Making partnerships work

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Canadian Fuels Association’s Vice-President, Western Canada

Partnerships are an important way for Canadian Fuels to initiate and take part in national discussions on transportation energy and the economy. We regularly work with other trade associations, non-profit research groups, non-government organizations (NGOs), and multi-stakeholder groups to find common ground on the issues that are of interest to, and influence, policy-makers.

For example, Canadian Fuels is an active partner with Alberta’s Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA), a group that brings together represen­tatives from industry, government and NGOs. CASA focuses primarily on air quality issues, building consensus and crafting recommendations to government that are particularly powerful, given that they reflect the collective position of stakeholders.

We also work closely with the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), which conducts economic studies on key energy and environment issues. Canadian Fuels is a trusted data source for CERI and occasionally peer reviews the organization’s research. The resulting studies are highly valued by industry, government and academia for their sound, principled science.


Challenge and reward

Partnering with NGOs can be challenging—and to be fair, they would likely say the same thing about working with us. Yet in our experience, we inevitably find common ground with our partners, which strengthens our mutual respect and often opens doors to further collaboration. Our work with Clean Energy Canada (CEC) is a good example. At first glance, there appears little on which we could agree with a think tank focused on transition to renewable energy systems. Yet, like us, CEC believes in bringing differing points of view together.

Canadian Fuels has worked with CEC to understand its position; it’s people have had the opportunity to learn about the practical real-life market implications that are clear in ours. Working together is helping us both refine our thinking, which better positions our organizations to advise regulators effectively and objectively.

I pinpoint two keys to effective partnerships. The first is upfront agreement on key principles, such as commitments to free markets and science-based research. Second, it’s essential to be open to opposing ideas and to listen in good faith. That’s when good things happen, ensuring partnerships survive and flourish.