Wildrose 2015 AGM policy & constitutional proposals

It is no secret that I am a hard core political wonk nor is it a secret that I am a strong supporter of the Wildrose Party and have served within the party in multiple capacities. While a guy like me sees every AGM as being critical and important, some are more important than others. Due to the recent general election and the incredible disruption and internal change within the party, the 2015 AGM will be one of the most critical and formative ones that we have held in a long time. It is too bad in a bout of paranoia that the party powers that be have banned the media from the AGM!

The Wildrose Party has always prided itself in it’s transparent and open policy formulations. We used to eviscerate the Progressive Conservative Party for their hiding behind closed doors at their AGM. In doing the same thing we have unfortunately become hypocrites which is never a thing to be proud of. Rather than try to hide from or fight with the media, the party should work harder to avoid giving them fodder to chew on. Last August I wrote at length on the conservative tendency towards paranoia when it comes to the media. The media and political parties both need each other. Accept it and work with things with that understanding.

I will be attending the AGM of course. I haven’t missed one in a decade and I wont now. I will be live tweeting from there and I will be writing a full review of what I saw as I have every year for the last few years. I intend to be constructive but rest assured, I will never hesitate to be critical when it is warranted.

A party’s policy set is both important and unimportant in a way. Policies are really just a large set of the guiding principles that have been built by the membership over the course of AGMs. They often get way too specific and are very often prone to bloat as it is often easier to keep adding policies rather than clean up the old ones. The tone and direction of the party are reflected in the policy set which makes them very important. The leader and caucus are however not bound to rigidly follow the policy set nor should they be which reduces the importance of the set when it comes to actual legislation. Local representation and free votes will be lost if all MLAs are suddenly bound to unthinkingly follow a policy set that may not represent changing circumstances or local needs.

Our party constitution has a number of proposals going into this AGM as well and these while often dry, are essential to the efficient and democratic management of the party.

The policy and constitutional proposals were ranked by participating constituency associations and will be presented to the membership at the AGM based on those rankings. It is impossible for the membership to review every possible proposal (some are simply not worth examining) so while imperfect, the ranking system is a good one to help us prioritize and reflect the will of the members.

I will now dig into the dry but important proposals one by one in the order they will be going to the floor. I will be adding my highly biased opinion on them and will be encouraging votes to that effect from the floor of the AGM tomorrow. I only took the top 20 or so as not all of them will be making it to the floor. This post is rambling and long enough as it is.



Ranked policy proposals Wildrose AGM 2015

21. … encourage competition and choice in the delivery of health care, keeping the focus on achieving greater efficiency and better health outcomes for patients.

This proposal ranked right at the top of the policies which is fantastic to see. Unions and other lobby groups have managed to turn our health care system into an utter sacred cow making politicians fear any form of change aside from pouring in more money.

Despite massive increases in health care spending in past decades, our waiting times and outcome are simply not improving. We have to look outside of the box in order to get the best possible health care for our buck. Every universal health system in the world that is surpassing us in outcomes for lest cost per patient (and there are dozens of them) allows a degree of private provision of services. We need to stop people from simplistically shutting down health debate when they imply that only the Canadian and American systems exist and that there is no room to change. Europe is loaded with better systems and we would be fools to keep ourselves from studying and emulating them.

The left will predictably go haywire at such proposals. Let them. We need to start the rationed discussion and as more people die on waiting lists, the public will become more receptive to changes. This policy is a great place to begin and we have 3-4 years to work on how to present that to the electorate.

38. … Conduct a thorough review of the regulations regarding electricity generation, transmission and delivery with a view towards introducing reforms to make these segments more transparent, more competitive and more efficiently regulated and administered than they currently are.

The never ending discussions on electricity deregulation. It has been fodder for rage, conspiracy theories and political ire for nearly two decades now. It is clear that consumers are not winning and it is clear that the deregulation scheme was poorly applied. While returning to full government control of electrical services is likely a poor idea, we do need to study how we can fix the mess that we made in getting government out  (somewhat). This is a good policy.

9. … prohibit spending announcements by the provincial Government during a by election period.

Notley began her legislative term with a hypocritical about face on this issue now that these announcements serve her own needs. This is a good policy. Hypocrisy always costs credibility as I spoke to in the preamble to this post.

22. … take concrete steps to eliminate the fundamental imbalance between Government revenues and expenditures through spending reductions and efficiencies.

This is fluff and bloat. It sounds nice but adds little.  Our policies in general reflect an inclination to reducing government expenditures and eliminating deficits. We can start demonstrating efficiencies in leading through example and not adding this to our policy set.

Change from:

11. … protect parent’s right to choose what school their child attends whether it be public, separate, public charter, private or homeschooling.

To:

11. … Recognize that parents are the primary decision-makers for their children and their children’s education, and protect parent’s right to choose the education their child receives whether it be through public, separate, public charter, private school or homeschooling.*

I am not sure where the proponent of this one is going but have some suspicions. I think our current policy suffices.

 

59. … Investigate the feasibility and manner in which the current Workers Compensation Board (WCB) system can be opened-up to become a transparent and competitive system with the cost and service benefits such a system could deliver in the provision of this vitally important protection of Alberta’s workers.

One thing I have consistently seen over the years in provincial politics is a near universal discontent in how our WCB is administered. I have been fortunate in never needing it and cant speak directly from experience. I don’t know if privatization is the solution here or not but it certainly is worth examination as the status-quo is not cutting it.

11. … Amend the Post-Secondary Learning Act to allow every student to choose whether or not he/she wishes to become a dues-paying member of a student association, in each year of enrollment at a post-secondary education institute.

Could almost call this “right to learn” legislation. Student’s unions are becoming increasingly expensive. The unions are often spending the funds on political initiatives rather than protecting the rights of their students (a good parallel to labor unions). Nothing provides accountability better than giving the membership choice. A great policy.

59. … gradually move public sector employee pension away from defined-benefit plans and towards defined-contribution plans.

This is a great policy and we need to work in this direction. That said, it will have to be done carefully as beneficiaries of the defined benefit plans will fight tooth and nail to keep it despite it being unsustainable. Our unfunded pension obligations on all levels of government are terrifying and we need to change this trend. The word “gradually” in the policy is a good addition.

Change from:

  1. …grant public, separate, and public charter schools more flexibility to offer specialized programs in the trades, arts, music, physical education and business while ensuring all students learn the core aspects of the standard curriculum.

To:

1. …grant public, separate, public charter schools, private schools and homeschooling more flexibility to offer or access specialized programs in the trades, arts, music, physical education and business while ensuring all students learn the core fundamental aspects of the core subjects.

No. Just making a mess here. Take it to the school boards.

