Conservatives don’t need a merger, they just need good leadership.

brian

If there is one thing that conservatives in Alberta have been lacking in the last 10 years it is good leadership. From bungling Stelmach, to corrupted Redford to the unholy alliance of Prentice/Smith that managed to put Notley on the Premier’s chair, conservatives have languished under a chain of piss poor partisan leaders.

With the events seen in the last week, it looks pretty clear that conservative Albertans are going to have to wait longer to see a good leader come out of the woodwork.

The “right” in Alberta is not so much split as it is floundering in trying to find a stable banner to gather underneath. If one of the right of center parties could manage to get an inspiring leader, merger dreams would end and the majority of right of center Albertans would migrate to that party. One would think that under the gross mismanagement of Notley that a strong opposition party would manage to get it together. Alas, so far there has been no luck.

Yes, Brian Jean stepped up to the plate and took the reigns of the Wildrose Party while it was still reeling under the effects of Danielle Smith’s self serving treachery. Yes, Brian has been stellar in handling the disastrous fire in Fort McMurray. Aside from that though, Jean really hasn’t gotten far in turning the Wildrose Party into a government in waiting.

As I ranted last week, the choice to insult a visiting Premier in the legislature was a terrible one that repelled many Albertans in its lack of tact and class. Those were the actions of a party that wants to oppose rather than build and that falls squarely on the leader’s lap. It should be noted that Brian Jean was one of the MLAs who petulantly refused to stand to respectfully greet the visiting Premier. He cant blame the fallout from those tasteless actions on rogue MLAs. They were acting under his leadership and direction.

Jean’s next foolish and reactive move was his bizarre late night suspension of Derek Fildebrandt over a social media faux-pas.

Derek Fildebrandt is no homophobe and anybody knowing him will say that confidently. Even the most left wing of opponents acknowledge that while Derek made a careless error in judgement, they know damn well that he would never support anti-gay views or rhetoric. Despite that fact and despite Derek’s near immediate apology for the mistake, Jean recklessly suspended Derek from caucus.

Brian Jean is still doggedly claiming that it was the social media error that was the cause of the suspension. That is clearly utter bullshit and Jean’s refusal to explain the real rational behind the suspension is yet another example of poor leadership.

Perhaps there is a good set of reasons for the suspension of Fildebrandt from caucus. Jean would be well placed to release and explain them then because right now his actions look petty and have infuriated the grassroots of the Wildrose Party. In light of the employment outcomes for all of the floor crossers from the Wildrose Party the other year, I think it goes without saying that antagonizing the grassroots of a conservative party is never a wise course of action.

Derek Fildebrandt is one of the rougher MLAs. He plays hardball and he can be prone to theatrics. That is actually a good thing when one considers that Brian Jean can be about as animated as a turnip (as anybody who watched the last election debate can attest to). A balanced caucus has people of a few different characters.

Was the reason for the suspension pure insecurity on the part of Jean? Does he feel that his position as leader is threatened? I don’t think Jean’s leadership was threatened before last week but it sure as hell is now as the grassroots party members become annoyed.

Was the reason for the suspension because Jean felt embarrassed at a gathering of his federal compatriots while statements such as the one below were written in the Globe and Mail?

Has Mr. Jean become so accustomed to being led around by the nose by Mr. Fildebrandt that he allowed this sorry spectacle to unfold? Why doesn’t Mr. Jean simply step aside now and allow Mr. Fildebrandt to ascend to the position he so clearly lusts after?

Pretty harsh words from an editorialist and I don’t think they were based on fact. I can see how it grated on Jean though and I can see how an insecure leader would lash out to try and prove himself in light of such critique.

I don’t know the full story here I suspect but I know what I see and that is a demonstration of terrible leadership when we need it so dearly on the conservative end of the spectrum in Alberta.

I hope Jean either learns to get it together soon or steps aside because we really cant afford another term under Notley.

A good first step would be admitting error and bringing Derek Fildebrandt back into caucus.

