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OPINION: Democracy cannot function without compromise

For those who have been silenced by these tactics, we see you and we hear you. Don't let the rhetoric stop you for holding your own opinion on this issue. If you do, then what kind of community will Canmore be in the future? One where bullies win and compromise dies on the altar of absolute self righteousness.

In Star Wars, Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi have an exchange prior to fighting an epic battle on the planet Mustafar. 

Kenobi has just emerged from Padme Amidala's ship – a betrayal in Skywalker's mind – causing him to choke her, the woman he loves, nearly to death. 

"If you're not with me, then you're my enemy," declares Skywalker. 

"Only a Sith deals in absolutes," responds Kenobi. 

The Jedi Master, Kenobi, has declared his loyalty to the Republic and democracy. His statement reflects his belief that a functioning democracy requires the ability to understand the perspectives of others and to compromise. 

If one deals only in absolutes, there is no compromise. Skywalker's statement also presents a false dichotomy. It implies there are only two extremes, or two sides of an issue, when the reality is the world is far more complex than that.

We cannot help but think of this scene as the debate in the community around the future development plans for Three Sisters Mountain Village unfolds. That's because for some people, who are passionate about stopping this development from proceeding, there has been a trend toward this type of thinking.

We would suggest this kind of attitude is in the minority, but it is also quite loud and is affecting the depth and breadth of debate on this issue.

We heard just this week it being suggested if any elected official votes in favour of the area structure plans, they will be forevermore pariahs in this community. We have heard rumours those who publicly support the proposed development will be blacklisted – that someone is actually keeping a list of names of people in our community to target once this is over.

Elected officials, consultants and even members of the RMO newsroom have been subject to online misinformation campaigns. This manufactured outrage is a cancer on our municipal democracy and our community.

We are not OK with these tactics and while we recognize they represent a small portion of those engaged in this debate, this style of politicking where the ends justify the means and the goal is to win at any cost, undermines the legitimate concerns of those who oppose development. 

There is a divide between how people look at these lands and what value they see. For many, the ultimate value is in an undisturbed and pristine wilderness, where wildlife have the space they need to not just survive, but thrive. Where the important east-west connection within the Yellowstone-to-Yukon corridor is the utmost priority when it comes to decision-making. 

Then there are those who look at these lands and see the value it can produce economically in terms of gross domestic product, jobs and tourism spending into the future. There is also the added affordable housing units that would accompany this development, albeit there is not enough in the plans to solve our problems. 

The vision for the future of our community put forward by TSMV and the vision residents have, are clearly not aligned. 

Up until this point, council's job has been to understand the proposal, listen to the community and ask questions of the applicant. When they move into second reading, there will be changes to consider.

These changes will represent compromises that elected officials would like to consider in order to find a way forward that addresses concerns in the community, while still respecting the landowners have a right to propose development and an expectation of procedural fairness. 

The ultimate and best compromise will leave everyone disappointed, in a way, but will also seek to address the concerns heard and give everyone a bit of what they want. Pleasing everyone in this situation is not possible, but finding solutions that creates compromise is possible. 

The discussion council will have moving forward is not around whether or not TSMV should develop, it is around what should be developed. And while we respect and understand there are those in the community who feel strongly that the development should be stopped, the nastiness is completely unnecessary and distasteful.

For those who have been silenced by these tactics, we see you and we hear you. Don't let the rhetoric stop you for holding your own opinion on this issue. If you do, then what kind of community will Canmore be in the future? One where bullies win and compromise dies on the altar of absolute self-righteousness.