26. … Investigate the creation of a Seniors and Disabled Care Allowance program that would give seniors and the disabled Albertans who require assistance for their day to day living the funding and thus the freedom to choose how they wish access that assistance.

People are healthier and happiest when at home. Initiatives that may aid in keeping people at home rather than in hospitals are important. This is worth looking into.

11. … Amend the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to add postsecondary student associations with mandatory membership to Section 1(j) of the Act.

I think having voluntary membership will be good enough. Transparent unions will draw members.

38. … Conduct a thorough review of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and its regulation with a view towards introducing reforms to make it more efficient and responsive to the needs of both the industry and Albertans as well as linking its funding the activity level of the industry itself.

A review may be a good idea. It is a messy area. We have to be careful to ensure not causing further instability in the industry. I will determine my vote after hearing discussion from the floor.

The Policy and Constitution Committee strike a Member Approved Policy Restructuring Committee with the goal of subdividing the Member Approved Policy Document into two categories: a) No more than 25 overarching policies fundamental to the Party’s philosophy and priorities for future campaigning and enactment, if elected, as the next Government of Alberta

b) The remainder of the existing policies to be streamlined, and consolidated where possible into a more manageable number.

This Member Approved Policy Restructuring Committee will be tasked with consulting members and returning to the 2016 AGM with a Member Approved Policy document restructured as above for approval by the membership. This restructured document will be submitted on the deadline date for policy submissions according to the following timelines:

1) Approval of this resolution at the 2015 AGM

2) If passed, formulation of the Member Approved Policy Restructuring Committee.

3) Review at 2016 Policy Forums for CA members and other highly motivated members

4) Distribution of Restructuring Committee recommendations to CAs and solicitation of CA feedback/comments by August 2016

5) Restructuring Committee iterates the recommended document as it deems appropriate for submission to the membership at the AGM.

6) Voting by membership on the restructured document at 2016 AGM.

This is potentially great or a potential nightmare. I love the concept but question the viability. I say let’s give it a crack! If the committee doesn’t produce an acceptable product in 2016 the members can and will reject it.

16. … take control of the administration, application and interpretation of the Firearms Act with the goal of reducing paperwork and legal hurdles for gun owners in Alberta. The government should also appoint our own Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) and limit what the CFO can do on an arbitrary basis.

Todd Brown has done a great deal of work on this. This option is within provincial jurisdiction and gets some federal meddling out of our hair. I say yes.

 

26. … direct provincial health care dollars towards high quality palliative care.

No. Not saying we don’t need high quality palliative care but we don’t need a fluff policy like this pointing out that we do.

 

4. … Create an Equalization Reform Task Force to investigate the issues surrounding the

Federal Equalization Program with the objective of developing a new equalization

formula that correctly accounts for both provincial revenues and spending and thus is

fair for all Canadians and in doing so strengthens the confederation.

No. Take these issues to your MP.

17. … Allow private enterprise to compete against government essential services and receive the same grants as those provided by government monopolies.

No. I agree with the principle but this is just too vague.

9. … Pass legislation preventing MLAs from crossing directly from one caucus to another; MLAs must sit at least six months as an independent in order to consult with constituents before being eligible to join another caucus.

Absolutely not. Floor crossing is a part of the system we are in. Good leadership prevents floor crossing.

Danielle Smith and her band of fools all found themselves politically unemployed due to floor crossing. That is one of the best ways to prevent it.

The ability to cross the floor keeps party leaders in check.

9. … Pass legislation preventing MLAs from crossing from one caucus to another; MLAs must sit as independents or resign and run in a by-election even if that means their constituency is unrepresented for up to 7 months.

No. See above comments on floor crossing.

Constitutional proposals

Due to years of terrible internal leadership, a culture of mistrust has been fostered within the party between members, the leader’s office and the provincial executive. Central party meddling in nominations was brutal. In some years the provincial executive was neutered and communications were dismal.

This has led many proposals trying to limit caucus power and to strengthen the EC. The party is supposed to be run by the members and this battle is ongoing. The constitution is where all that happens.

8.3 The Leader shall be elected by the members of the Party using a preferential ballot, and must receive a majority. To be entitled to vote in a Leadership Vote a member must have been a member in good standing of the Party for the fourteen (14) days (change to) thirty (30) days immediately prior to the date of the vote.*

This one is sort of tough. Leadership races are good party builders as candidates cross the province and sell memberships. That being said, last minute members can make a mess of a race and I is tough to process them all. Just look at how Redford rented herself to unions in order to win. All in all, I like this proposal and say yes.

Change from:

“Do you want a Leadership Vote to be called?”

To:

“Do you approve of the current Leader?” with the voting options being “Yes” and “No.”

Yes. The earlier way made people vote in the negative while meaning a positive. Lets keep it simple.

Change from:

Nominations shall close seventy (70) days in advance of the Annual General Meeting.”

To:

Nominations shall close thirty-five (35) days in advance of the Annual General Meeting.

Yes. We need more Executive Committee candidates and I know damn well some central party managers want to limit that.

Change period from 90 days to,

6.9.4. a Nominating Committee (if necessary), which must be created not less than one hundred twenty (120) days prior to the Annual General Meeting of the Party

As well as adding on eligibility to serve on committee:

nor are Staff or Caucus members.

8.9 In preparation for a Leadership Vote, the Executive Committee shall appoint a Leadership Rules Committee, the members of which must be members in good standing of the Party and voting members of which may not be members of the Executive Committee.

8.9.1 The Leadership Rules Committee shall establish the rules, procedures and mechanisms according to which the Leadership Vote shall be conducted (“Leadership Selection Rules and Procedures”). These must not be inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, but may provide for appropriate telephonic and computer technology for voting.

8.9.2. The Leadership Rules Committee will be the final authority on disputes related to the Leadership Vote and its process, but for certain offences set out in the Leadership Selection Rules and Procedures which shall be subject to an appeal to the Provincial Candidate Selection Committee.

A big YES!. We need more time to draw in good EC members and we need to get the staff and caucus members the hell out of  the process. This is the turf of the membership.

Lists of Constituency Association Officers’ names, titles, email addresses, phone numbers, and the Constituency Association they represent shall, at least once per calendar quarter, be sent in electronic form by the Party to all Officers of recognized Constituency Associations who have executed the ‘CA Board Member Code of Conduct & Confidentiality Undertaking’ appended to the Wildrose Constituency Association Bylaws.

Yes and no. The central party tries to limit communications between constituency associations. This would stop that. That being said, sharing phone numbers is too much. There are some folks out there who I don’t want to hear from. Email addresses should suffice. We are at a point where folks in senior positions on CA boards should all have email.