Under good leadership, such suspensions shouldn’t be needed.

 

 

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2015 leadership & general elections are now over. What’s next for Wildrose members?

Alberta’s tumultuous year continues to be tumultuous. With the NDP gaining a solid majority in the legislature and the Wildrose Party gaining a solid mandate as official opposition, we should be able to see a degree of political stability for a couple years. It is arguable as to whether these will be good years for Alberta politically and I don’t doubt that we will be arguing that at length as time and legislation passes. The two key roles are established and solid in the legislature right now with freshly elected leaders so there should be little reason to see major turnovers in government for some time to come (though after this past year, little will surprise me).

Rachel Notley is settling in to her role as Premier and working to build a government from a rather green bunch of MLAs.

Brian Jean is embracing his role as leader of the official opposition and is signaling that he has a strong and targeted plan going forward.

caucus

The remnants of the Progressive Conservative Party are in pure survival mode as a distant third party in the legislature and have rushed to appoint Ric McIver as interim leader in order to have a speaker at their leader’s dinner in a couple days.

So with all those balls in motion, what should the grassroots membership of the Wildrose Party do now?

The first thing the party members need to do is realize that both the leadership race for the party and the 2015 Alberta general election are over. Most members realize this but in looking at social media it can be seen that some folks still don’t seem to realize that those races are done. Jean will be our leader for years to come and there is little indication that the NDP will be dissolving the legislature any time soon. The time for complaining of the leadership race or picking apart the resumes of NDP candidates is finished. It won’t change anything and we have better things to do.

Priority number one for the Wildrose Party members will be to stabilize the membership base to the manage the party effectively and with principle. Nothing proved better how strong the base of the Wildrose membership is than how quickly the members rallied after the efforts of Danielle Smith and her self-serving gang of MLAs tried to destroy the party. The leader does not make the party nor does the caucus make the party. The members make the party and when Smith and gang found themselves alone while thousands of members got to work to seek a new leader I think some folks began to really realize what the Wildrose Party is about.

The Wildrose Party is a truly member driven movement and the membership is driven by that ideal. Any other party would have fallen to pieces after having it’s own leader and the majority of the caucus abandon it. The Wildrose Party galvanized after the treachery of the leader and went on to win even more seats than Smith was ever capable of gaining. The current leader and caucus would be well served to remember this lesson in years coming.

The Wildrose Party members base flourished despite the leadership of Danielle Smith rather than because of it. Smith always chafed under the grassroots based management of the Wildrose Party and the battles between her and grassroots members were quiet but constant. One glaring example was when the leader’s office actually tried to change the party constitution to empower Smith to choose the Executive Director of the party.

Using this blog as a springboard, the efforts of Smith to grab power from the members in the 2013 AGM were exposed and heartily quashed on the convention floor by the collected membership.

The encroachment of the leader’s office into the affairs of party operations were constant and frustrating whether with things as small as choosing the location of the party office or as large as increasingly dipping into the party funds for an ever growing entourage for an insecure leader. The interference in party nominations was merciless and constant as well and caused great ire among the constituency associations.

The grassroots kept standing up and slapping Danielle Smith down when she overstepped her authority in the party. This constant push and pull led to a growing mistrust and tension between the members and the leadership over time. That was a great contributing factor in Smith’s callow departure to the Prentice PC party.

The political doldrums between elections has begun and this is when members have to get to work. The reason that the Wildrose Party membership was so abused by Danielle Smith was that we let her! We as members simply can’t let that slow creeping encroachment upon the members authority happen again.

The part of the Wildrose Party constitution that Danielle Smith and her advisors loathed is quoted below:

5. GOVERNANCE5.1. 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 the 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.

It is that portion of our constitution that saved us as a party and every active member should memorize and strive to abide by it.

