Grassroots clowns.

 

 

In this last little while we have seen an excellent local example of the importance and power of social-media in politics.

I had found a large and critical breach of the Wildrose Party constitution in a nominee application form for people choosing to run for the Provincial Executive of the party. This document had been approved by the Provincial Executive and had been posted on the Wildrose Party website. We will never know how many potentially great candidates may have turned away upon seeing that dictatorial pap posted as an apparent application for a democratic nomination.

Not only was this application a serious breach of the party constitution, the terms had been directly approved by the Executive Committee (confirmed in meeting minutes). The optics of an Executive Committee putting barriers up against people who may run against them for board positions are rather terrible to say the least. This sort of thing makes past actions by the party look questionable too. Was it this this sort of thing that led to the unusual acclamation of Paul Collins as Party President at the last Annual General Meeting? Typically in a party that is making waves and skyrocketing in growth as the Wildrose Party was in June 2011, there will be many people vying for a position such as Party President. Oddly, Paul Collins was apparently the only member in good standing who applied for the position that year. Who knows, could have been just an odd anomaly in member choice that year and nobody else happened to want to run. Sadly when the integrity of the nomination process has been breached, these sorts of questions and theories begin to surface and have much more appearance of merit.

In addressing this offense against the constitution, membership and simply principled behavior, I was greeted with silence and stonewalling in my inquiries. Nobody would address the issue. Fingers pointed to the nomination committee but nobody could or would name the members of that committee. Emails were ignored and my phone remained silent.

With some excellent investigation and hard work, Jane Morgan (yes she is my wife), found out who was on the nomination committee and contacted them directly. It was found that while there were some excellent and respectable people on the committee, they had not even met as a committee yet and had no idea of the origin of the application form.

The clock was ticking. The deadline was approaching for applications for the executive committee and nobody with authority within the party would openly even address this breach, much less work to fix it. Jane then took it public and blogged her findings. If you have not read Jane’s posting yet, I strongly recommend that you do. Jane has excellently documented each step she took in her investigation and each conclusion and discovery that she found.

Jane’s article began to make rounds and finally we saw some movement. Jane made regular updates as now communications began to come in as a group of party officials having been found to have their pants around their ankles scrambled to fix the mess that they had created and now was blowing up in their faces.

An emergency meeting was called on Monday night and by Tuesday afternoon a new and constitutionally compliant application process was added to the Wildrose Party site.

Only ten years ago it would have been impossible to force such movement from a Party Executive Committee that has been losing sight of it’s mandate like this. Conventional media typically does not pay much attention to the internal machinations of political parties and trying to get members ignited through phone and mail while effective, simply takes too much time in circumstances like this. Between blogs and other forms of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the grassroots members of the Wildrose Party stood up and put the Party Executive back in it’s place. Change was made and the process is now open, democratic and most importantly constitutionally sound.

Most people will have never heard about this whole fiasco, but it was a grassroots turning point. Future Party Executive Committees and possibly other other party executives will certainly think twice before trying to sneak around party constitutional protections.

Not everybody was too happy about this grassroots victory however. The Previously acclaimed (hopefully outgoing) Wildrose Party President, Paul Collins appears to have awakened from his slumber long enough to post an outright petulant little rant on Facebook and on Jane Morgan’s blog where he calls the grassroots members who stood up to him and his executive “clowns”. I will post the tantrum in full below.

Wildrose Party President Paul Collins September 11 2012:

 

I find it quite amusing that the social media today affords people to express views with partial truth and a ton of misinformation. What happened to the days when people ,who wanted to know the truth, would make a call to one who had an answer. I guess this practice of going to the source before going to the public would be too practical or ethical. What I have experienced on Facebook blogs in the last few days is the heights of immature behavior and I must remember to keep my sense of humor and smile at the clowns that spend their time producing such comedic content.

It is quite a sad irony that a Party President would post such a pouty reaction to a serious issue and then say that others are “immature”.

Comedic content? Partial truths? Misinformation? Please Paul, kindly cite those allegations. As can be seen on Jane Morgan’s blog, she cited and quoted all of her sources. If it was all a load of hooey, why did the party even change the form then?

What Paul Collins is angry about is that not only was he caught sleeping at the helm, but that those grassroots clowns in social media accomplished more in the development and defence of grassroots operations in a couple weeks than he has done in his entire presidency.

