Is the biggest risk taking no risk?

This is in my opinion an excellent column on the risk of not taking a risk on shale gas development.  And not to be glib but this guy is not a physiotherapist from Moncton.

Steve McCutcheon is a professional geoscientist with more than 40 years of experience, an Adjunct Professor of Geoscience at the University of New Brunswick, and owner of McCutcheon Geo-Consulting. For 38 years, he worked for the Department of Natural Resources in virtually every part of the Province and is well versed in its geology and mineral resources. He is not a PhD candidate.

Of course people will say he his biased or has some vested interest but to my previous point do you prefer to get your advice from experts or from physiotherapists?

Having said that, I question his basic point about the biggest risk being not taking risk.  When you are dealing with politics, many times not taking risk is the best path to election/reelection.

Take the HST.  If you put 10 economists in a room with the Premier, nine will tell him to raise the HST to 15% to help eliminate the deficit.  However, he knows politically running deficits is less politically risking than raising the HST.

Take Mr. McCutcheon’s issue – shale gas.  While his argument is logical – there will be those who will fight tirelessly (remember the TollBusters?) against the Premier and his party should he proceed – no matter what regulation – no matter what safeguards.

How about NB Power?    A coalition of environmentalists are now urging the Nova Scotia government to buy its power from Quebec.    We could have had it cheaply and with NB Power’s debt wiped out.  Ask Shawn Graham if the biggest risk was taking no risk.

How about the Fredericton/Moncton toll highway?   Most Tories I talk to advocate toll highways – even Elizabeth Weir said it was a good idea – but how about politics?

I grapple with this because I don’t understand it.   The experts will say you need to create the ‘burning platform’ to get the public to buy in to the need before you even propose the solution but I am not sure about that.  You think you could have changed the TollBusters minds?  How about the “Get the frack out of my community” crowd?  How about those fighting against the sale of NB Power?  How about those who would fight against a rise in the HST?

It seems to me that politicians have a wish list of things they would like to do and they run those things through political filters and come out with some sub-optimal but politically viable compromise.

Having said all that – the most memorable things done in politics – are the things that took political guts.

For the most part I am glad not to be a political analyst.

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