When Jim Prentice scurried off into the sunset with a temper tantrum after winning, only about 20 people were in attendance during his petulant election night speech.

prenticee

The lack of supporters during an election night loss showed the true and fickle nature of the Progressive Conservative base. When things were going well for the PCs, members would gather in the hundreds at these things. As soon as things went badly, the Progressive Conservative membership headed for the hills as the leader abandoned what was left of them. While the Wildrose gathered hundreds at a Calgary meeting scant weeks after the Smith treachery, the PCs couldn’t get 30 people together on the night that they lost the election.

This is where things get important! Those fickle PC members didn’t literally vanish. Those people will be resurfacing very soon and it will be within the ranks of the Wildrose Party. There is a large element that was within the PC Party that held no personal sense of principle. Those people simply wanted to latch on to what they felt was the winning team and as we saw they held utterly no loyalty when times got tough.

Those self-serving, fickle members and staffers from the PC party are already trying to whisper in Brian Jean’s ear. You can rest assured their resumes are showing up in Wildrose inboxes already. It is critical that the Wildrose Party members stay on guard and not let these people poison the ranks of the party and lead us to the sort of top down corruption that finally killed the PC party.

Care must be taken not to reject genuine former supporters of the PC party. They had many very good people within their ranks who can and will contribute greatly to the Wildrose Party in years to come. Becoming introverted as a party will not help us. Going on a witch hunt of former PC members won’t help us.

What the members of the Wildrose Party must do is elect a strong and vigilant Executive Committee this fall that will unbendingly govern itself by the party constitution. The presence of weasels within a party is inevitable. It is through the application of the party constitution that these weasels will remain powerless within the party. It will only be through an empowered and active Executive Committee that we will keep the rot from growing within us again.

The greatest threat to the upwardly mobile Wildrose Party will not come from the PC party or the NDP, it will come from within. We have the means to isolate that threat but only if we remain active and informed as members.

We need to take a breather as the government get’s itself in order for the first time in 44 years. Jean and Notley will have their hands full exposing and cleaning up the mess and corruption left by the PC regime for some time. As has been reported, the shredders are working overtime in government offices right now.

shredders
Brian Jean has an important job to do. The best way we can help him do it is to ensure that we do our job as members. Let’s keep the lines of authority within the party defined so our leader and caucus can focus on the legislature and not worry about the operations of the party.

We can form government in four years. That is a long time in political terms however. It was more than a cliché when folks said the 2015 election was about trust. A great part of the trust lost by the PC party was the public observing the infighting and dictatorial top down abuse of the PC party membership by it’s own leadership. Let’s ensure that we don’t go down that road by keeping our members active and empowered. The time to start on that is right now.

 

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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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We want your money! Not your voice!

 Well today I was happy to look in my mailbox to see a fat envelope from the Wildrose Party. I had assumed that the party had finally gotten around to mailing out notice of our upcoming Annual General Meeting in Edmonton and the constitutionally required report from the nominating committee that we all sort of expected to come in a few weeks ago.

Alas, I was disapointed to find that the letter was simply a four-page mailout with a return envelope taking shots at PC expenses and asking for more of my money as pictured below.

 Sadly this is indicative of where the attitude is with the Wildrose Party administration these days. The party is beginning to operate solely on the preservation of itself as a party while concepts of grassroots participation and communication with the membership for any purpose aside from asking for more money is falling far to the backburner.

How hard would a small insert giving details on the Annual General Meeting have been to add to that bloated envelope? It can only be assumed that the omission was purposeful.

This year’s Annual General Meeting has been a poorly communicated and bungled mess right from the very beginning as I have documented on this site in the last few months. It took repeated efforts of public pressure to get the party to simply publicly announce that there was indeed an AGM happening this year and an attempt to severely (and unconstitutionally) hinder the Executive Committee election was headed off shortly before the deadline to apply for Executive Nominations.

I have been with the Wildrose Party since it’s founding and the Alberta Alliance Party that it sprouted from and in many roles. I do understand that mailouts to the membership are expensive and resource intensive. I spent many a night volunteering as we stuffed envelopes to keep members informed of party activities and to ask for donations. When we got large enough that we had to outsource mailers, we still carefully ensured that we kept a balance between fundraising and general member communications. That balance has been totally lost.