7.17 Approved minutes of the Executive Committee meetings shall be provided simultaneously to Executive Committee members and Presidents of recognized Constituency Associations upon written request.

The party loathes providing the minutes from EC meetings despite being constitutionally bound to do so. We need to streamline this. There is nothing to hide right?

2.1 The object of Wildrose is to provide open, honest and effective government for thepeople of Alberta.

7.2. Subject to this article, the officers shall be elected by secret ballot at the Annual General Meeting of the Party for a maximum two-year term. A term automatically ends at the AGM after the member has served six (6) years on the Executive Committee or if the member has been appointed by the Executive Committee. A member may not seek election for more than one position on Executive Committee at a time. Their term of office shall commence at the close of the Annual General Meeting at which they were elected and shall conclude at the close of the Annual General Meeting where their successors are elected.

7.2.1. The terms of the President, the Vice-President-Fundraising, the Secretary, and one Provincial Director from each of the five (5) regional zones, shall be elected in conclude in odd numbered years.

7.2.2. The terms of the Vice-President-Membership, the Vice-President-Policy, the Vice- President-Communications, the Treasurer and one Provincial Director from each regional zone, shall be elected in conclude in even numbered years.

7.2.3. Provincial Directors shall be elected by members in good standing of the Party  from the regional zone in which the Director resides.

7.2.4. The Executive Committee may, with the approval of two-thirds of its members  present, and voting by secret ballot, appoint members to fill the term of office of any vacancy on the Executive Committee, provided that the person is a member in good standing and, in the case of a vacancy in a Provincial Directors position, that the person appointed shall reside in the regional zone that has the vacancy.

9.7. In accordance with the Principles and Policies of the Party, Caucus members are entitled to free votes in the Legislature, with the exception of the budget, votes of nonconfidence, and Wildrose policy and principles

11.4. The rules shall provide that any Wildrose candidate must enter into a standard contract with the Party which commits the candidate to paying the Party $100,000 in liquidated damages should the candidate be elected as a Wildrose Member of the Legislative Assembly and subsequently leave the Wildrose caucus to join another party’s caucus.

This edit gets a little messy but it is important.  The vast majority of EC members right now were appointed rather than elected. Despite two year terms,  the members should be able to vote at the first possible opportunity. The extended terms and attrition have unfortunately led to an undemocratic EC even if some of the appointees are excellently qualified.

That should cover it for now. Should be an interesting weekend.

 

 

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Wildrose Party 2014 AGM summary.

Every party has ups and downs and challenges and turnovers. This year has been a challenging one for the party and we had many things to try and figure out going into our AGM this year. While we were disappointed in not winning the general election in 2012, we still saw progress in that we had certainly grown and had gone from a handful of seats to a respectable opposition party in the legislature. This year’s test was in the four by-elections held last month and our showing was simply disappointing. To be blunt, if we couldn’t win at least one seat in those by-elections in light of the years of profound mismanagement by our governing party, we really have no hope in hell of forming government in 18 more months in a general election. The losses led to some kneejerk responses from party leadership and some heavy internal party squabbling as the party loyal tried to grasp what had just happened and why. Tensions that had been quietly building before the by-elections began to openly erupt as we saw a caucus member sent on his way and we saw all sorts of social media eruptions from both inside and outside the party.

While all of that negativity is not pleasant to see, there is a silver lining in that it made the powers that be in the upper levels of the party more receptive to listening and changing than they have been in quite awhile and it was reflected at the AGM. The AGM itself was a success in the exchanging of ideas and communications between the members and the managers. Time will now tell if whether the communications were taken to heart. It is promising though seeing a broad questionnaire included in every package for attendees (though not promoted well) and the reverse bear-pit was excellent.

For the first time since the founding of the party I was unavailable for the Friday portion of the AGM. I am of a mind that AGMs should shift to a Saturday/Sunday format but I do understand that some folks would take exception to that and it really isn’t a huge deal. It does make it tougher for folks employed full time to attend the whole meeting. From what I heard the hospitality suites were quite lively as usual and while I did miss participating in them, it was nice not being hung over for the Saturday portion of the AGM. I did watch Danielle Smith’s keynote speech live from home. The full text of that speech can be found here.

One thing that struck me right away was the choice of Tim Dyck and Cheryl Phaff to MC the AGM. Both of them are long term grassroots members who hold volunteer positions in the party. This helped demonstrate a recognition that some members are becoming uncomfortable with a perception that paid staff are calling all shots within the party. While the party needs managerial reform in a real way, the little symbols like this go a long way too.

Danielle Smith’s keynote speech

smith2014

There were mixed reviews on Danielle’s speech. I think overall it was pretty good but one of the key points was poorly communicated in it. When Danielle began to speak on how media was not covering our positive initiatives well, I slapped my head. There are few things worse to watch than political types blaming the media for their own failures and if nothing else it tends to piss off an already fickle element in the media which will make coverage even more unfavorable. In expanding further, we could see that Danielle was segueing into encouraging us to communicating more directly on the ground with people rather than trying to rely on media. It was pointed out how press events where we were exposing a scandal with the PC party would be jammed with reporters while when we put out a positive release with a policy plan we can’t find a reporter to save our lives. This is not so much a shot at the media (though some interpreted it as such) as it is just facing and pointing out the reality in conventional media. Positive policy statements while productive are dull while scandals sell newspapers and bring in viewers. Media are bound by having to report on what is broadly viewed as interesting which is understandable. This has led to the consequence that the Wildrose only ever gets broad public coverage when a negative event is happening however and that gives folks the impression that we are chronically negative.

What I am interpreting here is that Danielle Smith was not so much trying to attack or blame media as she was trying to encourage us to spread our positive messages ourselves and at a ground level. This will entail developing our constituency presences (something that has been sorely lacking) and speaking to people at the doors and on the streets. This also means being more positive and proactive on social media whether through blogs, twitter, facebook or any of the other platforms. We need to fix our ground game and modern communications give us great opportunities to do so if we would properly utilize them. It will be in direct communications with Albertans that we will win their support rather than expecting conventional media to do that job for us. One positive experience at a doorstep will have more influence on a voter than 100 positive editorials. We need to get out there and create those positive experiences.

That whole interpretation of mine though took some thinking and reading into the speech. I am not sure if the keynote speech was the best place to try and communicate that kind of initiative and it left things open for people to portray it as a petty attack on media. Many on social media took to mocking Danielle’s light reference to appointing “fun police” as well. It was a simple pair of words used while making the very good point that politics and ground level organizing can be fun if we want to make it so. It is actually important that we do so. It is much easier to draw volunteers out when it will be a fun event rather than seeing it as a task or obligation. The Alberta Party demonstrated this excellently as they promoted their Calgary Elbow campaign. They were upbeat and held fun gatherings throughout the campaign. They drew positive and repeat volunteers which led to them having a respectable showing in Elbow despite having 2% support throughout the rest of the province. The ground game is critical and having some fun is key in building it. The other point again learned through this speech though is that we need to communicate directly as simply implying in a speech that we should have fun ended up being mocked and belittled by folks.

