Nothing mellow about wearing yellow vests if you're a politician

I’ve known Lori Carr and Robert Kitchen for most of the time in which I’ve lived in Estevan.

In Carr’s case, I’ve dealt with her on a regular basis since 2003, when she was elected to Estevan city council for the first time.

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As for Kitchen, I saw him a lot in the bowels of the Civic Auditorium following Estevan Bruin games, when he was one of the doctors associated with the team. In fact, I still find myself referring to him as “Doc Kitchen” from time to time. (Thanks to former Bruin trainer Gerry Aspen for that one).

I have developed a pretty good working relationship with both of them. We’ve had our disagreements over the years (Carr more so than Kitchen, simply because she spent nearly a decade on city council). If editorial people and elected officials don’t have occasional spats, then neither of them are doing their jobs properly.

I’ll disagree with them, but in the end, we’ll shake hands and continue to have a respectful, cordial working relationship.

Since the Yellow Vest Movement protests started in mid-December, both have been present at least once. Kitchen appeared at a protest early this year, as well as the truck convoy organized just before Christmas. It was relatively quiet, and only noted by those in attendance and the local media.

Carr, meanwhile, attended the Jan. 19 protest. A few days later, the provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) retweeted an article from the Estevan Mercury’s website that Carr had been there, and, as you would expect, criticized her for it.

It makes you wonder why it took the provincial NDP so long to pick up on the story. But what was truly absurd is that they asked if Carr is anti-immigrant because she was there.

It should be noted that one of the first retweets of the Mercury article came from Nicole Sarauer, who did an admirable job as the interim leader of the NDP earlier this year, and could one day be the permanent NDP leader.

But if this is the best that Sarauer and the NDP can come up with to criticize a member of the Saskatchewan Party’s government, then they’re really grasping at straws. Frankly, I expected better than that from Sarauer. 

It should also be noted that Carr and Kitchen have never expressed full and unreserved support for all of the ideas broached by the Yellow Vest movement. I’m pretty sure that Sarauer, NDP leader Ryan Meili and other NDP caucus members have attended protests and rallies even though they don’t agree with every idea brought forward by organizers.

I will say that if I was an elected official, I wouldn’t attend a Yellow Vest protest. I respect the local Yellow Vest organizers for much of what they have done, and for the peaceful protests they have organized. The numbers have dwindled since a massive truck convoy in December, but if you drive or walk past a protest, you’ll see a group of people braving the cold and socializing. A couple of them are carrying Canadian flags.

I certainly agree with their stance on such issues as fighting the carbon tax and supporting the energy sector.

And I wholeheartedly applaud their decision to organize the truck convoy through Estevan just before Christmas. It was truly an unforgettable sight for those who witnessed it.

Many of the people involved with the protests are solid, hard-working people who are genuinely concerned about the future for their jobs and the future of the region.

But it was unwise to bring illegal immigration into the debate. It gives the opponents of the movement the ammunition they’re looking for. And while the Yellow Vests will tell you that it’s illegal immigration they’re opposed to, a glimpse of the social media accounts of some protesters will tell you that their opposition extends beyond those who are illegally crossing the border into Canada.

That’s why the Rally for Resources decided they didn’t want people wearing yellow vests at the gathering last month in Regina.

And attending in a Yellow Vest rally only gives the other parties ammunition to use against Carr and the Saskatchewan Party, or Kitchen and the Conservative Party.

Will appearing in a Yellow Vest protest hurt the chances of Carr and Kitchen in the next election? No. They’ve already been nominated for their respective parties. They’ll almost certainly win those elections in lopsided fashion. In fact, being at a Yellow Vest protest is likely to boost their support locally, rather than hurt it, as people will see our elected officials standing up for bedrocks of our constituency’s economy.

It’s unlikely the Liberals would use Kitchen’s attendance at a Yellow Vest protest as ammunition in the next election, because their focus is on voter-rich urban centres.

As for the provincial New Democratic Party, they’re looking to score cheap political points, at a time in which they need to get all the points they can get.

But as long as illegal immigration is a plank in the Canadian Yellow Vest Movement, it’s something elected officials should be very hesitant to be seen with.  

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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