Compromise within politics and without.

My mind has been spinning circles this past week.  Topics have been very far ranging, and the connections have been very interesting to me.

It’s been pretty hard for anyone to escape the news of the U.S. debt ceiling crisis.  I can’t say I followed it closely at first, to me it was just another one of those hyper-partisan issues from the States where hyper-partisan seems to rule the day.  Any problems the U.S. has with it’s debt is going to affect us indirectly, so it’s worth paying some attention, but I wasn’t losing sleep over it.  It wasn’t until twitter started edging it’s way into my consciousness that I started to get a little more informed into the background.  Much of what I read disturbed me greatly. 

The first article that got my attention was this article from the Guardian.  The shock to me was this was routine 140 times since the second world war.  It’s just not okay that it came down to brinksmanship now.  Now, I’m not an expert and I don’t believe the Guardian is the be all and end all on U.S. finances, but it drew my attention to a situation down there that should never have come about in the first place.

Last Monday I got a mind full from an unexpected source that I really do trust and respect.  Bob Lewis is an IT management consultant who has a very keen mind and great insight into all matters relating to IT, business leadership and good business practices.  I’m on his mailing list and read his articles weekly either in my email or directly on his website.  He doesn’t normally cross into political commentary, but this week’s article has a huge relevance.  Relevance in politics, relevance in business, relevance in every day life.  If you can’t find it, search his archives for “A CIO’s-eye view of the debt ceiling crisis.”

There’s a few points he makes that are more than worth quoting.

Blame isn’t the point. It’s the situation as it is today that matters, because every participant in every dysfunctional relationship has a decision to make every day … whether to escalate or do their part to help dial it down.

There comes a point where pointing the finger is well past useful.  We hit a point where the origin really doesn’t matter any longer.  Our collective focus definitely needs to be targeted towards solutions.  Arguing over who started what becomes quite pointless once you’re in the thick of a crisis.

There is no point arguing about who let the cows out of the barn last week when the barn’s on fire tonight.

More from Bob:

Don’t make this mistake in your relationships with other players in your company. The moment you make disagreements and decisions that don’t go your way personal and acrimonious, the next time there’s a decision to be made, you won’t have much influence.

Together we need to find solutions that work.  That requires compromise and not recrimination.  You’re wasting your ability to get things accomplished when you dig your heels in and be intransigent.  This does not mean liquidating your principles.  Sticking to your principles is very much a Good Thing and it’s essential that you carry your principles with you always.  Bob describes in much better words than I could possibly express just how important it is to remember that regardless of how strongly and passionately we hold our principles, those who disagree with us have equally strong and passionate belief in their own principles.

We are not each others foes.  We are not our own enemies.  We may be opponents with different views and differing perspectives.  The responsibility of us all rests in being able to clearly espouse our views, retaining our passion and our strength of conviction but allowing that we need to have a complete conversation to find the balance that serves us all best.

Politics is nothing more than group decision making.  The abyss that has been happening south of me has not been politics - it has been the absence of group decision making.  It is wrong and unacceptable.  It has resulted in poor governance and despicable decision making.  I fear for the cowardice of policy makers who feel that compromise equates to weakness.

Bob makes the point that there is not an alternative in business.  Failure is always an option.  Failure in government is unconscionable.

Which brings me to Nycole Turmel.

If you’re not Canadian and you’re reading this, I’m going to have to give you a nutshell description.  Canada just went through a federal election a few months ago.  Quebec voters shifted en mass from voting for the regional Bloc Quebecois to a national party, the NDP.  In a country of multiple parties, it was a significant shift in parliamentary power.

The Bloc Quebecois have a platform which includes separation of Quebec from Canada.  I’ll be somewhat vague about just what that separation would theoretically entail. 

It has become divisively partisan.  That sounds familiar, yes?

Here’s the hook.  The leader of the NDP (if you’re not in a British Parliamentarian system read that as, “potentially the most powerful governmental leader in Canada”) is fighting another bout of cancer.  Jack Layton is very well respected and regardless of how I feel towards his party or policies I wish him the very best ahead.  However the person chosen to serve as the interim leader for the NDP, Ms. Turmel, was formerly a card carrying member of the Bloc Quebecois.

My goodness, the firestorm this has created!  The theoretical Prime Minister of Canada is a person who is theoretically ideologically bound to breaking up Canada itself!  As a western Canadian, I am theoretically obligated to be outraged at this insult against a united Canada that treats all of it’s citizens equally.  This entire paragraph is slightly sarcastic because it certainly does not reflect my personal feelings.  There are too many theoretical possibilities to be a realistic outcome.