What I took from Danielle Smith’s speech was that some humbling has occurred and that she recognizes that we need to build up our member and community presence rather than centralize party control and rely on press releases to get the word out as we had been. Perhaps I am reading too much with optimism from this speech but this is what I gathered from it. It was not the most inspiring, fiery and profound oration to hit a convention floor by any means but it had positive messaging and some ideas that we need to follow through on.

Executive Committee Elections

On Saturday morning we began with one executive candidate speech for the only contested position at this AGM. It turned out that the opponent of the person giving the speech dropped out on Saturday turning the race into an acclamation. That meant there was not a single vote on executive positions. We had recently adopted changes extending terms and staggering their expiries. I think that still has merit but in light of having no members able to vote on EC members this year and many on the EC having been appointed rather than run for their positions, I think something backfired. We need to work on before the next AGM. The member selection of EC members is critical and we need to hold regular races for this. The races add a little competitive zing to the convention which we lacked this year as well.

Reverse Bearpit Session

bearpit

This was a refreshing, gutsy and innovative move by the party. A panel of a few elements of the party sat up and asked questions directly of the membership on a number of issues and solicited their concerns. This was purely unvarnished interaction with a full media presence. There was no effort to control messaging here. There was only an honest exercise to get feedback from concerned members.

Sitting on the panel were Danielle Smith, Dave Yager (Party President/Interim Executive Director), Jeff Callaway (VP Fundraising), Kathy MacDonald (Calgary Foothills by-election candidate), Rod Fox (MLA Lacombe Ponoka) and Brian Tiessen (Wildrose nominee Sherwood Park). The panel was modelled to cover the subjects being asked of the membership which were: issues, by-elections, operations and caucus.

On issues members came forward to the microphone and were pretty predictable in saying what motivates them. Healthcare, education and a repeated call to reduce government came in loud and clear. While perhaps unsurprising, a reinforcement being presented to party leadership on how reduction of the size and scope of government is considered a core principle by the active membership is a good thing.

On by-elections we heard stronger concerns. Some members reported a sense of poor organization in the campaigns that they volunteered on and that they were not well utilized as volunteers. One resounding message was that nobody liked the campaign slogan of “send them a message”. It is good to note that the members rejected that theme as well as the electorate. It is too bad this was recognized after the by-elections rather than before but in openly discussing this we can better avoid repeating mistakes. Members (and voters) felt that we simply were too negative in the campaign.

On operations things became more heated. Discontent on the party of the membership with party operations has been growing and I think it was a good idea to let them speak (and vent) on this. Many members wanted a bloodletting on the staff level of the party. It was confirmed that William Mcbeath is no longer in charge of political operations and that Vitor Marciano has been reduced to an advisory role and helping Danielle Smith write speeches. Personally, I think Vitor has been somewhat unfairly tarred by some within the party as the root of problems. Marciano was as key to the growth of the Wildrose to a higher level in these last few years as Danielle Smith has been but the details of that are fodder for a post another time. While Vitor has done some good, it perhaps was time that somebody else moved in. Marciano’s style did chafe with many in the membership and they expressed this.

In operations, multiple members spoke up on how terrible communications with the central party has been. Stories of repeated requests for documents, records or even simply advice languishing in party voicemail were related to the panel by frustrated members. It seemed no small coincidence that communications seemed at their worst when Constituency Association members tried to get nomination information.

Outside of communications, nominations were a huge elephant in the room. Multiple frustrated members again came to the microphone and spoke up on issues of party interference in their nomination processes and utter lack of communication on it. The response from the panel was unfortunately utterly disappointing on this one. When asked direct questions on nominations Danielle sidetracked into a speech about how a committee of MLAs is being formed to seek and recruit new nominees. That had utterly nothing to do with the question on party interference in nominations, in fact it implies that they want to take the recruitment process even further out of the hands of constituents. The party’s record on nominations so far has been abhorrent with nearly half of all nominations done over 90% of nominees were either acclaimed or appointed. Further nominations have now been deferred until January and I do hope that is because the party wants to repair the currently broken process. While the response on the spot was disappointing, I do hope the panel was at least listening and plans to come up with something better. The nomination mess is undercutting CAs and general volunteer morale in a terrible way and will bite the party’s ass hard if nothing changes.

On caucus little was said by members. I take that to mean they are pretty content with that. Some folks took the microphone to go on their own pet diatribes and some did some unproductive bitching but as a whole I think the reverse bearpit went very well.

Policy

The policy discussions were well organized and went quite smoothly. The system of having constituency associations rank policy proposals worked well in filtering out the more important from the less pressing proposals. There is room to work on getting more CAs to participate in the rankings and perhaps in the numbering system but it worked as well as it could. Our constitution allows any 5 members to bring forth a policy proposal and when I was VP policy we literally had proposals in the hundreds one year. These proposals simply must be pared down as not enough time exists at any AGM to debate them all. Tim Dyck’s organization of this was as good as any I have seen to date.

Discussion was typically well controlled. Three were allowed to speak for and three against before a vote was held on any policy. Something that was interesting was how many policies came to a pretty close vote requiring counting. I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing to be honest. I found myself torn on voting on a number of policies as I saw good points made on both sides. For the most part, there was little of controversy in our policy formulation.

We did manage to create some controversy for ourselves by regurgitating a failed policy proposal that wanted to try and identify each and every conceivable minority group on the planet and recognize their rights while replacing our current policy which already supports the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in full and the rights of ALL people being equally protected. This vote was not even close and members resoundingly supported the protection of rights for all as is already in our policies.

The differences are laid out here on Jane Morgan’s site. No sense reproducing all the details on this faux-controversy here. The bottom line is that some tall foreheads decided to ensure that the folks playing gotcha politics could find some sort of issue to try and paint the party as being intolerant and they gave them one. The Wildrose Party’s policies were inclusive and protected the rights of all the day before yesterday and they still do today. Rejecting foolish and divisive identity politics being enshrined in policy is not bigotry, it is common sense. It should be noted that not a single party sitting in the legislature lists all groups for protection in their policies either. The Wildrose policies on this are the same as the NDP, PCs and Liberals essentially. There is no controversy or intolerance here despite some trying to create it.

Constitution

The constitutional discussions went much like the policy ones. Pretty smoothly with good debate. The bar for constitutional change is higher than policy in that we need 75% in order to change something as opposed to 50% in policy.