It must be kept in mind, Paul Collins is the Party President who could barely find it in himself to call a simple executive teleconference meeting even every two months in an election year. Clearly this man does not like the coasting in his flaccid presidency to be interrupted by eruptions and actions made by those darned uppity grassroots “clowns”.

Well suck it up princess. I do hope and look forward to those grassroots clowns voting Paul Collins out as Party President at this year’s AGM as it has been made clear that he has utterly no respect for the will of the membership or the constitution that protects those member rights.

Thanks to social media and the grassroots clowns within it, parties can no longer sneak things past the member’s radar. This is a great thing.

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It’s like pulling teeth.

In the last little while the Wildrose Party Executive Committee has reminded me of nothing less than the Stelmach PC party in their inept reactionary way of dealing with issues within the party. With multiple blog postings on this site, it has been exposed that the Executive Committee barely met five times in an election year, missed the window to hold an Annual General Meeting where policy and constitution could be revised by the membership and now are bungling the process of nominations for the Executive Committee to the point of violating our very party constitution.

Every time these issues are brought to light, the Executive Committee or others in positions of responsibility within the party have grumblingly and grudgingly addressed the problem. It is sad that it takes such pressure and scrutiny from social media and outside individuals to keep our current Executive Committee even marginally functional.

Now my far prettier and more sane half, Jane Morgan has gotten to work with her keyboard and phone to expose even more detail on the inept actions of the Wildrose Executive Committee under President Paul Collins and has excellently detailed her findings on her blog. While some slight effort was made by some to lay blame for the mess on the nominations committee, Jane exposed that the committee had not even met before and had no idea that the Wildrose Party had posted a constitutionally illegal application form for executive nomination forms on the party website. I of course invite you to click through above and read the details and updates from Jane yourself.

Again responsibility lies directly with the current executive committee. Did the whole committee approve of that document being drafted and put on the website? Who drafted it anyway? Did the VP communications approve that release? Did the President approve it?

Jane’s latest update has been that she is informed that a meeting will be held to discuss this issue and that she will be updated on it’s outcome soon.

I do hope that those at this apparent meeting realize that there is very little to discuss. The Wildrose Party Executive Committee either chooses to act within the Party constitution or it does not. There is no gray area here. You can’t act just a little outside of the rules you are bound by in this game.

With the waffling and the profound nature of this oversight (if indeed that is what this is), I strongly suggest that the membership of the Wildrose Party strongly consider voting to replace the entire current Executive Committee at this year’s Annual General Meeting in Edmonton. While I do know that many of the member’s of the Executive Committee are excellent individuals and while I know that a few have been privately communicating with myself and others to try and fix this mess, not a single one has been willing to break ranks openly and condemn this breach of the party constitution. Not a one will call out and demand that the party President publically fix this sooner rather than later as embarassment and even rumors of corruption spread.

The Executive Committee needs to be made up of a diverse group of committed individuals who will follow through with their assigned roles and who will speak up when things are wrong. Our currently Executive Committee is lacking on all of those fronts.

The party constitution is not a document full of suggestions for the Executive Committee to abide by. It is a document drafted by the members and controlled by the members for the protection of the rights of the members. Only through 2/3 of the collected members at a general meeting can that document be changed and this has not happened. The Executive Committee is bound by the party constitution no ifs ands or buts about it and they had better damn well realize that quick.

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Let’s keep the Wildrose Party members empowered.

The evolution of the Wildrose Party has had many ups, downs and turning points. One of the most significant unifying and strengthening exercises that the party ever undertook though was the member driven election of Danielle Smith as our party leader. It is during that campaign when members were engaged by multiple candidates for months as a small but diverse slate pursued their support for the leadership. During that time the members could truly feel how important they were in guiding the direction of the party as every one of their votes mattered. In the end, the membership overwhelmingly elected Danielle Smith who has proven to be one of the most engaging and dynamic party leaders we have seen in Alberta in a long long time. With the collected engaged wisdom of the membership, a leader was chosen who would bring us from one seat at that time to the 17 seats and official opposition status in only a few years. Member driven politics do work and thousands of minds are better than one. It is very possible that the Wildrose Party may form the next government of Alberta if we keep things principled and together.

