In the wake of Premier Jason Kenney’s recent energy initiatives to revitalize Alberta’s struggling oil and gas sector through an “energy war room,” the advocacy group Amnesty International responded by describing the initiatives as a “violation of human rights.”
The main concern Amnesty International seems to have is with Kenney’s policies, which promote what they view to be ostracization of environmental activist groups akin to McCarthyism. Under current legislation, the government has the funding to investigate groups that act in a potentially defamatory manner towards the oil and gas industry. Anyone can submit a group for at Albertainquiry.com. The concern here is that the provincial government is acting against freedom of expression. While I personally believe that there is no moral objection to the current government’s actions, as it is limited to political and economic threats against Alberta’s primary industry, I believe that the rhetoric used by Amnesty International causes more harm than it cures.
One of the biggest issues currently facing our generation is the political polarization and the subsequent decline of respectful discourse. While both the political left and right have been guilty of this to an extent, left wing organizations have been far more vocal about critiquing the character and morality of their political opponents. The current discourse suggests that conservatives think liberals are stupid, while liberals think that conservatives are stupid and morally backwards. I believe the latter issue leads to the frequent and public criticisms of conservatives by left-wing people. But who can blame them? If you genuinely believe that Jason Kenney is a fascistic industrialist — in other words, a bad guy — then an extreme form of rhetoric would seem appropriate to you. Calling his policies an infringement of human rights is a pretty damning accusation for an economic policy that isn’t directly harming anyone.
We come to conflict because the two sides of the political aisle have forgotten how to live with or attempt to understand each other. If you’re an oil and gas worker who’s been struggling to pay your bills for the last three years, and Kenney takes decisive action in your favour, then of course you’re not going to care about the environmental ramifications. Who cares about the end of the world when you’re barely able to make it to the end of the month? If you’re a liberal-minded person, you likely see the climate as a priority and feel that a higher level of rhetoric is necessary. But to the person struggling to pay their bills, you’re calling them a villain for trying to act in their own best interest. And when the conservative side responds by calling you a tree-hugging hippie, what have you actually accomplished?
We need the oil and gas industry in Alberta. We also need to guarantee the long term viability of our environment. How is shouting insults at each other helping anyone? How is demanding boycotts and painting the other side as fascists and racists settling our differences? What we need to do as a society is tone down the rhetoric, and move towards compromise. Do we need to revitalize the oil industry? Yes. Can we also throw in some regulations to ensure that oil and gas companies are responsible to the environment they operate in? Sure.
We can go on calling each other nazis and communists indefinitely, but for our generation to reconcile the current polarization, we need to tone it down and compromise. This is something that Amnesty International doesn’t seem to understand based on their previous behaviours. We all have to live together, and I don’t think that implying our leaders are fascists is the best way to do that.