Its my party & I’ll cry if I want to!

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As Jason Kenney’s leadership continues to steam along and win majorities in delegate selection meetings, the entitled old guard of the party are becoming increasingly upset.

When I saw this posting from a longtime Progressive Conservative Party member on Facebook, I really had to read it twice to ensure I was getting it right.

The depth petulant elitism in this posting was astounding. In one short Facebook ramble, this person managed to demonstrate exactly why the partisan foundation of the conservative movement in Alberta needs to be revisited and fixed.

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I will break it down.

It’s been really bothering me that every single Albertan thinks they get to have a say in this race.

Wow. Just wow. The PC Party led Alberta for 44 years and they aspire to do so again. You are damned right every Albertan wants to have a say in this race. It really says something when we see folks being bothered by the idea that Albertans at large are interested in the management of their province.

Firstly, the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta at this level, the constituency association level, the membership level, is in fact a private party.

Um, yes it is a private party. Hate to break it to you but it is a private party that is open for all Albertans to participate in. Time to drop a little entitlement and get over that.

Each and every one of us that belongs to that private entity has purchased a membership and tries to support that association in someway either by funding, sitting on a board or volunteering.

Glad you understand that. What you don’t seem to get is that anybody may buy a membership and become just as much a member as you are and will all the same rights and privileges. Open processes are disturbing indeed.

Here are the requirements for membership. Its not a terribly exclusive club though some members such as the one who I am quoting seem to think that it is.

Membership in PC Alberta is open to residents of Alberta of at least 14 years of age. Members between the ages of 14 to 26 are also eligible to become a Progressive Conservative Youth of Alberta (PCYA) member. Upon reaching their 26th birthday, they will become regular members of PC Alberta.

Along with $10, that’s it that’s all. Yes, all Albertans may speak in this race and thousands are choosing to.

The vapid “private club” analogy falls apart on many levels but the main part is that there are essentially no barriers to membership.

Which, is I would not of allowed Jason Kenney to run it all.

Well, we can be all glad that your undemocratic view didn’t win the day.

I know it pains you to think that leadership candidates should simply be banned rather than take the chances that the unwashed members at large may select one that you don’t approve of. Too fucking bad already. Spend less time whining and more time campaigning for another candidate. Your DSM vote is worth just as much as any other member (though that clearly disturbs you).

The PCAA voted overwhelmingly to rebuild last May.

Sometimes an engine needs to be torn down before you can rebuild it. The members are getting a choice on how to deal with the means in this leadership race. Again, that pesky democratic thing.

it is my clear opinion that he should form his own party and ask people to join him there.

Glad you agree with Kenney’s plan here. Jason has to win the PC leadership first however and he is well on his way.

This is then what many of us refer to as a hostile take over.

Glad to see a vacuous posting finish with a vacuous sentence.

It is not a hostile takeover when the membership is open to all and the members get to choose. It is something of a dictatorship when members are not allowed to select leaders in such a process.

In a rather disjointed way, this entitled PC member demonstrated exactly the kind of elitist rot that has dominate the PC Party for years. Horrified at the prospect of losing in a democratic process, this person lashed out and declared the PC Party to be some sort of little personal social club in which new members and ideas must be kept at bay.

Arrogant elitism is being rejected around the world. Unwashed voters are kicking out the entitled whether in Brexit, the US election or in Alberta’s last provincial election (unfortunately our cure was as bad as our disease).

Maybe it’s time for some who want to form a little closed club to wander away and do so. They have every right to do such a thing.

I look forward to seeing this elite club present its vision to the general electorate to see how well it is accepted.

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Let’s try to play nice folks.

Over the years I have taken on many thankless and stressful tasks due to my political inclinations. I served multiple terms on the Wildrose provincial executive, often as VP policy. I volunteered on and managed long shot campaigns. I ran as cannon fodder for the Wildrose party against David Swann in Mountainview in 2012.

No political role I ever took on was more miserable, stressful and thankless than being on the committee to manage a party leadership race.

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Leadership races are among the roughest and most personal of contests in all of politics. It is an internal family battle that has potential to completely revitalize a party or to cause near permanent rifts and damage. Some of the dirtiest tricks are often used and I suspect that it is because parties are often not inclined to go public with warnings or disciplinary actions taken against candidates and teams for fear of causing damage to the institution as a whole.