Some housekeeping changes were made and some proposals were rejected. One proposal that would have reduced party interference in nominations won the support of the majority of the room but still fell short of the requisite 75%. Such is democracy. Perhaps next year.

The whole of section 9 of the party constitution was removed after some debate. The notions in section 9 were perhaps well meaning but in reality were unfeasible in the constitution. Section 9 called for party control over caucus actions. This clashes with proper government representation and simply could not remain in our constitution. The section was removed and we continue to grow up.

One proposal to enshrine our commitment to the protection for human rights for all was supported by about 98% of the room in a vote too so the party have reiterated commitment to human rights on more than one level now. It will still never be enough for some of course.

After constitution we had what I saw as a positive and standard sort of closing speech from party President David Yager.

The AGM as a whole was a success. No huge changes were made and people did not come out screaming with enthusiasm and ready to take on the world. A great deal of communication and open party introspection happened though and this is important. The Wildrose Party needs to reform itself and grow further and having frank sort of meetings like this is a step on the way there. The meeting this year definitely had a theme of listening on the part of party leadership. They listened indeed, now we will see if they truly heard us.

Informal AGM initiatives

On Friday evening a young party activist disappointed with the on again/off again leadership review idea handed out a parody “wiltedrose” ballot to members. It was not generally well received. Guess he made a point all the same and that is part of the game.

ballot

A paper was distributed to gather more support for Rod Fox’s upcoming motion 501 on property rights.

motion501

Most funny and sad was an initiative by supporters of Randy Thorsteinson who placed one of these under every vehicle in the parking lot calling for the formation of a Reform Party (how original) with what appears to be a very unapologetically socially conservative and anti-abortion platform. Aside from a facebook group formed a few months back, I don’t think he is really getting anywhere with this but he may at least draw a few of the less moderate away from the Wildrose. Good luck Randy.

thorsteinson

 

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Wildrose Party AGM 2013. The evolution continues.

wildroseI have been very involved in the Wildrose Party having joined the party while it was in it’s past incarnation as the Alberta Alliance Party which held a lone seat in the Alberta Legislature. Every year the party has learned new lessons (often in a hard way) and made changes to better reflect the needs and will of Albertans. This ability and willingness as a party to learn and evolve is what has led the party from being the tiny rump in the legislature in 2004, to serving as official opposition today, to very possibly becoming Alberta’s next government in 2016. Every year at every Annual General Meeting the party has made the changes required to better manage itself and to appeal to a broader range of Albertans. This year’s AGM was no exception to that trend.

With such explosive growth there will always come some growing pains. Last year it became evident that the party was suffering under some very serious managerial challenges on the executive level. This was rectified as members gathered in Edmonton and we had a nearly clean sweep of the Executive Committee. While policy was not on the table for alteration at last year’s AGM, discussion of our policies sure was. We took advantage of the gathering for some very frank self-evaluation which is what led to the great policy changes we made at the AGM in Red Deer this year.

Some policies we had were obsolete, some really simply made little sense (these will always build up in a policy set and need periodic flushing), and some policies were simply not acceptable to Albertans. We struck pretty much all of those this year.

The basis of the Wildrose Party is grassroots in nature. This means we are expected as a party to reflect the will of Albertans in policy and actions rather than dictate. To do that our policies must remain ever-fluid as the views of Albertans will constantly change as the social end economic environment around them does. The Wildrose Party is staying true to that principle. One needs only to look to the flaccid and almost non-existent Social Credit Party of Alberta to see what happens when a party stubbornly insists on clinging to outdated policies and principles.

I am going to start with the policies that we still had that reflected the “Alberta Agenda” otherwise known as the “Firewall Letter”. At the time when the Alberta Agenda was drafted by folks such as Stephen Harper and Ted Morton, Canada was in a period of unprecedented regional division. The Quebec Referendum of 1995 where secession was only avoided by a tiny margin was still very fresh in people’s minds and we had just come from the 2000 federal election where Jean Chretien won a strong majority through pandering to Quebec while demonizing Alberta. Albertans felt bruised, battered and defensive after that gross display of federal regionalism in electoral politics particularly in light of how successful it was.

In light of the political atmosphere 12 years ago, the Alberta Agenda made perfect sense to many (likely most) Albertans at that time. Times have changed dramatically since then though and it is quite clear that Albertans in general have little use for policies that are as potentially regionally divisive as those that stemmed from the Alberta Agenda.

While there was some debate on it, there was no contest when it came to the votes by members to strike the policies listed below from the Wildrose policy book.

Under Justice we had: “explore the feasibility of creating a provincial police force.”

The above policy is now gone for a number of reasons. To begin with, some people interpret that as a shot at the RCMP which while not perfect, is an iconic national police force that is well respected by most Albertans. It was pointed out that we as a province had just signed a 25 year contract with the RCMP for policing and we were reminded that we do have the Alberta Sheriffs. To put it simply, the policy was pointless as it stood and really, there is nothing to stop us from examining the feasibility of anything at any time. It is what we choose to act on that is important.

Under Economy: “withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan and create an Alberta Pension Plan. The Alberta Plan will offer at minimum the same benefits while giving Albertans control over the investment fund”

Personally I still don’t think that policy is all that bad. Quebec has opted out of the federal plan so it isn’t totally unprecedented. All the same, it has been difficult to explain the need for such a move to people at large and some pensioners have expressed fear that this may threaten their economic well-being. As with other policies as well, times have changed. Great improvements have been made to the management of the Canadian Pension Plan and the plan does not look like the economic dead end that it appeared to be 12 years ago. If there really is a need for a provincial plan, the proponents of it will have to make a better case to Albertans for it. For now, such a plan does not reflect the will of many Albertans thus does not belong in the policy book.

Under Democratic Reform: “propose a Constitution for Alberta, within the confines of Canadian Confederation.”

This is just a recipe for inter-jurisdictional conflict and endless time in the courts. Our federal constitution is in dire need of reform as it is when one looks at things such as the Senate scandal. Why would we want to mire things further with trying to draft a parallel constitution? When asked this, Wildrose members overwhelmingly agreed to get rid of this policy.

In writing I see that there is a gap in my notes on one policy resolution as to whether or not it had passed and I honestly can’t remember at this time. Either way, there was a resolution under economy that would have gotten rid of the policy for Alberta to provincially collect it’s own income tax and I am pretty confident that the resolution to get rid of that policy passed. I may be corrected on this though. Again like other Alberta Agenda type policies, it simply is not required, there is no demand for it and it is out of date.

