True Strength Lies in Negotiation, Compromise

By Jason Menard

I am frequently disappointed in the decisions made by my political representatives — and I can honestly say that there’s no other way I’d rather have it.

Well, that’s not true. But until I’m appointed Supreme Overlord, I’ll just have to get over the fact that my government won’t do exactly what I what, in the way I want it, when I want it all the time. Unfortunately, there are too many who see politics as a game and expect their team to win.

There’s an art to politics — especially in a country where so many of us find ourselves at different points of the political spectrum on various issues — and that’s to ensure that everyone is at least a little bit happy about any decision that’s made.

Well, I should qualify that by saying any rational-thinking person. Because there are those who will never be happy unless their way becomes the highway — or woodlot, as in the case of the recent PenEquity debate,

It didn’t take long for the whetting stones to be broken out following councillor Matt Brown’s compromise deal passing in council.

(Full caveat: I like Matt Brown personally. Every interaction I’ve had with him has been positive and he went over and above the call of duty in helping me with a recent feature series of articles on the Hyde Park region.)

But for some critics of the PenEquity deal, there was no need for a compromise. Any capitulation on the demands for the company to pull up stakes from the contested property were seen as unnecessary.

I have to admit that I was shocked at the response. Then again, I also believe that all politics is about negotiation.

Negotiations work. Impositions don’t. Look no further than World War II — a conflict whose roots were founded in the punitive and restrictive terms of the Treaty of Versailles. While this is an extreme example, the lessons are clear.

In any act, all parties must feel like they’re getting some sort of value. And, in most cases it’s rare that any one side will be completely satisfied. In fact, if ever I’m completely happy with a decision, I tend to reflexively look around to see who around me is clutching at the knife in their backs.

Unfortunately, there are those who see politics as a battleground. I believe that the language you use reflects much of what your believe — so it’s not surprising that those who riddle their speech with military terms and phrases tend to be the most militant and single-minded in their behaviour.

We see it paralleled in the world of sports — those old-school, military-esque coaching staffs fail to be innovative as their game develops. Regimented, staid playing styles are eclipsed by styles developed by those who listen and learn from various sources.

Our political system is not changed by a coup but through civilized discussion. The revolution serves only a slight few; representation respects all.

We live in a time where armchair lobbyists abound. Through social networking and digital communications, it’s never been easier to consider oneself engaged. We speak, often to an audience predisposed to agreeing with our views, and can be lulled into a false sense of complicity. It’s sometimes hard to remember that our majority may not represent the actual majority.

Sometimes with our increased sense of engagement comes an increased sense of entitlement. And when things don’t go our way, the emotions can run the gamut from incredulous to offended.

I will never be so arrogant to assume that I’m absolutely right about any decision or position I take. I know what’s right for me, but I also know there are thousands of variables and personal reasons for people to believe what they believe. And I look for representatives that are willing to listen to all sides of a debate and find a solution that not only works best for all, but also considers the needs of the few.

It would be easy for me to raise a hue and cry every time something doesn’t go exactly in favour of my ward or my riding. But that’s an immature and selfish way to look at politics.

The art of compromise, politically, is not a sign of weakness, but rather a great strength. Focusing on what you want is easy; actually caring and making efforts to recognize the needs of others? That’s true strength.

Find me a strong negotiator that cares about all sides and that’s someone I’m willing to take into any battle I have.

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