In the Wildrose leadership race that led to Danielle Smith’s election as party leader, the complaints of party bias and complaints between campaign teams began even before the race was officially called. My phone virtually never stopped ringing with one team or another bitching about some petty offence (perceived or real) committed by the other side throughout the entire, interminable race.

I was selected to moderate all of the leadership debates in that race as one of the teams was convinced that the rest of the leadership committee was biased against their candidate. Ironically, that same team accused my wife and I of somehow rigging the race after they lost.

Speaking of Jane (my wife), she was the chair of the 2015 Wildrose Party leadership race that elected Brian Jean. Jane’s experience was similar to the joys endured in the 2009 race and she was again accused by some of rigging the race though nobody could ever explain exactly how she managed to do it.

No set of rules will be able to address every possible event in a race. During one of the leadership debates in Calgary, one of the teams put large campaign signs out on the roads approaching the hotel where the debate was being held. Another team set up a table selling memberships and handing out literature outside of the door to the convention room. Both teams came howling to me upon discovering the actions of the others and I was forced to tell both to fuck off, get over it and get ready for the debate (though I was a little more diplomatic about it. Not much, but a little). We didn’t have rules set up to govern placement of tables or signs outside of debates thus these terrible and egregious actions went unchecked.

That is the experience of one event on one night in a leadership race. Countless other infractions came and went throughout the course of the campaign.

Some campaigners view rules as something that have to be tested. They spend so damn much time pushing just to see how far those boundaries go and then howl when their hands inevitably get slapped. Usually the rules that were pushed have little to no impact on the outcome of the race and the time would have been immeasurably better spent on selling memberships and organizing GOTV efforts yet teams just seem obsessed at times in pursuing the most minor and petty of possible advantages.

Committees do not want to crack down on campaign teams. The accusations of bias come automatically and can turn into horror story if the committee eventually has to intervene on a campaign. In 2009 while both teams kept pushing the rules to the point where I wanted to have them all brought on a stage and spanked to keep them in order, one team in particular insisted on violating the rules despite multiple warnings. That team finally committed violations that probably should have landed them an outright disqualification but we settled for every possible sanction short of that in order to finish out the race. We had to look at the perceptions and disqualifying a candidate would simply have led to too much speculation of the race being unfair or fixed.

I have no role in the PC party in the current race but I suspect that their committee is trying to be fair and that they are enjoying the same pressures and stresses that I did in past races.

It is hardly a secret that I am supporting Jason Kenney in his bid to lead the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. I want to see his team continue to clean up at those delegate selection meetings and I expect that they will if they keep themselves from being sidetracked by pushing the rules.

In the latest PC controversy, the Kenney team was brought to task for Kenney having been too close to a delegate selection meeting. Personally I think the punishment was too harsh for an infraction that likely didn’t impact the outcome of the meeting in any way but I also feel that the infraction was easily avoidable.

Yes, the word “near” in itself is ambiguous and yes the committee should have clarified exactly what that meant after having been asked to do so multiple times by the Kenney campaign. I suspect that the spirit of the rule essentially means being at least out of sight as members come in to vote in order to avoid any impression of voter intimidation by any candidates. There was little reason to put the exact distance to the test.

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Jason Kenney has been running a fantastic campaign so far. He has been organizing around the entire province continues to work like a man possessed to reach out to as many Albertans as possible to build support for his unity platform. He can and I expect will win the race overwhelmingly by staying on the simple strategy of working hard and staying on message. There is no sense getting mired in the small issues that can come up.

There is little doubt that the PC party executive is hostile to Kenney. Members of the committee likely are less than endeared with him either. Kenney has been leading the race despite the hindrances put into place by the party executive before it started. There is little reason to antagonize them further and potentially give them any excuses to handicap his campaign any further.

If and when Jason Kenney wins the leadership of the PC party, we can be sure that there will be plenty of sour grapes and tantrums as the old guard pouts off into the sunset. We can also rest assured that some will try to claim that the only reason Kenney won was due to infractions of the rules. There is little sense to add any credence to what will be petulant claims after the race.

We have a long few months remaining in this campaign. I look forward to watching Jason Kenney and his time winning each and every delegate selection meeting through hard work, good organization and inspiring the membership just as he has in the last few DSMs that have been held at the time of this writing.

Let’s not get distracted with the small stuff and testing the extent of the rules. It doesn’t need to be done and will only make the assumption of the leadership that much tougher when the time comes.