To any members of the Wildrose Party reading this right now I ask this; when is the last time you got anything in the mail from the Wildrose Party informing of anything aside from why they need more of your money? One year? Two? I honestly can’t remember one. The party took such pride in raising nearly $3 million in 2011 yet can’t even bother to send us a newsletter or notice of something so important as an AGM?

The paramount event of the year where the members get to act like more than wallets for the party and participate directly in it’s direction and management is the Annual General Meeting. Despite this fact, the AGM and member input has been treated by the party administration almost as if it is a hindrance to be avoided. Minimal (and even less) required effort and resources have been dedicated to this AGM which is being almost grudgingly held. We can’t even get a simple mailed notice of it’s happening!

Yes, the party sent an email and did a robodial to announce the AGM. Now, we have thousands of members who do not have email (or did not share it with the party). Some emails go to spam boxes (not surprising considering most are asking for money). Many people do not listen to robodials and many who did likely did not write down the details of the AGM. What we can safely assume is that thousands of Wildrose Party members still do not know that we are having an AGM, where the AGM is or how to register for and attend it!

This is simply unacceptable on so many levels. People should bear in mind that a low AGM turnout strongly serves those who want to maintain the status-quo. Even a do-nothing Party President could still get elected if few people showed up for an AGM for example. Even if this keeping of the membership in the dark is not purposeful, it reflects either a terrible disrespect for the membership or it reflects utter incompetence.

This year members need to speak up. Since the party does not consider informing members to be an important thing, we will need to inform members on our own. Call your CA President and other members. Talk to people you know and encourage them to get out.

There was a great early-bird rate for AGM registration that has unfortunately passed. Another deadline is approaching and then the price goes up again. Let other members know about this and encourage them to get out.

When fundraising has so clearly surpassed the needs of the membership within the party, something has clearly gone terribly wrong in the party. We need to flush the Executive Committee and turn the Wildrose Party back into the member based populist movement that 10s of thousands of us got together to form.

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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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What the Wildrose Party needs to do is build trust.

People can point to all sorts of individual things in the last provincial election and blame them for the Wildrose Party’s failure to convince Albertans to elect them to government. The conscience rights policy made many people uncomfortable and Edmonton candidate Alan Hunsperger’s candid thoughts from an old blog post were outright offensive to most people upon hearing them. Any party that has 87 candidates, tens of thousands of members and hundreds of policies will have some questionable people speaking up now and then and will have some policies that simply stink. If a party has gained the trust of the electorate in general that party can withstand hiccups caused by some individuals within it and from poor policies.

With enough digging, we can rest assured that every major party has some crackpots within it’s ranks and some policies on their books that simply do not do them any favors. The PCs had a Calgary candidate who’s comments on ethnic issues paled in comparison to Leech’s awkward musings. The NDP had a candidate who was one of the main organizers of the Olympic Plaza illegal squatting last fall. The Liberals had to rush to fill candidate vacancies and it is a safe bet that a few of those names they used on ballots were less than rational. The reason that these things did not damage the other parties as they did the Wildrose Party is that Albertans know the other parties and can feel comfortable in writing off the actions of a few individuals and ignoring some outlying policies.

People in Alberta were clearly ready for change in the last election and it showed in the first three weeks of the campaign. Albertan’s can and will embrace grassroots populism as we saw with Reform throughout the 90s. Still though, the Wildrose Party was a relative unknown to the majority of Albertans and this made the popular support from the electorate very fragile. When the oddball people and policies popped up, voters got uncomfortable and retreated back to the devil they knew in the final days of the election. Polls can’t measure floating trust and comfort levels thus they completely dropped the ball in the last election.

Unfortunately the temptation is strong to further centralize actions and decision making within a party when things like this happen. Some people feel that the nominations should be more tightly controlled by the central party and candidates gagged even further. The Wildrose Party shamelessly messed with many nominations prior to the election. That offensive meddling with constituency choice caused great strain between constituency associations and the central party. When there is mistrust between the members themselves and the central party, you can rest assured that this discomfort spreads to the electorate at campaign time.

