What’s Wrong With the UCP Position That Alberta NDP Caused Their Own Oil Pipeline Mess?

jason-kenny-does-not-back-downThere are many quotes from the Alberta United Conservative Party that effectively say, the Alberta NDP caused their own oil pipeline mess by empowering those that oppose the oil industry:

How was someone like Tzeporah Berman named co-chair of the ‘Oil Sands Advisory Group’ given her clear positions BEFORE appointment? Outrageous that the NDP ever chose to validate and raise the profile of someone like Tzeporah Berman – Jason Kenny

Before we go any further, you should know my personal bias.  I am a conservative.  Note the small “c” as the Progressive Conservative parties have evaporated in Canada and we are increasingly left with political operatives that maneuver through the issues to maximize their polls and do not make policy decisions based on their fundamental beliefs.  You should also know that I am a bit of hot head is not good at consulting others or listening to critics which is one reason I cannot run a large organization like a government. …ok… back to the story…

Beyond the verifiable fact that the Federal and Provincial Conservative governments of the last decade did little to advance Canadian pipelines, there is a larger question.  What is wrong with the logic that instead of listening to those that oppose your positions, you should crush them at every turn is:

  1. It leads to American style divisive politics where very little productive gets done
  2. Your opposition likely has something useful to add to the conversation
  3. Voters see endless partisan moves and disengage from the debate and/or from the democratic process in general
  4. A government is REQUIRED to govern everyone, not just the people that voted for them, and that means at least listening to the everyone’s concerns and making accommodations when reasonable

As a greater consequence of this continued, I say black, you say white, politics is that political parties end up straying far from their core ideology, that historically useful titles of ‘right’ ‘center’ and ‘left’ lose their meaning.  American Republican’s are now anti-abortion;  the Canadian Federal Progressive Conservative party is now (increasingly) anti-immigrant; the Alberta NDP is now very pro-oil.  These are all positions that do not fit the parties natural ideology.  They are positions of convenience to provide a counter to their political opponents.

Put simply if you don’t at least listen to your opponents you are likely to develop sub-optimal solutions and damage future voter engagement.

A debate over so called “Social License” has been raging in Canada for the last 5 years and while there are clearly limits that need to be imposed (i.e. everyone cannot have a veto; consultation must not be endless), there is value in engaging in real debate.  Yes this will slow things down, but the result will be improved projects.

Do not misinterpret the comments above as providing political cover for the Alberta NDP or any other party.  Clearly the NDP have made serious mistakes in raising the profile of some zealots.  However, the ‘never engage or listen to your adversary’ tone of the Alberta United Conservative Party UCP may cause a temporary spike in votes by activating voter emotions but it will not lead to better outcomes.

Canadian citizens and politicians like to think they are ‘better’ than their American counterparts when it comes to difficult political matters like immigration but Canadians are walking down the same populist road that is killing our American neighbors.

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