Between the selection of leaders, the membership is empowered in that they constitutionally are the sole authority in the selection of the party executive committee. The Executive Committee manages the operations and general direction of the party. Their role is to seek, reflect and act upon the combined will of the party membership. It is in nominating and electing the party executive committee that the membership ensures that the party reflects them and not any small our unaccountable groups.

The whole process for selecting the executive committee is very straightforward and simple. Any member in good standing may be nominated up to 65 days before the Annual General Meeting. Those members will then be listed and will campaign to the membership asking to be selected by secret ballot at the AGM by the collected membership. Very democratic, very grassroots and very effective when left alone.

Unfortunately and almost inevitably self-interested small groups will try and undermine the democratic means of running an organization. It really is sad to see how the Wildrose Party executive committee has behaved in this last 15 months since they took on their roles. As per this blog posting it can be seen that the executive committee only formally met five times in an election year.  That is pretty sad for a group with such an important role. How can one do their job by only meeting once every couple months? The party President has not been calling meetings and has been all but invisible in general. The AGM notification is turning into an embarrassing fiasco and policy will not even be deliberated on.

Despite this terribly lacklustre performance, apparently many of these current executive members plan to keep their positions past this AGM. While there is nothing wrong with seeking re-election, it is getting very disturbing seeing what is apparently a move to limit the simple member choice system in the election of our executive committee as was documented in this blog posting.  The current Executive Committee is directly responsible for this mess and one can really only assume that the only rationale for such a blatant breach in our party constitution was to try and limit who may or may not contest the current executive committee for board positions. Even the Progressive Conservative Party is more open in their board selection than this!

It is grassroots empowerment that is our strength as a party. It is the power of the membership that makes us feel like participants in a party rather than simply wallets for it. It will be through allowing the membership to guide the general direction of party operations through it’s election of the executive committee that our party will stabilize to the point where Danielle Smith can lead us to a full electoral victory without worrying about what is happening with the party board.

Despite this embarrassing and flagrant breach of the party constitution in trying to empower an appointed anonymous committee who can reject nominees “for any reason they see fit”, none of the current executive committee members have shown the courage to come forth and at least try to explain or justify this breach. That speaks volumes of how functional, democratic and freethinking our current executive committee is.

We will not let hidden groups block the democratic election of our executive committee! I know there will be some excellent candidates coming forward at this year’s AGM and I look forward to seeing the membership selecting them. I won’t say who to vote for but I will say that nobody should even consider voting for an executive committee member who remained silent in the face of a breach of our constitution by them. We need change.

The members chose a great leader, they will choose a great executive committee too when given the chance. We just had better ensure that the members maintain that right as clearly somebody is trying to take it away.

 

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Good news and bad news.

The good news is that the Wildrose Party finally openly announced the location and time of the 2012 AGM.

Information may be found here and there is a great early-bird rate that I strongly suggest people take advantage of.

The bad news is that the powers that be seem to still have utterly no understanding of what is a grassroots based party or even what the constitutional obligations are as a party. The “application” form for executive nominations in the party is almost offensive in it’s tone and nature and in my view is in total conflict with the very constitution of the party.

I guess it is time to walk down the constitutional road and explain to some party staffers just how it bloody works.

Here is a link to the party constitution. I strongly recommend that it be read and even more strongly recommmend that it be abided by.

The constitution of a party is critical and while dry the importance of the constitution simply can’t be understated. The constitution is what ensures that the party exists to serve the members and Albertans as opposed to the self-interest of small groups. That is why self-interested small groups constantly try to whittle away at member-empowering constitutions by the way.

To begin with the constitution clearly states where the authority of the party lies in section 5.1:

“5.1 The governance of the Party shall reflect the following principles:

5.1.1 Authority within the Party resides in its members.

5.1.2 The Leader and Executive Committee are accountable to members of the Party and the Caucus.

5.1.3 The Caucus is accountable to the Party and to their constituents.”

 Now it is clearly established that authority within the party resides in it’s members.

The way the members can exercise that authority is through the direct nomination and election of the Executive Committee of the party. That is why AGMs are so important and it is why top-down sorts put off AGMs as much as possible.