And then the wisdom of Bob Lewis came flooding back to me.  Ms. Turmel is not my foe, she is not my enemy, she is not a member of a political party I am sworn to oppose nor is she a former member of a political party I am sworn to oppose.  She is a strong and passionate champion of her principles in the way I am a strong and passionate champion of my own.  It is my responsibility to express my views clearly so that she may understand my concerns and it is her responsibility to express her own views.  We then exchange responsibilities to listen to each other.

This really isn’t about Nycole Turmel.  It is about me.

I have never been a member of a political party until December 4, 2010 when I joined the fledgling Alberta Party.  I joined the Alberta Party because they best represent my beliefs and convictions. 

I demand that our government be fiscally responsible and I feel that our present government has been responsible for very poor stewardship of our economy, especially with regards to our savings.  I believe our present government has mismanaged our health care system and let it flounder without clear, publicly defined guidance and without a mandate for centralizing and layering middle-management.  I believe our government has vastly overpaid CxO level staff for drastic under-performance and there needs to be an open and public accounting.  I give our government failing grades for continually tinkering with our education system’s funding and curriculum and putting excessive influence on centralized testing which has limited relevance to our children’s performance.  I feel our government has done a demonstrably poor job of monitoring and scientifically analyzing our environmental impact on land and water.  I hear our government had not performed a fair and exhaustive public consultation for at least the past twenty years and quite possibly beyond that.  The fact that they have failed to do so over the past ten years as technology has made it easier than ever to undergo widespread consultation makes it morally repugnant.  We absolutely must have a free, fair and open discussion about the purpose and the routing of power lines where not only are all the details laid out on the table, but all the details must be demonstrably and openly laid out for discussion.  There cannot be even the whiff of impropriety that our present government has salted the crowd and spied on landowners.  Be it right or wrong, we need to have this discussion out in the open for everyone to be able to analyze fairly.

I am appalled with the self-aggrandizing efforts such as the re-branding of Alberta (“Spirit to.. something - excel?  Freedom to.. achieve?  I’m honestly trying to remember here) and the re-creation of the font in which our provincial government writes the word “Alberta.”   Does anyone remember the creation of new license plates?  It was completely necessary because we were going to run out of three letter - three number combinations.  Well, it wasn’t such a crisis, we found a way around it.  Let me point out for those unfamiliar, that our current plates use blue and orange text in a salute to former self-aggrandizement.

We need more maturity in government - and I’m not talking about a government that’s been in power for 50 years.  We need to have some serious discussions about where we are going as a province and what choices need to be made to benefit us all.  We need to have an inclusive discussion that goes well beyond party insiders deciding amongst themselves the group decisions we all must abide with.


I am a proud member of the Alberta Party.  Does that make me branded for life?  Does that mean that the Alberta Party will continually represent my views?  Does that mean that should I support another party’s policy above the policy of my own party I am to be branded a turncoat and never to be trusted again for the remainder of my days?

Of course not.  I have my principles and I will stand to them steadfastly.  I also have an open mind and a willingness to listen to the principles of others.  I have the courage to change my mind when merited though consideration of another’s views.

Mayor Nenshi knows very well that should he no longer represent my viewpoint, I will campaign equally hard against him as I campaigned for him.  Happily, we are still on very firm ground with each other and I feel he has done an excellent job representing my views.

We do not fully agree on every issue.  When we do differ, I am very happy with the knowledge that I may express my dissent here or on twitter or by contacting city hall and I will get a response just like every other citizen in Calgary.  I know that the City of Calgary has demonstrated exemplary leadership towards public consultation in a manner that emphasizes how poorly our provincial government has performed.

I know that I have felt terrible disappointment that Mayor Nenshi’s goals towards secondary suites was not resoundingly welcomed by city council and passed immediately.  I feel we have continued work to address concerns and get a much fairer policy enacted throughout the city.  I believe he probably feels the same as I do.

My thoughts towards Mayor Nenshi and the ability to agree, dissent, and possibly campaign either for or against his future leadership was contrasted with Hosni Mubarak’s trial.  I feel grateful I live in Calgary, but I remember that none of us - no matter where we live - are immune from this problem.  I fervently hope that Mr. Mubarak has a free and fair trial and answers appropriately to the charges levied against him.  I am greatly disturbed by what I perceive as the poor leadership in Libya and Syria at present.

I need to re-quote Bob Lewis from above.

The moment you make disagreements and decisions that don’t go your way personal and acrimonious, the next time there’s a decision to be made, you won’t have much influence.

This is the price of intransigence.  This is the cost of hubris.  We cannot afford poor stewardship.  We cannot sustain bad decision making.

We very much require peace, order and good government.  We require rational and open discussion.  We require as many viewpoints as possible brought to the table to be able to analyze our situation fully.

We know what we need to do.  Can we find it within ourselves to act upon it?