount raised by donors to the Freedom Convoy GoFundMe site at $3.7 million. GoFundMe told CTV news it was putting a hold on the money raised until it cleared up concerns about transparency and whether organizers have a clear plan for how it would be spent.]
An online fundraising campaign organized by a person associated with the Maverick Party and other western separatist causes now indicates it has raised close to $2 million in the week to bankroll highway disruptions by truckers angry at Ottawa for imposing a vaccine mandate on cross-border essential workers.
The convoy departed B.C. for Ottawa on Sunday.
The “Freedom Convoy 2022” campaign’s GoFundMe page showed donations of $1,911,540 at 9:50 p.m. Saturday. The fundraising goal was increased at about the same time to $3 million.
When the campaign was reported Friday by TruckNews.com — an online publication associated with a printed trade publication called Today’s Trucking — the campaign was closing in on $1 million.
Information on the campaign’s GoFundMe page makes it clear it is motivated by hostility to policies of the Trudeau government, particularly measures to control the spread of COVID-19. “Our current government is implementing rules and mandates that are destroying the foundation of our businesses, industries and livelihoods,” it alleges.
While most of the donations listed on the page are relatively small, some as high as $10,000 are included on the list published by GoFundMe. The site identified Raymar Concrete Forming as one $10,000 donor. Many donations are anonymous.
Despite agreeing with some trucking industry complaints about the vaccine mandate, TruckNews.com’s reporter, James Menzies, expressed reservations about the strategy of blocking critical infrastructure with slow-rolling transport trucks.
“Such protests rarely deliver results, aside from angering the motoring public and casting shade on our industry,” he wrote, describing such large amounts of money “being thrown at recent attempts to bring commerce to a halt” as disturbing.
“If these protests do materialize (many fizzle out when it’s actually time to roll), we have concerns about the effect they will have on how the public perceives our industry, the safety risks posed to the motoring public,” he wrote.
In a statement Saturday, the Canadian Trucking Alliance said it “does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways and bridges. CTA believes such actions — especially those that interfere with public safety — are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed.”
CTA president Stephen Laskowski condemned road blockades and essentially advised anti-vaccine truckers to grow up and get vaccinated. The governments of Canada and the United States, he said, “have now made being vaccinated a requirement to cross the border. This regulation is not changing so, as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate.
“The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated,” he concluded.
It was Menzies who connected the dots between the fundraiser and the political interests of organizer Tamara Lich, who has what he described as “a history of association with radical groups, including the recently formed federal separatist Maverick Party in Alberta.”
“In her past, Lich was regional co-ordinator for Wexit in southeastern Alberta, and was member of the board for Wexit Alberta,” TruckNews.com reported. It said she later joined the board of Wexit Canada, which has been rebranded the Maverick Party.
He reported that Lich, whom he said has no direct connection to the trucking industry, also had past links to the so-called Yellow Vest movement, which has many documented connections to extremist groups.
Of course, when it comes to cross-border transportation, no prime minister regardless of party would be likely to pursue a policy different from than that of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals — no matter what Conservatives might say in opposition. The United States government requires cross-border truckers from Canada to be fully vaccinated.
Beyond that, the campaign raises important questions about the potential use of the GoFundMe site to get around election financial reporting laws for what are clearly intended to be political campaigns attacking one party.
This is a question that goes well beyond this particular issue and organization — especially given the Conservative Party of Canada’s past connection to these kinds of trucker blockades.
Ever since a grinning former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer turned up at a large truck rally that snarled traffic around Edmonton International Airport on Dec. 19, 2019, and then made sure his face was plastered all over social media aboard some of the rigs, the Conservatives have been linked to truck protest organizers in the minds of Canadians.
Whether the federal Conservative party still supports such efforts to bring commerce to a halt by disrupting highway traffic might be an interesting question to ask its current leader, Erin O’Toole.
Meanwhile, the question of whether the United Conservative Party government in Alberta will use its Critical Infrastructure Defence Act to crack down on blockades of highways remains unanswered.
The law was passed in 2020 as a reaction to blockades by supporters of First Nations that were opposed to construction of a pipeline to the West Coast.
If the Alberta government won’t act, the conclusion the legislation was passed solely to attack opponents of Premier Jason Kenney’s pet projects will be hard to discount.
Read more: Transportation, Coronavirus, Federal Politics, Labour + Industry
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