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Notley's Approach To Energy East Is What Alberta Politics Need

01/26/2016 03:50 EST | Updated 01/26/2017 05:12 EST
dave.cournoyer/Flickr
NDP MLA Rachel Notley at the podium in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta Media Room.

If you listen to the news right now, odds are five minutes doesn't go by without a story about the slumping price of oil. There's no doubt that everyone in Alberta has been hit hard by this prolonged downturn.

As the province's largest private sector union, UFCW Local 401 is no different. Many of our members who work in the camps up north have been laid off as companies scale their projects back.

It's difficult for me to see our members suffering due to the low price of oil. That's why I appreciate the approach that Premier Rachel Notley has taken on promoting the Energy East pipeline and other energy projects.

Last year, Albertans decided we needed to try something new. We'd had the same party in government for 44 years and it just didn't feel like things were working.

Alberta has changed a lot in the past decade, let alone the past four decades. We're a province that has come into its own -- a powerhouse in our own right, not an underdog fighting for attention and relevance.

"Instead of self-satisfying tirades and headline sensationalism, Notley is out there having meaningful discussions with the people who actually make decisions."

As our province grows up, the way we do politics must also grow up.

I think that's what a lot of people saw in Rachel Notley when they voted for her and the NDP in May. Not just new faces, but a new, more sophisticated way of doing politics in Alberta.

Look, we're all frustrated right now. But acting out of frustration doesn't usually get you very far.

Don Braid laments that "Care Bear diplomacy isn't working for Alberta," but does he really think that stomping our feet and shouting is the way we ought to behave?

Devolving into name-calling and insults might be emotionally satisfying, but they are not the hallmarks of a confident and competent premier. Nor, frankly, will they bring my members' jobs back.

Let's be clear, I'm not the sort of person who shies away from speaking my mind. But as someone who has spent decades at negotiating tables, I'm also keenly aware that you need to be smarter than your first emotional response.

Instead of allowing herself to be drawn into self-satisfying tirades and headline sensationalism, Notley is out there having meaningful discussions with the people who actually make decisions on these projects.

Whether these projects go forward or not will have a real impact on people's lives, and premier Notley understands that. She gets that this is about more than just politics.

Progress on energy projects isn't going to be achieved through grandstanding. If that were the case, we would have seen more success from the efforts of our previous provincial and federal governments.

I've been at loggerheads in negotiations often enough to know that finger pointing and table thumping should be tactics of last resort, not starting points. More often than not, sitting down, having honest conversations about challenges and trying to come up with practical and acceptable solutions is the most effective way forward.

And that is exactly what premier Notley is doing.

Times are tough in Alberta right now, there's no denying that. But let's not shoot ourselves in the foot by acting purely out of frustration.

Instead, let's work with premier Notley and do what Albertans do best: rise to the challenge and chart a new way forward.

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