Time to stop oversimplifying politics

To move our country forward we must begin to approach issues with a collaborative spirit and a yes/and approach

Kristi CawthornOne of the problems with present-day politics is the assertion that there is an obvious, clear-cut solution to the various political issues. Too often, the issues are oversimplified, and the options are presented as binary.

Social and economic progress rooted in good public policy requires an honest look at the complexity of many policy conversations. Take election issues as an example. In a recent national survey of Canadians, conducted by Leger Research, women were slightly more likely to rank health care, cost-of-living, the environment, and housing as important issues. Men emphasized the economy, trust and accountability of politicians, debt and deficit, and trade.

Despite these gender differences, these issues are not competing and distinct, but interdependent and connected. Most Canadians place a very high value on social programs like health care. These programs can’t be sustained without a robust economy to pay for them. A positive business and tax climate encourages private investment, grows jobs, and supports a  strong social sector. Yet we so often frame business and social policies as competing, when they are so clearly connected.

Energy and the environment are another example of interconnected policy. According to Angus Reid Institute, while a majority of Canadians want governments to address global climate change, a majority also want to grow the energy sector. These sentiments are not inconsistent. By offering our lower emission products to countries like China and India, who still rely heavily on coal generation, we can play a leadership role in reducing global GHG emissions. Treating energy and environment as complementary portfolios offers the best opportunity for industry and governments to come together to address this global challenge.

A third example: Canadians are often rightly concerned about our international reputation, but don’t always equate it with our economic security. As the CEO of a manufacturing company, I can tell you that Canada is gaining a reputation as a place not to do business. We’ve failed to apply clear ground rules for investing, failed to uphold our own regulatory decisions, and we’ve violated our own laws against conflict of interest in the SNC Lavalin affair. This damage to our reputation isn’t just embarrassing. It has serious implications for our economic and social stability.

Conversations around these topics are complex – and difficult to communicate in 140 characters. But Canadian voters – particularly women voters, and younger voters – are eager for a space to discuss and explore the interconnectedness of these political issues. That’s why Canada Powered by Women has been established. It’s a new initiative whose goal is to invite more women into a national conversation about the big issues facing our country. By discussing politics without the politics, we hope to inform, connect, and mobilize the millions of Canadian women who currently feel left out of the political conversation. In the process, we can bring clarity to the issues, unity to the country, offer a clearer direction for our future, and get Canada get back on track.

We wanted a different kind of political conversation, so we’re leading it. By providing a safe forum for discussion, collaboration, and co-learning, we are advocating for solutions and policies that benefit all Canadians – while accommodating different points of view, and respecting the desire for change that is a motivating influence in this election.

Complex issues cannot be effectively solved through either/or debates. To move our country forward we must begin to approach issues with a collaborative spirit and a yes/and approach. At a time of political hostility and division, could this be the future of Canadian politics? We think so.

Kristi Cawthorn is CEO of Startec Compression and Process, recognized in 2019 as one of Canada’s top small and medium employers and in 2016 was an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Award Winner in the manufacturing category. She is the Chair of Canada Powered by Women.

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oversimplifying politics

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