National Fabric of Canada Torn Asunder Over Pickup Trucks

Pickup pandering is the new national trend among conservative politicians.

Pickup truck and our subaru
Our Subaru is dwarfed by this thing.

Lloyd Alter

Marcus Gee—a columnist with The Globe and Mail, a publication that calls itself "Canada's National Newspaper"—recently wrote a totally reasonable article that sounded very much like a Treehugger piece. In it, he wonders how pickup trucks took over the road:

"For heaven’s sake, why? Most people no longer use pickups to haul bales of hay. They drive them to the mall to shop or the soccer field to drop off their kids. Why anyone thinks they need such a beast to do that is an abiding mystery."

He describes them as "sort of suburban sedans on stilts, with big tires, powerful engines and giant grills that serve little purpose except to impress." He concludes by noting that "a vehicle that started as a practical tool for hard-working people has become, for many, an obnoxious assertion of dominance and division."

Perhaps it was the title of the post, "Pickup trucks are a plague on Canadian streets," that caused such a strong reaction among readers. At the time of publication, there are 1,200 comments, about half of which would violate our community standards and generally are a form of "The good news Karen, it is still a free country, people will buy what they want, what they can afford and it is NONE of your business."

One need not explain on Treehugger why this is everyone's business, that pickup trucks kill pedestrians at three times the rate of cars, pollute the air with carbon dioxide and particulates at significantly higher rates than cars, and take up an incredible amount of space. They also make life impossible for everyone else, like in the photo leading this post: On a recent trip to the farmers' market, I had to guide my wife out of the parking space because while in our Suburu since she couldn't see over the bed of the pickup to back out of the parking space. They are a particular problem in cities, which is why after the recent death of a child we called for making light trucks as safe as cars or ban them from cities.

There was really nothing remarkable in Gee's article. Davide Mastracci said much the same thing a few weeks earlier, calling for a ban on their sale, noting that "reducing further climate destruction and harm from needlessly fatal road accidents is more important than corporate or consumer freedom." But this clearly hit a cultural nerve: Mastracci's article got picked up by Fox News under the headline "The Greeniacs have a new target--your pick-up truck!"

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney decided to complain about Gee's article, even though pickups seem to end up in the ditches more often than cars with lower centers of gravity.

But the most egregious pickup pandering was from Scott Moe, the premier of Saskatchewan. Moe was actually involved in a collision, while driving his pickup truck, in 1997 that killed a woman. When this came out in the news a few years ago he told the CBC: "It's a day that I live with each and every day in my life....The fact of the matter is, it's an accident, and you try to use the outcomes of that accident to help you shape the best decisions that, in my case, that I can, in my personal life, in my career." Clearly, he didn't get the message that pickup trucks and cars don't mix very well.

It's not just out West either; even in Ontario, where Kenney was born and bred, the Pickup Truck Party is apparently on the rise. As in the U.S., they have become political symbols rather than useful work vehicles that can actually hold a sheet of plywood in their beds.

It's all so silly to see Western politicians doing pickup pandering when their provinces are burning. Or maybe they see them as getaway vehicles for the next climate disaster, instead of thinking about how they are adding to the problem.