The political journey of Markham Hislop

Markham HislopThanks to Markham Hislop’s work on the Energy Transition, he was in favour of the NDP and Liberal climate/energy policies before Rachel Notley or Justin Trudeau (that’s a joke, folks)

When I began my journalism career 30 years ago, reporters were encouraged to keep their politics under their hat. We were supposed to be politically neutral, objective, and fair. And we were. I can’t think of a single reporter who wore their partisanship on their sleeves. Fast forward to today and hyper-partisan trolls attack me regularly, accusing me of being bought and paid for by either the NDP on the left or the oil and gas industry and Conservatives on the right. Let me tell you, Dear Readers, exactly where my political sympathies lie.

Markham Hislop
A young Markham circa 1985, combining grad school with a growing family and home ownership, financed at 19.5%. Thanks, Ronald Reagan.

First, let me explain my troll policy.

Just this morning a Twitter troll calling himself “Elton Morrow” and using the handle @TrudeauMustGo attacked my column and accused me of being “a paid NDP stooge” and a “paid hack” and other untrue accusations in the same vein.

I tweeted “Elton” that he had defamed me and demanded an apology. Some followers asked why I bothered. Ignore him and he’ll go away, they suggested.

The problem with that strategy is that some readers will wonder why I didn’t respond. Is the allegation really true? Is he afraid to reply because it can be easily proven that he is bought and paid for by the NDP under the table?

My wife’s response was more humorous: “I wish we were bought and paid for!” Only entrepreneurs who have bootstrapped a business for years (almost nine in our case) can appreciate Jo Ann’s joke.

I tweeted Elton that I was talking to my lawyer about suing him for defamation and warned him that further tweets only strengthened my case.

Markham HislopFive minutes later the account was deleted.

Elton will probably start another sock puppet account immediately – if he doesn’t already have dozens – and reappear when the smoke clears, but chasing him off wasn’t my objective.

Defending the integrity of my journalism was the goal.

Twitter followers, whether they are readers or not, now know I’m serious. Lie about my journalism, defame my work, make untrue allegations, and the troll can defend themselves in court.

But what about the allegation that I am an “NDP stooge”?

Albertans might think that because I am an unabashed admirer of Rachel Notley’s climate and energy policies. Justin Trudeau’s, too.

Five years ago, when I started reporting and writing about the Energy Transition, it didn’t take long to conclude that fossil fuels decarbonization and encouragement of still immature clean energy technologies is the correct Canadian and provincial strategy going forward.

Then Albertans elected an NDP government in May 2015 and Canadian picked the Trudeau Liberals that fall.

The climate and energy policies Notley and Trudeau pursued were exactly in line with my Energy Transition work.

Naturally I agreed with them

But I’m not afraid to criticize when I think it’s warranted.

And the columns I write aren’t love letters. They’re based on solid reporting – including on-the-record interviews with subject experts, some of whom are not enamoured of NDP and Liberal policies – and as many studies and as much data as I can find.

I follow the facts to the best of my ability. I try to be reasonable and logical, explaining my argument as well as I can.

And I’ve explained my Energy Transition “bias” in this column as thoroughly as I could.

But what about the accusation of partisanship?

Let me respond to that question with a rough outline of my political journey and where it has taken me as of today:

  1. As a young man at the University of Saskatchewan, I was left of the NDP. It was the late 1970, early 1980s – I had plenty of company.
  2. Throughout the 1980s I drifted a bit right, landing squarely in the NDP camp by the late 1980s.
  3. Newly elected NDP MP for Prince Albert-Churchill River Ray Funk hired me to work in his constituency office in late 1989. I accepted, then a few days later asked Ray out for a coffee and a confession: I had voted for his Tory opponent in the 1988 election because I believe in free trade, the main issue that campaign. He hired me anyway.
  4. Until the late-1990s I was active in local NDP politics, helping with communications on provincial campaigns in 1991 and 1995. But a near-fatal car crash at the hands of a drunk driver and the demands of our growing communications business limited my participation after mid-decade.
  5. And, frankly, I was drifting toward the middle. My support for small business never fit well with Prairie socialists, who like farmers (small businesses if ever there were one) well enough but looked sideways at my occasional Chamber of Commerce leanings.
  6. By the time the new millennium rolled around, I was firmly ensconced in the middle of the political spectrum, a committed centrist. But I never held another political party card; the last one was over 20 years ago.

As you can see in the column I linked to above, one of the most important conclusions of my Energy Transition work is that fossil fuel technologies will vigorously compete with clean energy technologies for many decades before renewables etc. are completely victorious by the end of this century.

Which why I find myself in the middle for most energy debates.

I caution the clean energy hype cyclers on the left to slow down and be more cautious because haste not only makes waste, in the case of energy systems it usually breaks big, expensive things like power grids (hello, Ontario, I’m looking at you).

And I urge the oil and gas boosters in Alberta to recognize that the world is changing, new technologies are emerging to challenge their products, and society and government expect energy companies to behave differently.

Understand now why I get flak from both sides?

So, if you happen to see someone on social media accusing me of being an NDP stooge or a fossil fuels stooge, please show them this column.

If nothing else, it may be one less troll I have to sue for defamation.

Ed. note – I forgot to mention that North American Energy News has never received one cent from any level of government in Canada or the United States; nor from any political party; nor from any charity or political action committee.

Frankly, we have generated very little revenue in two and a half years. Most of the money to sustain us has come from two generous and beloved investors who are also friends. In 2017, almost all our revenue has come from my journalism freelancing gigs.