Rest assured I still have a good deal of regionalistic jingoism within me as an Albertan. Until we can clean up our own act within the Alberta legislature both fiscally and democratically though, we are in no place to cast stones at federal policies right now. As a provincial party we need to remain focused on our local needs rather than getting distracted by perceived federal injustices. We will be much better placed to lecture the federal government and pursue changes from them if we form a provincial government and then lead by example through building a fiscally responsible and democratically fair Alberta first.

The Wildrose Party never really has had a large set of socially conservative policies but we certainly have managed to wear the mantle of extreme social conservatism thanks to the likes of Alan Hunsperger and a few others. We did have a couple stinkers in our policy book with that regard all the same though and we rightly cleaned them out.

One policy that caused us a great deal of grief was the one calling for the protection of “conscience rights” of healthcare professionals. This policy had always been most frustrating as it caused us untold grief as a party and it was calling for the protection of rights that are already protected under the Charter and under medical legislation. This policy was a bone tossed to hardcore pro-life folks years ago and it was well past time to get rid of it.

The move to strike that pointless policy was put forward by multiple constituency associations. In the first round of vetting the proposal to strike was supported by 95% of the room. When the move to strike the policy was brought to the floor it was overwhelmingly supported by the membership. It is now gone and never to return. I am still pissed that it was ever in our book to begin with. Lesson learned.

Another big policy problem for us on the social end was our policy on the Human Rights Commissions.

The policy used to read like this:  “amend the Human Rights Act to unequivocally protect the freedom of speech and freedom of the press and should disband the Alberta Human Rights Commission.”

I still think we should disband the Human Rights Commission as it provides nothing that a court of law doesn’t and it has been abused terribly as a way to stifle free speech with little in the way of legal controls such as presumption of innocence and rules of evidence.

People purposely used that policy to try and wrongly claim that the Wildrose Party wanted to abolish the Human Rights Act itself or opposed human rights in themselves. While this was nonsense, it led us to constantly have to explain ourselves on the distinction between the Human Rights Act and  the Human Rights Commission. This was nearly impossible to do in the heat of an election and on doorsteps. The policy simply was dragging us down right or wrong.

The drafted and overwhelmingly accepted new policy does not call for the abolition of the Human Rights Commission. The new policy does the next best thing in that it calls for changes to the rules for the commissions and explains the exact part of the act that needs reformation. The new policy is below:

amend the Human Rights Act to unequivocally protect the fundamental rights and freedoms in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by removing section 3 of the current Act and reforming the complaint process to introduce rules of evidence, the presumption of innocence, and protection from frivolous and vexatious claims.

The new policy is a solid statement affirming the protection of human rights while setting solid targets for the reform of the current system.

Many other policies were amended, deleted and added over the weekend. Much of that was simply housekeeping and helped tidy up our policy set.

There were some contentious propositions last weekend to change the party constitution last weekend as well. For some reason, a group of folks felt that we needed to consolidate the party’s powers more solidly within the leader’s office rather than within the executive. I wrote in detail on these proposals a few months ago when they first came out.

The most offensive of these proposals was the one that would have given the leader a direct veto over the selection of the party’s executive director and in the formulation of the powers of that role. It was heartwarming to see that resolution overwhelmingly shot down by the gathered membership. The vote was not even close.

While the membership was very open to the evolution of policies to better reflect the wishes of Albertans, the membership very clearly got their backs up en masse whenever something appeared to threaten the grassroots, bottom-up nature of the party. Every one of the proposals to centralize power in the party was overwhelmingly shot down by the membership. For those who claim they can no longer see the difference between the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party, this is one of the most glaring differences.

The Wildrose Party is led by the membership and that was made crystal clear last weekend.

Last weekend’s Annual General meeting of the Wildrose Party was a success by every measure. The meeting was well organized, the staff and volunteers did an excellent job, and of course most importantly the party took great strides forward in it’s evolution as a political organization that is preparing to govern Alberta. Members left the meeting feeling upbeat and unified and the message going out to Albertans was clear in saying that we as a party are listening and will change to best represent the province’s needs and wishes. We are true to our principles and are growing up.

The policies of the party are still not perfect (they never will be), but as long as we retain our open process of policy formulation and discussions we will continue to have the best set in the province. While some who feel a strong connection to some socially conservative policies may feel excluded, they really need to swallow a dose of reality and pragmatism.

The party used to actually have a policy against gay marriage back when I joined it nearly ten years ago. My wife Jane and I both found that policy regressive, offensive and unnecessary. Jane fought against some pretty dedicated supporters of that policy but won in the end and it was removed from the party policy book. Had that dog not been removed, the party would surely still be sitting at one seat in the legislature with no hope of forming government at best or even influencing it. Instead of turning our back to the party due to policies that we didn’t like though, we got involved and used the grassroots means to change those policies. If unfettered, grassroots policy formulation will always work as the collective wisdom of the membership guides the evolution of the party.

Last year the party focused on introspection and the reform of it’s internal management. This year the party focused on the policies and perceptions of the party. Next year I expect we will be focusing on bringing the party before the electorate again. We are in for an exciting couple years as we head towards finally forming a new government in Alberta.

 

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Wildrose Party AGM 2013 Constitutional proposals part 2

Having recently ranted about the Wildrose Party constitutional proposals that I do not like in a recent posting, it is important that I speak to the proposals that I do support.

Party constitutional issues can be about as dry as it gets but they are terribly important and can indeed make or break a party. A party is governed by it’s constitution and that is a reflection of how that party would govern if in power. For example, if a party has a top-down, centralized constitution, it stands to reason that the party will be quite dictatorial if it should gain power. A party’s constitution indicates as much about where a party stands as it’s policies do. Few people spend much time looking at party constitutions though and that is how some unprincipled folks can manage to slip some things by the membership constitutionally at times that perhaps don’t belong there.

The Wildrose Party has a pretty good constitution overall though hardly perfect of course. There is still always room for changes and as the party grows, evolves and learns lessons the need comes to change some things within the constitution. There are many housekeeping sort of items in the list of proposals that I am somewhat ambivalent about so won’t write further on them. There are some proposals that are quite good though and I do hope that they pass at this year’s AGM in Red Deer.

ConstitutionAGM2013

RESOLUTION 3

The Executive Committee moves that Article 7.3, 7.14, and 7.20 be deleted and replaced as follows:

7.3 Subject to this article, the officers shall be elected by ballot at the Annual General Meeting of the Party for a two year term. Their term of office shall commence at the close of the Annual General Meeting at which they were elected and shall conclude at the close of the Annual General Meeting where their successors are elected.

7.3.1 The President, the Vice-President-Fundraising, the Secretary, and one Provincial Director from each of the five (5) regional zones, shall be elected in odd numbered years.

7.3.2 The Vice-President-Membership, the Vice-President-Policy, the Vice- President-Communications, the Treasurer and one Provincial Director from each regional zone, shall be elected in even numbered years.

