Rachel Notley wise to close off the LEAP chatter

The LEAP Manifesto is a paean to an imaginary world that is, in a counterintuitive way, dismally pessimistic

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Bill WhitelawCanada’s political pundits are slavering with glee.

They’re all agog at the opportunity to dive into the perceived spaces between the N, the D and the P – and do what pundits do: speculate, postulate and from time to time, prevaricate.

The current object of their affections is the NDP’s support of the LEAP Manifesto and the apparent divides this utopian vision of a Canada-that-could-be has cleaved between the party’s Alberta arm and its federal brothers-in-now-more-distant arms.

But any seasoned political observer will know bickering between provincial and federal parties is nothing new. Indeed, in the NDP’s case there are actually two parties: New Democratic Pragmatists (provincial) and New Democratic Pessimists (federal). There are plenty of past examples on key issues that illustrate this reality.

This could not be clearer than with Rachel Notley’s astute decision to Look Before She LEAPs, in a manner of speaking.

The LEAP Manifesto is a paean to an imaginary world that is, in a counterintuitive way, dismally pessimistic. By prescribing a future view of Canada across many socio-economic and political fronts, its supporters fail to account for and recognize what makes this country great – and in the process, they negate any foundation upon which an even greater Canada can be built. LEAP’s criticism of contemporary Canada (and implicitly, Canadians) is not remotely constructive as a manifesto for progress; rather, it is almost explicitly destructive in how it marginalizes those who don’t subscribe to the same notions.

It’s why adjectives such as histrionic and melodramatic exist.

Rachel Notley is quite right to describe its energy elements as “tone deaf”.

The NDP did not officially adopt LEAP at its recent convention in Edmonton; what delegates did do was agree to debate it at the constituency level over the next several months.

That’s a problem for Canada’s oil and gas sector – and not because it can’t take criticism.

Here’s why: Rachel Notley and her cabinet and caucus are settling into both the art and science of governing. They would be the first to acknowledge it’s substantively different than it looks from the armchair.

In recent weeks, it’s apparent they’ve pragmatically come to terms on how best to align their climate and carbon reduction aspirations with the need to support, politically and practically, a robust hydrocarbon sector. The two are not incompatible and as is increasingly recognized these aspirations need to move forward sustainably in a symbiotic co-dependence.

But the potential for LEAP discourses to be a festering sore in compatibility is a real threat to a government and sector attempting to work collaboratively and pragmatically toward common environment, economic and sustainability goals.

That’s why the energy sector must move quickly to outpace the LEAP narrative in terms of how it talks to both government and ordinary Canadians.

It won’t achieve that by belittling and ridiculing LEAP. It will make headway by respectfully “leaping over LEAP” to lead by example in key energy debates of the day: emissions, pipelines safety, hydraulic fracturing and so on to deconstruct the concepts LEAP proposes and suggest alternate pathways to the same objectives.

If there is a silver lining in the LEAP cloud it is this: it’s a clear prescription for how not to communicate and collaborate.

Bill Whitelaw is president and CEO of the JuneWarren-Nickle’s Energy Group.

Bill is a Troy Media Thought Leader. Why aren’t you?

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