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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License to lie.

While I am not terribly surprised that Speaker Zwozdesky gave up all pretense of impartiality when he ruled that Premier Alison Redford was not lying despite it being completely clear cut that she did, I still am aghast and disappointed with his behaviour today.

The abuse of the legislature by Zwozdesky was compounded by his holding on to his loathsome conclusion until after question period and then using that as an excuse to quell all opposition questioning on what is a current and pressing issue of importance to Albertans. According to standing order 13(2) Zwozdesky was obligated to at the least explain himself but he has tossed the rules into the dustbin as he clearly acts only to do the bidding of the Premier. The legislature has truly become a lawless place as far as the governing party is concerned.

I know that bias shown by a speaker is hardly unique here. It is rare when the facade of impartiality is stripped to bare as has been done now by Zwozdesky. We saw hints of this as he constantly chided opposition members while turning a blind eye on government members being abusive of the rules of order in the legislature. That is typical unfortunately but is still tolerable. Now though Zwozdesky has demonstrated himself as being nothing more than a tool for Premier Redford to use to bypass democratic checks and balances and to hide the gross corruption of her administration.

The role of speaker in a legislature is steeped in tradition and honor. The symbolic act of the Speaker being dragged to the chair by the party leaders reflects on how it is indeed a tough and thankless task for any speaker who means to be true to the posting. A principled speaker will make democratic order within the legislature a paramount priority to themselves even if that comes in conflict with their own party. Zwozdesky has proven himself to be utterly unprincipled and he should be ashamed of himself.

The government is now scrambling with their Pet Speaker and using closure to ram their flawed bills through so that they may be closed early. Public scrutiny has exposed the government as being corrupt so the government is now using their corruption of principles to hide from public scrutiny. It is truly revolting to watch.

The precedent set here is even more disconcerting. Redford’s denial of her lie was akin to her attesting that up is indeed down while having the speaker rule that she is correct and that nobody may question her on that assertion. Redford is now free to continue to fabricate whatever she likes with utter impunity given to her by Eunuch Zwozdesky. An already dishonest and corrupt government now can’t even be effectively questioned.

Lying as Redford did is called being in contempt of parliament and it is a huge offense just as perjury is in a courtroom and for the same reason. People speaking in legislatures need some degree of control to ensure honesty in their statements to the house. With Speaker Zwozdesky allowing blatant lying on the part of the Premier we no longer will have any assurances that Redford or any member of her government are being honest when they speak to citizens through the legislature. I fear for how the next three years will be with Redford totally out of control.

It truly has been a sad day for democracy in Alberta.

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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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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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Partisan! Not a dirty word.

We often see people spitting out the word “partisan” as a pejorative. Some feel that political parties in and of themselves are what is wrong with policy making today. There may be a glimmer of truth to that but lets face it, political parties and partisan politics are simply never going away and it is not necessarily a bad thing.

With floor crossings, whipped votes and hyperpartisan exchanges between supporters whether in legislatures or on twitter it is not hard to see how some people can become sour and cynical on the entire system. Still, that does not justify turning one’s back on the entire process or trying to tear it down.

Let’s look into a simplistic dream world where we imagine that political parties have been banned and only independents represent people in legislatures and chambers throughout the country. Many people have called for such things but then many people still think Elvis is alive too. Our provincial legislature would be populated with 83 independent members who have managed to win votes in their local constituencies and I imagine a premier was elected through some weeks of battle in the legislature seeking some form of consensus. In other words, we would have absolute chaos.

Getting to that selection of a premier, just how messy do you think that would get? We can’t have a leaderless legislature. This dream chamber would be dysfunctional enough as it is. Being without a formal leader and representative would only make things worse.

Now with a legislature populated by 83 ambitious souls, I think we can safely say that at least a dozen of them would like to wear the crown and would be madly lobbying and working to gain support from other MLAs. As consensus is found to be nearly impossible to attain, groups of MLAs being to form alliances and choose common candidates to support. Jockeying and positioning continues as deals are cut for cabinet and weaker candidates for Premier fall by the wayside. We get down to four or five groups who bond and begin to sit together in the legislature. Eventually, one group manages to pull of a majority and their person is selected as Premier. Meanwhile, three other collections of MLAs have gathered themselves to act in opposition to the dominant political alliance.

We have just observed the evolution of political parties and how quickly it would happen were we to try and get away from them. Even if the Premier was chosen directly through a vote of the electorate (republican system), the evolution described above would still happen as a gridlocked legislature battles to try and produce passable policies.

What would be worse in this imaginary post-partisan world would be that these parties would be informal and uncontrolled. Without the controls and scrutiny that our current system provides, these informal parties would be wide open to corrupted lobbying and fundraising. The goals of these groups would be hidden as there would be no member based system to keep the representatives transparent and policy directions would vary widely. Voter confusion would be rampant as it is discovered that the general outlooks of MLAs are difficult to determine at election time and apathy would grow as members turn out to be pursuing different goals than anticipated.

Committees would be completely haywire and policy development would be in shambles. Political parties bring developed policy to the game before they are even elected. A gang of independents even when their informal alliances are formed will not have a visible or comprehensive policy direction or set. Studies will not have been properly performed and policies would never have been exposed to the general scrutiny of a membership as they are in a partisan system.

The electorate needs to see a goal and a clear direction in their representatives and parties provide that. The Alberta Party tried to play the oxymoron of being some kind of “post-partisan party” and they generated a policy model based on a consensus model much like that done at the “occupy” squatter camps. This idealistic approach led to a pile of directionless motherhood policies and other policies that were simply too broad and odd to be embraced by the public at large.

The Alberta Party has been in it’s current form for a couple years now and their revolutionary post-partisan concept has been roundly rejected by the voting public as the party can barely break 2% in the polls. While perhaps well meaning, this group of idealists has pretty much wasted their time. Voters need and want parties.

Political parties provide a degree of order in our messy but democratic system. People who want to see more productive politics in Canada should be embracing partisan politics more strongly rather than rejecting it. Quit whining about the parties and work to change them. Join one or even form one. It will have far more impact than simply complaining. Party involvement allows you to participate in policy formulation and the selection of representatives. Rest assured if you refuse to participate, others will continue to form policy on your behalf and they will be much more effective in pursuing their goals.

An organized group working together such as a political party will essentially blow all independents out of the water on every front. Parties can effectively fundraise and campaign. Parties can share collective experience and wisdom. Parties can bring forth targeted policy concepts and market them to large numbers of voters. Parties can also provide a social aspect and participation in them can actually be fun at times too.

Our system is far from perfect. Things have evolved to where they are over the decades for very good reasons.

People have two choices in our system. You can reject party politics and be left behind or you can get involved and have a real voice. Small or large, parties are much more effective in pursuing change than individuals will ever be.

A person does not need to stick doggedly to one party for life nor do they need to follow a party line at all times. When push comes to shove at election time though, a person needs to make a partisan choice (as I said, that can be done between elections too).

I am partisan. I am proud of that as it indicates that I am engaged and that I am trying to do my part for positive change.

Partisan is not a dirty word, apathy is.

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