7.3.3 Provincial Directors shall be elected by members in good standing of the Party from the regional zone in which the Director resides.

7.3.4 The Executive Committee may, with the approval of two-thirds of its members present and voting, appoint members to fill the term of office of any vacancy on the Executive Committee between Annual General Meetings, provided that the person is a member in good standing and, in the case of a vacancy in a Provincial Directors position, that the person appointed shall reside in the regional zone that has the vacancy. Nominees for vacant Provincial Director positions shall be sought from the regional zone that has the vacancy.

7.14 No officer shall serve more than six (6) consecutive years in any combination of executive committee positions.

7.3.99 This clause is a transitional clause and it shall be treated as spent after the conclusion of the 2014 Annual General Meeting, and need not appear in a subsequent consolidation of the Constitution prepared after that Annual General Meeting.
For further clarity, at the 2013 Annual General Meeting:
7.3.99.1 The President, the Vice-President-Fundraising, the Secretary, and the top vote getting Provincial Director from each of the five (5) regional zones shall be elected to serve until the end of the 2015 Annual General Meeting.
7.3.99.2 The Vice-President-Membership, the Vice-President-Policy, the Vice- President-Communications, the Treasurer and remaining Provincial Director from each regional zone (if any) shall be elected to serve until the end of the 2014 Annual General Meeting.

In short, what is being proposed is to have members of the party’s Executive Committee elected to two year terms with staggered elections so that half of the EC gets elected every year.

This proposal is excellent and overdue. To begin with, when somebody is elected to a role on the Executive Committee it can take a few months simply to get used to the role and get to know the people they will be dealing with. By the time the new EC member feels comfortable, another AGM is looming and they must dedicate time to standing for re-election or reconsidering their continued participation in the role. The Executive Committee is very important and those roles are worth two year terms to those who take them on.

Another issue this change could help resolve is having bulk turnovers on the Executive Committee. While people will come and go, with annual elections for the roles the turnovers can be and have been rather large at these times. With half of the EC facing election every year, the membership still has a chance every year to change the makeup of the EC if they choose to do so. We always will have half of the EC sitting with at least one year’s experience which will reduce the stress and challenges of a large turnover.

Lets get this proposal to pass this year.

RESOLUTION 10

resolution10

The only thing that should limit the term of a Party Leader should be the collective will of the membership whether that be after one year or after twenty. The Wildrose Party Constitution provides the means for a leadership review to be held every year should the members through the Executive Committee choose to do so. There is no need to have a hard term limit sitting like this.

There is some ambiguity in the phrasing of this term limit too. When did the clock start ticking? The day that the Leader got elected to the membership? The day the Leader got elected to the Legislature? The day the Leader became Premier? Rest assured the political opponents of the Wildrose will try to make fodder of this sort of thing if and when they can.

Let’s simply leave this to the members of the party to decide. If somebody wants to take out the clause for leadership reviews, then we can get up in arms.

RESOLUTION 18

resolution18

This one I am a little torn on. The cutoff being 14 days is too short if only for logistical reasons. We learned this in the last leadership as candidates literally dumped thousands of new memberships on the office at the very tail end of the race. Those memberships all had to be verified and processed along with having ballots sent out to them in time so that members could vote and send their ballots back before deadline. It was a monsterous task that took a great deal of party resources and many headaches (but it was pulled off admirably in the end).

In lengthening the term personally I would like to split the difference and perhaps go to 28 or even 21 days before the race. Leadership races are excellent exercises that promote team building, the party in general and of course provide a huge influx of new members. The last couple months of the race are critical as people really begin to take notice of the race and decide to participate through membership. To cut that off too early would greatly reduce the momentum and benefit of a strongly contested race.

If the number can be amended downward I could support this extension. I don’t think it can at the AGM though so would say right now that this proposal should be perhaps voted down this time but we should ensure that a more reasonable cutoff is proposed next time. With any luck we should not be in a leadership race sort of situation for at least a few years yet.

RESOLUTION 21

resolution21

This resolution I strongly support. To be blunt, this clause in the constitution as it stands has been a pain in the ass for every Provincial VP policy (including myself) since the foundation of the party. While the principle of this clause is well-meaning in the purest if grassroots sense, it simply is not feasible within a party with any more than a few dozen members in it.

While we want to maintain member initiated policy, we have to have reasonable limits and vetting of the proposals. When I was VP policy the party only had a few thousand members and I still ended up with nearly 700 proposals sent to me one year (though to be fair, about 300 of those came from about four people). I can’t imagine what comes in now that the membership numbers in the tens of thousands.

If a member is dedicated to getting a reasonable policy proposal or two to the AGM the means will still be very realistically within their reach if this resolution passes. Policy deliberation should be a more critical part of Constituency Association activity anyway and it is not hard at all to get involved with that. Anybody who has been to a CA AGM knows that there is hardly a 100 hands raised when the role of CA VP policy needs to be filled and they are often happy to have as much participation as possible. Hell, if your local CA is not working this clause does not preclude a member from presenting their proposal to other CAs.

This clause will help encourage CA activity and will provide one level of vetting to avoid the sometimes unreasonable number or policy proposals or sometimes just unreasonable proposals in themselves while retaining grassroots principles. We should let this proposal pass.

There are many other proposals within the document of varying merit. I do hope that members reject the proposals from my prior blog posting and embrace the ones in here (I never pretended to be unbiased here 😉 ). I will be lobbying for such.

It will be a long and at times dull day as constitutional proposals are considered by the membership. In my last two blog postings though, I think I have nailed the big ones that we should be watching (and staying awake) for.

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Wildrose AGM 2013. Constitution time.

It is undeniable that the Wildrose Party has made terrific strides in the last 8 years or so within Alberta. Our provincial government has been held to account more effectively than we have seen in decades as Alberta finally has a strong opposition party in the legislature.

As the Wildrose Party continues to grow we will of course have some growing pains and internal battles to hash out.

There is an element within the Wildrose Party that sees the grassroots membership and basis of the party as a necessary evil at best. Year after year we have to fight off attempts to centralize the management of the party among a small and unaccountable group while sidelining means of member control and party accountability. The Executive Committee is the branch of the party that is to be controlled by nobody else but the membership at large and this distinction and role is critical to the entire basis and purpose of the party. This power within the Executive Committee has constantly annoyed the weasel faction within the party thus constant efforts have been made to reduce the role and strength of the Executive Committee every year.

Due to party meddling and a large number of Executive Committee resignations within the party, the Wildrose Party found itself last year after the election with a do-nothing party executive that could barely bring itself to meet more than once over the phone every couple of months.