The qualifications for running for an executive position within the Wildrose Party are very basic as the party has a grassroots constitution and wants to keep the positions open to as many applicants (to the membership) as possible. They are as such:

“7.2 Not less than ninety (90) days prior to any Annual General Meeting of the Party, the Executive Committee shall create the Nominating Committee, consisting of three (3) members. It shall be the duty of this committee to nominate candidates for the officer positions to be filled at the Annual General Meeting. Candidates for officer positions and all officers must be members in good standing of the Party. The Nominating Committee shall report to the Executive Committee prior to the notice of the Annual General Meeting being sent to all members, and such report shall be included in the notice of the Annual General Meeting. Nominations may also be made by any member up to sixty-five (65) days prior to the date of the Annual General Meeting, and such nominations shall also be included in the notice of the Annual General Meeting.”

The only limitation on running for an executive position within the Wildrose Party is that a candidate be a member in good standing with the party. Nothing more nor should there be. Aside from that it is up to the collected membership to decide who best will serve in those roles.

Now here is where the horsecrap from the party begins. On the party website is a link to an application form for executive positions.  This is a very deep and intensive application form and it demands right in the beginning that it be filled out completely. Sorry folks, the party is in no place to make such demands. As per the constitution the applicant only needs to demonstrate that they are a member in good standing of the party.

Now at the bottom of the form it demands that applicants sign off their party rights to the nominating committee (whoever they are) who may refuse the application for any reason that they may see fit. Sorry folks but that is simply horseshit on many levels.

“1. Acknowledge and agree that the AGM Nominating Committee has the authority to disallow my candidacy on any grounds it sees fit, and whose decision shall be final and binding and not further appealed or challenged.”

So candidates are expected to sign off authority to an un-named and appointed committee who may reject their application for any reason that fits their fancy. Think about that.

If this application is to be believed, authority within the party rests with an appointed committee as opposed to the membership as the constitution states.

This is utterly unacceptable and in my view possibly even actionable.

Look, I understand that grassroots politics can and will be messy. I know that some wingnuts will apply for executive positions. Trust has to be placed in the collected membership to choose the best person at the AGM!

The application form states that this information will aid the committee in vetting candidates. Lets be clear here, the committee has utterly no authority to vett candidates aside from ensuring that they are members in good standing of the party!

At the last AGM the committee not only vetted, it openly endorsed candidates!

I have documented at length on how the last provincial executive could barely even meet by teleconference five times in an election year. Considering that many on that board were acclaimed by the committee and endorsed by them, I would say they do a pretty piss poor job of vetting and endorsing anyway.

The purpose of the nominating committee is simply to ensure that all roles have applicants and that all are members in good standing. Nothing more!

Wildrose members! Speak up! Call the office at: 1.888.262.1888 (though while there is an army of staff they rarely answer).

Call your CA President and call Danielle Smith. Call Paul Collins if you can find him.

If we let go of control as members, than the whole exercise as a grassroots party has been pointless.

 

 

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Wildrose Party Provincial Executive Election information.

In looking at my blog statistics, I had noted that I am getting a lot of traffic from people searching for information on the next Wildrose Party Annual General Meeting. It having been over 14 months since the last one that is understandable.  As can be seen in the picture below, my blog ranks at the top of such searches as unfortunately it is providing more information on the 2012 Wildrose AGM than the Wildrose Party site which at current contains absolutely no information on this year’s AGM nor any information on how a person would go about running for an executive position with the party.

I feel I may as well continue to provide information to the inquiring membership as somebody has to and a very important deadline is sneaking up on us. I understand that while the date and location of the AGM was confirmed back in July through a tweet from Danielle Smith, that the party headquarters may be a bit too busy to provide such information on the party website. I mean hey, at times I find it can take me an entire hour to compose a blog posting.

Below the picture I will provide information on the location and time of this year’s AGM, information on how to get on a ballot for an executive position and some general information on what the provincial executive committee is all about.

OK, at this point we know that the next Wildrose Party Annual General meeting will be held on November 23-24 at what I think Danielle meant as the Mayfield Inn. There is a Mayfair Hotel in Edmonton but it is apparently rather run down and has asbestos problems. I am pretty sure that the former is correct and will try to confirm that. I have no idea what the cost of attendance will be at this time but a person can now at least plan for that time and make travel/accommodation bookings if required.

