Colin McClelland

July 27, 2021

-Financial Post


Pickup trucks are the focus in a new war of words between Canada’s East and West, urban and rural, green advocates and petrol heads.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney changed his Twitter profile to show him at the wheel of his beloved Dodge Ram 1500 after firing back at a Globe and Mail opinion piece calling pickups a plague on the roads of the nation.

“I’m happy to say that ~40% of the vehicles on Alberta roads are pickups,” Kenney tweeted. “Maybe Toronto columnists should try getting around this province during a prairie blizzard in a Smart Car.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe joined in: “Come to Saskatchewan where we use our pickup trucks to build and grow our province … and pull the odd car out of the snow bank,” he said on the social media feed.

Sales numbers show pickup trucks dominate most roads in Canada. It seems like Ford versions have been the best selling vehicles across the country since shortly after old Henry created 9 to 5 hours.

A Statistics Canada report today shows pickup registrations increased more than 10 per cent in Q1 from a year ago while passenger cars fell more than 13 per cent.

The share of newly registered gasoline-powered vehicles, however, fell from 90.1 per cent to 86.8 per cent as nearly twice as many new hybrid electric vehicles were registered in the first quarter of 2021 than last year.

Traditional work hours are changing with the pandemic, and columnist Marcus Gee wrote that our love affair with the pickup should be retired, too. The debate isn’t new. Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal churned up dust on the matter earlier this year with articles criticizing what they called dangerous and arrogant model sizes, their impact on the environment and their sheer overkill when people rarely use them for haulage.

Canadian leftist site Passage got right to the point earlier this month calling for an outright ban on the sale of pickups. Even Vice noted pickup trucks are almost as big as the tanks that won World War II. Maybe Ford, Dodge or GMC have secret designs on completing a road version of the Nazi Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus, a 188-tonne behemoth that never saw action.

But the pickup nation has responded to the plague commentary, even drawing in some unlikely voices. “This piece reeks of snobbishness,” Laureen Harper, wife of the former prime minister, tweeted, recounting an ordeal of her own: “-40, stranded on side of highway with a flat, lug nuts wouldn’t move. Cars zipping by, only person who stopped was guy in pickup.”

Pickups represent character, she’s saying, albeit in a different timbre than the gravelly baritone of actor Sam Elliott, who extolled the stalwart virtues of the pickup for years in television ads.

All manner of others have chimed in, including satirical news outlet The Beaverton, and the Toronto Star, which you might have imagined had made the plague comments in the first place. But its piece is a bit of fence-sitting by an Alberta-based correspondent.

Some are criticizing Kenney for “stoking an American-style culture war to agitate his shrinking base.” Others say it is an attempt at distraction away from issues such as a report into foreign funding of anti-oil activists that found little and a provincial justice minister who says everyone should be allowed to carry pepper spray.

And a few suggest the debate should be widened. As one tweeter wrote: “Where’s the article on why (NDP leader) Jagmeet Singh loves his BMW so much? Where’s the one about why (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau loves his jet for many short trips when a car would do?” With an election call seemingly due within weeks, looks like there will be time for all of that, too.