This ineffective Executive Committee so impressed some of the powers that be within the party that they even tried to defer the party’s annual general meeting for two years so that they need not risk getting an active Executive Committee chosen by the membership. This effort was exposed though and due to this being in complete contravention of the Alberta Societies Act, an AGM was suddenly and grudgingly slapped together to at the least meet legal requirements within Alberta.

With a meeting scheduled no other information was put out to the membership at large on details for things such as Executive Committee elections. It became incumbent upon party members such as myself to blog the information that the party refused to promote and to give a platform to aspiring candidates for Executive Committee positions. Party members Rob Woronuk and others worked to hold open candidate debates so that members could get to know the candidates as again, the party refused to offer such aids to the internal democratic process for some reason.

It took a great deal of effort to pull the party kicking and screaming into adherence with it’s own constitution in leading up to the AGM.

Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated and stubborn party activists, a good AGM was held where an active and effective Executive Committee was elected in the fall of 2012 (much to the chagrin of the weasel faction).

Now with the election and retention of an effective EC within the Wildrose Party, the weasel faction has turned to a new means to try and take control from the membership within the party. At this year’s Annual General Meeting in Red Deer, the membership will be discussing changes to the constitution and policies of the party.

A few of the proposed constitutional changes coming forth this fall are nothing less than outrageous and they are clearly modeled with the intent of neutering the Executive Committee and Constituency Presidents (thus by extension the membership) in the management of the operations of the party.  The members must understand what these proposals are and vote them down en masse at the 2013 AGM to send a message to the weasel faction that we are getting really tired of this.

The full list of proposed constitutional changes can be found in the link below.

ConstitutionAGM2013

It should be noted that almost all of the offensive propositions are coming from the Cardston-Taber-Warner constituency for some reason.

RESOLUTION 16

OK the first and likely worst proposed change to the party constitution would take the power of selecting an Executive Director for the party from the Executive Committee and put it solely into the hands of the Party Leader. I will use screen snaps for this as the layout from the file makes it easier to see in an image.

resolution16I like how the statement says it: “clarifies process for selecting Executive Director”. Uh no. This resolution does far more than clarify the selection process, this resolution essentially would not only give the Leader of the party sole-authority in not only the selection of an Executive Director but it would give the Leader sole-authority in setting the terms of reference and power of the Executive Director.

Resolution 16 is ridiculous and outright dangerous if approved. There are some very good reasons why the Leader’s office is a separate division from the management of operations within the party. The role of the Leader encompasses many things but the operation of the party is actually not one of them. There is no rational reason to put the party Leader directly in control of the party operations and in having such powers over the Executive Director the Leader’s control of operations would be full and unchecked.

The Leader, Party President and Executive Director are essentially the top three folks within the party structure. If any one of the three has unchecked control on the selection of the people for either of other two roles, we will have created essentially a dictator with no reasonable check against their actions.

While we need the Executive Director to work in a productive and hopefully cooperative manner with the Leader of the Party, we simply can’t put the entire power of selection of this powerful role into the hands of the Party Leader. The membership must strike this down soundly this fall.

RESOLUTION 28

resolution28This resolution from Cardston-Taber-Warner made me scratch my head and say “wow” at such a blatant move to try and undercut grassroots organization within the party.

If one wants to start a dictatorship, one of the first things that must be done is to isolate communications and organizing capability among the masses and that is exactly what this proposal is trying to do.

I understand that some people do not want their personal information floating around out there. Having one’s name on a list as a CA President is hardly an offense to privacy and the person chooses to be in that role in the first place. We are not talking about home addresses and phone numbers here.

I expect this will be soundly rejected at the AGM but should this resolution pass I will state this here and now:

I will track down the names and email addresses of all 87 Constituency Association  Presidents within the Wildrose Party and will list them on this site along with regular updates. I have the connections, the will and the means to do this so why don’t you weasels just drop this odious suggestion now?

Why on earth would we want to stifle communications between our constituencies?

RESOLUTION 11

resolution11One would think that after having nearly gone in contravention of the Alberta Societies Act with the attempted deferral of the 2012 Wildrose Party AGM that the weasel faction would have been supportive of correcting the constitution to reflect legal requirements so such errors would not happen again. While two resolutions help clarify the obligation and needs, Cardston-Taber-Warner wants reference to and obligation of AGM timing totally removed from the constitution. I wonder which of the three resolutions will be discussed.

Those who despise member driven parties like the Wildrose Party also despise AGMs of course as this is when the collected membership can exercise their rightful control upon the direction, management and policies of the party. Of course the weasel faction wants to get constitutional obligations for AGMs removed. I expect the membership to overwhelmingly toss this one in the trashbin where it belongs.

RESOLUTION 13

 resolution13In keeping with what became a pattern, Cardston-Taber-Warner wants terribly for some reason to deeply enshrine some pretty strong unilateral appointment powers for the Leader into the party constitution.

It is critical that the Leader takes a strong guiding role in the appointment of these positions but I do not see why this has to be mandated in the constitution to be at the sole discretion of the Leader.

A good leader will be able to work cooperatively with the caucus, Executive Committee and Executive Director in filling these roles without having sole authority to do it all directly. If the Leader can’t do their job under those constraints of cooperation and compromise, then perhaps that person is not the appropriate one to be the Leader of the party.

RESOLUTION 22A

resolution22aVetting and preparing policy for presentation to the membership at an AGM is an exhausting, thankless task. I know this well as I served two terms as VP Membership with the Wildrose Party and that was while the party was considerably smaller than now.

A policy committee is a great way to get more done and to bring minds together on what is a tough and messy process. Many policies come in that are unreasonable, poorly phrased or at times outright incomprehensible. Despite this reality, the committee simply can’t be empowered to revise or comment on a proposed policy without the consent of the person or people who submitted the initial proposal.

Without this check in place in the constitution, the policy committee could theoretically change every policy submitted to them unilaterally with no consultation with the people who submitted the policy in the first place.

The policy formulation process will always be tough, time consuming and messy. There are improvements to be made.

Deleting this critical check on the power of the Policy Committee as proposed by Cardston-Taber-Warner would not be an improvement by any means.

There are some other questionable and debatable suggestions in the proposals and I expect more vigorous examination and discussion of these issues in the next few months. Policy will take me many long-winded postings but these constitutional proposals must be nipped in the bud and addressed right now.

Who are the people with Cardston-Taber-Warner who put these together? I certainly would love to see some attempted rationale for this clear effort to centralize the management of this grassroots party that we all worked so had to build.

Grassroots organization is messy and tough but it can work and it is worth it. We have to remain vigilant and keep knocking down the weasels who think that by setting aside our principles that we can get where we need to be. If we wanted to be in a party like that, we would be with the Redford Progressive Conservatives.

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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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