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.

You don’t vote? I don’t care.

 Every election whether it is a by-election or a general one, we will inevitably hear about those poor, hard-done-by disengaged folks who could not be bothered to vote. Often the losing side likes to play with the numbers to try and undercut the support that was there for the winning side. We saw that when people tried to downplay the victory by the Stelmach PCs in 2008 and we see some of it now with the Hinman win in Calgary Glenmore. “well ya know, with all eligible taken into account the support was only 20%…” yadda yadda yadda.

 Well, people always claim they want honesty from politicians (though they often regret asking for it). As  a person who has run in an election or two I am going to say something honest. I don’t care what people who don’t vote think!

 Ahh, that feels better.

 I tire of people yelping about how politicians have to reach out to those who are taking their great democratic right for granted. I tire of those who are too intellectually (or physically) lazy to vote asking for others to cater to their concerns.

 We are extremely fortunate in that we have a democratic system that allows everybody to participate whether it is running for office, forming a party or doing the extremely simple act of voting. It is almost cliche, but it is extremely valid; people around the world are dying for the right to vote. In light of the risks some folks take to participate in democracy, why should I shed a tear for somebody who can’t pull their ass off the couch for 20 minutes every few years?

 I will relate a story about an election I was in a few years ago. I had a couple native reserves in my constituency. I got a phone call from a resident on one of these reserves howling that I had ignored their area in the campaign and implied that this was due to racism. Now an irony in this is that I was the only candidate with some native heritage in that election and that I did indeed waste an entire day campaigning on that reserve. When I say wasted my day I mean it. The turnout was something like 6% in that election on that reserve.

 Look at some political reality people. I had 28 days to convince as many people as possible to choose me as their representative. A campaigner has to be strategic in that scenario as opposed to idealistic. Realistically a politician would be very lucky to meet 30% of the constituents face to face in a campaign. Now in light of that, why on earth would a candidate pursue a demographic that is prone to not going to the polls? Left. right or center it is sort of stupid to pursue the vote of people who do not vote.

 We only have so many means to keep our elected officials in check. The most important one by a long shot is the vote.

 Voter apathy is a problem, of that there is no doubt. We should discuss and try to find means of increasing the participation of the electorate. If people think that they are sending any sort of message to any politicians by staying at home however, they are deluding themselves (this stands for people who think ballot spoiling sends a message or something too).

 Whether a person votes for a fringe party, an independent or a frontrunner, they have at least had an impact no matter how small it seems. When a person does not vote at all they have had utterly no impact and they only have themselves to blame.

 Quit blaming politicians for your apathy. While many may say otherwise I will answer honestly; we don’t care if you won’t vote.

 I do care about issues that go beyond election issues. I certainly will never model any form of campaign about what the chronically apathetic take issue with however.

 As for excuses not to vote, they are nothing less than that. I covered the commonly used excuses for not voting here some time ago.

 If you have concerns and you want politicians to pay attention, may I strongly suggest that you vote. It sort of only makes sense doesn’t it?