Due to the window being closed (120 days notice required), the membership will not be able to change any policies or parts of the constitution at this AGM. Aside from being a gathering of the membership (good in itself), the only solid things that will (must) be covered will be the presentation of the party financials to the membership and the election of the next Provincial Executive Committee.

Now here is the important part as some parties appear to be dawdling in getting notice of the AGM to the membership: According to clause 7.2 of the Wildrose Party Constitution, nominations for the Executive Committee can not be made any later than 65 days before the AGM.

That deadline means that anybody considering pursuing a position on the Executive Committee must get in contact with the nominating committee (which was presumably formed a couple weeks ago) prior to September 19 which is not very long from now at all.

With the deadline being only a little more than a couple weeks away and no information on how or where one can contact the nominating committee, it does become something of a pain. I strongly suggest that people go to the Wildrose Party contact page and make an inquiry (copy and save it) as to how to get in touch with the committee soon if they are seeking positions.

To be eligible to run for a position on the Executive Committee a person needs only to be a member in good standing with the party who is not employed by the party, the provincial legislature, parliament or employed by any other party. No applying member needs to fill out extended applications nor be subjected to interviews or any form of vetting aside from being a member in good standing who is seeking an executive position. Our constitution is actually very grassroots when followed.

Redford has been proving in her vindictive actions against constituencies that elected Wildrose members and in the massive deficit being posted by the government that nothing indeed is changing with the Progressive Party of Alberta. The need for the Wildrose Party to turn itself into a proper government in waiting while in opposition is as acute as it ever has been. Having a strong and actually functional provincial executive committee that is dedicated to maintaining the grassroots principles that the Wildrose Party was founded upon is critical.

In order to get a good executive committee we need as many good members as possible to apply for and compete for those positions. Unfortunately some elements in our party do not feel that way thus the incredibly secretive nature of the process when the party should actually be openly inviting and seeking member participation on the board.

Between elections, the way that the membership controls the direction and principles of the party as a whole is in their selection of a provincial executive committee at AGMs. A functional committee should be holding regular meetings, communicating clearly with the membership and managing the important and broad affairs of the party. A functional committee will work cooperatively with the leadership and caucus of the party while still ensuring that neither of those sections of the party encroaches on party operations (as they have in the past). The provincial executive should only answer to and feel accountable to the membership and should only feel obligation to serve that element of the party.

I have served on the Wildrose provincial executive in multiple capacities. It can be somewhat time consuming and thankless but it is a rewarding task for those of us dedicated to the party. A person does not need to set their life aside for these volunteer positions. Formal monthly meetings and some committee work do not have to take too much time. It is the content and dedication that is important.

The Wildrose Party needs good, dedicated members to compete for the positions on our executive committee at this coming AGM. I strongly encourage people to consider running for board positions or to recruit and encourage other good candidates to run for those positions. It is critical for our party and time is running short.

The Party Constitution describes the board roles here in section 7. All of those roles need good people and as I have pointed out in past blog postings, that last board was for the most part dysfunctional to near uselessness. I do hope we do not repeat that sort of endeavor this time.

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How about a date?

In my last posting I covered how the Wildrose Party needs to earn the trust of Albertans and how the party could make great strides in that regard if they acted more openly and trustworthy with their own affairs.

That posting was inspired by the growing controversy and discussion happening around an interview that Danielle Smith had a little while ago where it appeared that Smith may be taking some liberties in statements on policy positions and policies without prior member input.

Danielle Smith’s musings in that interview led to concerns being expressed from some socially conservative members within the party as well as those who (like myself) are very committed to maintaining a member driven and controlled means of policy formulation. Danielle is indeed most entitled to her views but when speaking for the party she  is indeed obligated to speak for the party, not herself.

Now what most people have agreed upon is that there certainly will be some rousing and important discussion at the Wildrose Party’s next AGM. It has been a pivotal election year and many things have been learned. Now it is time for the Wildrose Party to gather it’s membership and to discuss as a whole how we plan to move forward as a party that is both serving in official opposition and aspiring to form government down the road.

I like to think I am generally pretty tapped into many inside sources with the party and have heard multiple rumors about where the date and the venue of the party’s next AGM ranging from October 2012-April 2013 and at locations from Red Deer to Edmonton to even Canmore for crying out loud.

The Wildrose Party website is devoid of information and nobody is officially speaking up. This should be a simple thing should it not? You schedule a meeting and you hold the damn thing. The word “annual” in the name should ease the stress of wondering how often one should hold these sorts of things.

