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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Ethics, Planning and Diversification – A Lesson For Stephen Harper

A Resource-Based Economy

PM Stephen Harper, bolstered by the Alberta government, is looking to natural resources as the source of economic growth for Canada, moving forward.  It’s the hewing wood, hauling water model of economic prosperity.  The model that, you know, was previously employed by our manufacturing sector.  This is the Henry Ford model of production – create a stratigraphy of labour, keep people in the dark and therefore, in their place, rinse and repeat.  It’s a very linear approach.

You can argue there will always be a market for Canada’s natural resources and, where oil is concerned, China’s going to be thirsty for our oil for a very, very long time.  How can betting on oil fail?

Consider – the US is leery about benefiting from the Tar Sands because of environmental concerns – concerns shared by a large number of Canada’s international partners. 

China, while an economic giant, still has a terrible human rights record.  They aren’t necessarily the best long-term planners, either.  They oppress their own people, their minority groups, plus they interfere in international affairs, stifling action where human rights interests might interfere with their economic interests.  Again, the world is watching; if Canada has put all its economic eggs in the Chinese basket, does that foster a world view that we’re complicit in this oppression?

Oh – and China’s got a major water shortage problem that is only going to get worse.  Of course, environmental degradation through environmentally unsound practices has nothing to do with it; China’s policies certainly don’t impact food growth or population quality-of-life.  You know the saying about what happens when the watering hole shrinks.  With a fixation on control, a widening gap between urban wealth and rural poverty and a water shortage, what kinds of conversations do you think are happening in the upper echelons of the Chinese government? 

You can bet that, while China’s publicly wooing Canadian oil, they’ve already got their eye on our fresh water supply, too.

Dirty Tricks

The Federal Conservatives are shocked, shocked to find out that dirty, illegal tricks have crept into the politics of the nation.  There is no connection, of course, between this degradation of our democracy and the general aggressive tactics of the Harper Tories.  Time will tell who all is involved; either way, there is a pattern of behaviour that has been established and nurtured by the Tories, whether it was their implicit intent or not.

The net result of all this political nastiness is a disillusioned and increasingly angry populace.  Like Karl Rove before him, Stephen Harper set out to build a conservative dynasty; instead, he has only managed to polarize and embitter the nation he has sworn to lead.

Weaving the Tapestry

How do natural resource dependence, China reliance and political dirty tricks connect?

They are all the product of linear thinking.  While I’m sure top-dog Harper strategists spend significant time mulling the SWOT of their various political strategies and tactics while sipping latés in their war rooms, how successful have they been at looking at the whole canvas? 

I suppose you can’t generalize by saying that a refusal to consider the opinion of Opposition Parties in the House or in Committees is reflective of a closed-mind approach to planning.  Politics is an iceberg, after all – we only ever see the tip.  You can’t look to an aggressive, divisive political approach as demonstrative of a blind tendency to attack rather than contemplate.  It’s probably not fair to suggest that a pathological penchant for control and secrecy paints a picture of limited, linear thinking.  The same could hold true for an over-reliance on one sector as the only vehicle for future growth.

All these threads, by themselves, are not conclusive; taken as an aggregate, however, there’s that pattern of behaviour again. 

As I have written before, I don’t think Stephen Harper is a bad man.  I don’t think his team is intentionally knee-capping Canada.  I do think their singular, aggressive focus on control has brought them short-term success, but to their (and our) long-term detriment.

The whole reason we have a Parliament and elected representation is because a diversity of opinion is essential to leadership – you can’t plan ahead if you don’t have perspective.  Decorum and ethics aren’t about putting on airs or pandering to others; it’s about fostering a climate that allows for discussion to happen.  Altruism isn’t about selfishly giving to the weak – it’s about creating an environment that provides greater opportunity for every individual.

Social evolution is creative destruction; either you foster it yourself, or you become consumed by it.

What’s the lesson for Stephen Harper?

- Take the time to listen to your opponents; they might tell you something helpful.

- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – Canada has a lot more to offer than just oil.  Diversify.  Look at natural resources, but renewable fuels, too; there's a market for them.  If water’s going to be of interest, build Canada’s blue economy.  Proactively take advantage of emerging trends rather than be blindsided by them.  Look to the Arts; there’s plenty of economic and cultural growth and export opportunity to be had with Canada’s entertainment industry.

- If you’re going to think about political strategy 24/7, think about it in your role as Prime Minister, not as the Conservative Leader.  It’s what we’re paying you to do.

- Leadership is inclusive.  It doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s what you find along the way – meaning us Canadians.  We’re a pretty clever, entrepreneurial lot, given the opportunity.

Legacy isn’t about control – it’s about what you leave behind. 

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