The Wildrose needs to strengthen it’s constituency associations and empower them further rather than meddle further with their choices of candidates. Will the constituencies make some poor choices in candidates at times? Yes they sure will. We can rest assured though that the central party can pick some dogs too. If they constituencies truly choose their candidates though in an open process, it makes it clear that each candidate is simply one of 87. It is much more difficult to label the entire party based on the actions of individuals when it is clear that the individual only represents one portion. When the central party takes direct part in candidate selection, than the party indeed will wear the actions of those candidates as a whole. In building trust we need people working in communities on the ground, not further centralization.

Party policy is of course another huge issue. Rick Bell with the Calgary Sun  just reported on an interview that Danielle Smith recently did on a lesbian website called “I dig your girlfriend”.

Some quotes and attitudes that came from Danielle in that interview are somewhat disturbing. It is clear as day that the Wildrose needs to revisit and reform some of it’s policies and of course there is nothing wrong with a leader saying that. It is the tone of Smith speaking as if these policy changes are a done deal and she will essentially tell us as members what we will be choosing as a stance or policy in the future with statements like: “Now that the decision has been made I’ll leave it at that,” and then following with “I’ll indicate that to my party as well.” (in regards to the funding of elective procedures such as gender reassignment in the public health system).

Ms. Smith, I do hope that you understand that the party indicates their policy wishes to you and not the other way around. I understand that a leader has to make some tough stances on issues and can’t consult with the membership every time an issue surfaces. The tone and attitude here though suggests that some areas are simply closed to member discussion and her word is final. I do hope that I am mistaken in this.

Year after year we have seen our party AGMs focus more on video and light displays with less attention being paid to policy. At our last AGM the video screens were fantastic but only a scant few hours were dedicated to member policy discussion over the entire weekend. That AGM lost nearly $90,000 as the $250 per ticket cost discouraged grassroots members from attending something that was more akin to a rock concert than a political party deliberating on important issues such as policy. Turnout was embarrassingly dismal for a party that was seen as a growing force. Perhaps has a couple more hours been dedicated to policy discussion, the membership may have taken more time to consider whether conscience rights were a viable policy option. As it was, policy discussions were rushed through with little meditation on the part of the collected membership.

Effort has been made to centralize control within the Wildrose Party in the last few years and this has led to a growing sense of discomfort and distrust within the party membership. I saw that mistrust starkly in the campaign that I worked with as the candidate did not even want to share his polling results with the party for fear that the list would be abused for central fundraising. It is tough to build a sense of unity and optimism among a campaign team in that atmosphere and even tougher for that team to spread that to the electorate in 28 days.

Leading and managing a grassroots party is damn tough. The headaches are endless as CAs go rogue, infighting happens and mixed messages get out. Despite those challenges, the way to earn that precious trust that the party so dearly needs will be by opening up rather than introverting. We need well attended public policy meetings that are open and take time in their deliberations. We need early nominations so candidates can get to know their constituents personally in years leading to an election. We essentially need to stick to our party bylaws which clearly lay all that out anyway and speak out every time somebody wants to try and bypass the will of the members.

Leading also means standing up for the party policies when they come under fire. When a leader begins to sound like they will say or do anything for a vote and is willing to throw their founding principles to the wind, trust is lost. The Wildrose lost a great deal of trust that way in the election when the party promoted the vapid and ill-conceived royalty rebate plan. It wasn’t that voters did not like the idea of a few bucks in their pockets, it was that the policy was a clear vote-buy that was in total contradiction of a party that claims fiscal responsibility. It felt disingenous

With 17 great MLAs in opposition and a little less than four years to work on it, the Wildrose Party is very well placed to earn that much needed trust among the electorate before the next election. If the party continues to ignore and sideline the membership however, the Wildrose could turn into a flash in the pan. Alison Redford is already presenting Alberta with a top-down centralized party. Why should that be replicated?

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