The date and location of an Annual General Meeting is hardly any sort of proprietary secret and there is no real good reason (on the surface) that such information should be withheld from members. It has been about 14 months since the last AGM as of this posting by the way.

This made me dig yet a little more deeply. According to the constitution of the Wildrose Party, despite being named an AGM, an annual general meeting needs only to be held every two years.  Unfortunately this leads to quite a conundrum as technically the Wildrose Party is a society bound by the rules of the Alberta Societies Act which states that an Annual General Meeting is (wait for it…….) an annual obligation under section 25.  The constitution of the party is trumped by the societies act here.

Now some hair splitting may be done here and the meeting potentially can wait until the 18 month period. That does mean according to the Party Constitution that notice must be given to members 120 days before the date of the AGM if policies and constitutional changes are to be contemplated.  Now I know that I as a member have not gotten this notice nor have I heard of any other members getting it. The clock is ticking rather quickly on this one.

Another oddball clause with the Party AGMs covers the nominations for the executive. I will quote the whole thing below:

7.2 Not less than 90 days prior to any annual general meeting of the Party, the Executive Committee shall create the Nominating Committee consisting of three members. It shall be the duty of this committee to nominate candidates for the officer positions to be filled at the Annual General Meeting. Candidates for officer positions and all officers must be members in good standing of the Party. The nominating committee shall report to the Executive Committee prior to the notice of the Annual General Meeting being sent to all members and such report shall be included in the notice of the Annual General Meeting. Nominations may be made by any member up to 65 days prior to the date of the annual general meeting and will be included in the notice of the Annual General Meeting.

That statement is quite a mouthful. Now what is really concerning here is that one can’t be nominated past 65 days before the meeting yet the notice of the Annual General Meeting can be as little as 60 days if there is not to be policy discussion. This sort of makes it difficult for people to know if, how or when people may consider nominations for the board. This complexity is no mistake.

It may be noted that no directions for the pursuit of executive positions are available on the website and I assure you not everybody reads the entire constitution of political parties. It is conceivable that a 60 day notice could be issued and nobody of course aside from those personally chosen or somehow discovered by the committee (no information on how to reach this hypothetical committee) will be able to run for executive spots.

At last year’s AGM, only one person from the prior executive ran for re-election. The rest including myself gave up on the party board and did not run again. That should ring alarm bells to many in itself. Why would none of the executive members want to run for the position again when the party was growing so strongly at the time? That issue in itself is worthy of another likely long blog posting soon as it is part of another problem within the Wildrose Party at the management level. Now this led to a pile of acclaimed and weakly contested positions for top executive positions within the party as nobody even knew how to even find the committee in charge. On top of it all; the few contested executive positions that there were actually had asterisks indicating party endorsement for certain people next to their names!! The party committee actually took sides and made endorsements for the executive positions. This is reprehensible and completely contrary to grassroots principles. Still sadly, we let it slide. Nobody wanted to rock the boat on the way to a potential election.

Now with all of the above issues, what the Wildrose Party gained in the last AGM was an executive board that was handpicked and proved itself to be ineffective and neutered. No longer did the powers that be have to contend with an uppity board as the prior one was which gave up and did not run again. Executive meetings since the last election have been rare and essentially pointless as the party executive has allowed (or been built) to marginalize itself.

We have less than four years here people and if the Wildrose Party is going to get it’s crap together it needs to start now. People have been engaged by the populist appearance and apparent principles of the party. For the most part those principles and goals exist among the membership. The main means of empowerment for the membership is the election of the party executive. This is how the members may participate and retain control of the party and policy direction even if some staffers and the odd MLA feel that the membership is a hindrance.

The constitution empowers the members of the Wildrose Party and for good reason.

In order for the members to participate though, we need a mandate and a date for a general meeting at the least.

Should it be this hard to find out when an AGM is and what will be on the agenda? It has been over a year since the last one and months have passed since the election.

If the members of the Wildrose Party can’t control the direction of the party, then the party is indeed no better than the PCs. The Wildrose will simply be another facade of populism with an autocratic reality.

The Wildrose Party has stridently demanded fixed election dates in Alberta. Pretty sad that the party can’t set even it’s own AGM dates.

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