Even conservative Calgary thinks President Trump is awful

Nation | by Gillian Steward

The election of Donald Trump was enthusiastically welcomed in some Calgary quarters, because he is such a rabid fan of fossil fuels and a climate change denier.

But you would be hard pressed to find any of that enthusiasm among the 5,000 people who showed up last month for the Women’s March in support of the march in Washington.

They want Trump gone, even if he is a fan of big oil.

Five thousand may not sound like a lot, especially when compared to 50,000 in Toronto, 15,000 in Vancouver and 450,000 in Washington, but by Calgary standards, this was huge. Calgary is not known for street protests. When they occur, it’s often the same 200 stalwarts who show up.

Not this time.

With the temperature hovering around zero degrees, women, men and children wearing pink pussyhats flooded onto the plaza in front of city hall and stood waving their signs (“A woman’s place is in the resistance”), listening to speakers and musicians, and cheering for over two hours.

When it ended, no one seemed to want to leave.

They were of all ages and ethnicities. Gay, lesbian, transgender — everyone chanting “women’s rights are human rights” with Indigenous drummers providing a booming beat.

Many had never been to a political demonstration before. But given Trump’s history, they grabbed the opportunity to express their concern about what a Trump presidency might mean for women, racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, and anyone else Trump targets.

“Other than voting, this is my first political act,” said Kirsten Wreggit, a business consultant.

Clairissa Aspell, administrative assistant at a child-care centre and her 11-year-old daughter, Olivia, made a sign. It was Olivia’s first political demonstration and she said she “loved it.”

Jann Arden and k.d. lang were in the crowd. The few police officers in attendance looked on benignly.

The attendance surprised even the organizers, who started getting things together only about two weeks beforehand.

They were likely surprised because in Calgary, most news reports right after Trump’s surprise win focused on it as good news because the Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver oil from the Alberta oilsands to the refineries in the U.S Gulf but was blocked by Barack Obama, would likely now get the go ahead.

That’s something the oil patch and Alberta government have ferociously promoted for over a decade.

In late November, a conservative advocacy group known as The Alberta Prosperity Fund invited Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s audacious campaign manager, to tour Fort McMurray and the oilsands and then deliver a fundraising speech on Jan. 12 for the group in Calgary.

The Prosperity Fund is led by a former Wildrose Party MLA, and the directors include a former PC MLA and several executives from the oil and gas sector.

Conway accepted the invitation but in the end cancelled just days before she was scheduled to appear.

But now even the oil patch’s outlook on the Trump presidency is souring.

Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), attended Trump’s inauguration ceremonies but said he came away troubled by the president’s “America First” speech because it could endanger Canadian jobs in North America’s integrated oil and gas industry.

McMillan was also disappointed that Trump made no reference to the Keystone XL pipeline in his speech.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi wasn’t at the march, but he has absolutely no time for Trumpism.

“If in fact we’re out of fashion, because we speak out of openness and pluralism, then not only let’s be out of fashion, but let’s seize that opportunity. If we’re in a world where our largest trading partner becomes more closed to trade, let’s become more open. Let’s ensure that we are open to the world, to trade, to brains, to money, to ideas; and make sure that we seize on this opportunity,” he told reporters at the big city mayor’s conference in Ottawa.

No question, standing up to Trump and his autocratic, racist, sexist and sleazy agenda is more important than catering to big oil.

“We ought to do this more often,” said Kirsten Wreggit at the end of the event. “We need this kind of community; it’s better than sitting at home worrying.”

Gillian Steward is a Calgary writer and former managing editor of the Calgary Herald. This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.