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The Progressive Conservative establishment selected their candidate

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Now that the remnants of the Progressive Conservative Party old guard have finished trying to rig their leadership race rules as tightly as possible in favor of the party status-quo (which is moribund and indebted), they have now settled on their preferred candidate.
For those who want to turn the clock back and return to the Progressive Conservative Party that held no solid principles and governed simply based on the rationale of retaining power, Sandra Jansen is the clear candidate of choice.
Through her own actions over the years, Sandra has exemplified the shallow, self-serving, opportunism that the Progressive Conservative Party had come to represent after holding power for over four decades in Alberta.
Jansen never held or shared any conservative principles with the party of her choice. Jansen is and was a Liberal through and through as she demonstrated many times over the years. Sandra was canny enough to realize that if she aspired to rise above an opposition seat in Alberta and gain a cabinet position or even the Premiership, she would have to pretend to be a conservative and gain her seat through the party that appeared to her as being an unbeatable juggernaut (at that time).

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Jansen happily jumped on board with Alison Redford as Redford sold her party’s political soul to unions in order to win the party leadership (Redford later betrayed those union supporters too of course). As a loyal Redford supporter, Jansen was rewarded with a minor associate minister’s portfolio.


Even in an obscure ministerial role, Jansen could not help but let her Liberal elitism leak out as she embarrassed herself by berating electricians as being too low of form of trade to maintain political roles.
Jansen quickly scurried into hiding and let the party take care of damage control due to Sandra’s rather embittered outlook on tradespeople was exposed.

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As Redford fell into disgrace, Jansen wisely kept a low profile and waited to see who the next leader to latch on to would be. That person of course was Jim Prentice. In hopes of climbing the cabinet ladder, Sandra Jansen happily sponsored what would turn out to be a disaster in the first incarnation of Bill 10.
Despite claiming to be a champion for LGTBQ kids, Sandra Jansen sponsored a bill that would force those kids to appear before a judge in court in order to form support clubs in schools if the school or board refused them. As the backlash over Sandra Jansen’s bill grew, things got more absurd as the PCs of the time said that LGTBQ kids no longer would have to appear before a judge in order to form clubs, they would simply have to get an order from the Education Minister. It was also implied that these kids could simply form clubs down the street and away from school property if need be. Gee how progressive Sandra. Would they get off property washrooms and fountains too if there were more concerns?

Sandra Jansen’s version of Bill 10 was a complete catastrophe that offended most of the province. Prentice was forced to intervene and pull the bill off the table in order to try and rework it into something palatable in the spring.
Below we can see Jansen meekly standing aside as Prentice takes over and works to clean up her mess.

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Jansen has since claimed that her sponsorship of the bill was a terrible mistake. Hindsight helps that way. In reality, we all know that if the bill had passed in the legislature in it’s first incarnation and had Prentice not disastrously lost the general election that Sandra Jansen would happily be sitting in a cabinet seat in the Prentice government today doing what she is told and aspiring to his role in government.
A strongly principled person would never have sponsored legislation that goes against their personal principles. A person who puts ambition above principle however will do so without hesitation as we saw Jansen do.

If Sandra Jansen had what it takes to be a leader, she would have passed on sponsoring that bill or even spoke against it. Some in the PC caucus of the time did so. What other principles will Sandra Jansen set aside if she feels they will hinder her personal political path? Only time will tell.
The Progressive Conservative Party took what should have been a terribly humbling loss in the last general election. Their complacence and arrogant practices led to Alberta accidentally electing an NDP government. Despite this, the remaining old guard within the party feel that the best course of action is to bring in another leader that is weak in principles and carries the baggage of the last two leaders who left in disgrace.
The PC party has an opportunity to look ahead and re-brand with a new approach or they can elect a retread of Alison Redford who is a little less bright.

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We will find out in the next few months.

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I finally joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta

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Yes, for the first time in my life I have purchased a membership with the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. While this is hardly earthshaking news to the world, it is indeed a big deal to me. I have been a member of one political party or another since getting my first membership with the Reform Party in 1991 and I never take my membership in a party lightly.

While many keep dismissing Wildrose members as being nothing more than disenchanted former PC members, I was never a member of that party until this morning. I viewed the PC party that had held power in Alberta since the year of my birth as being an entrenched group dedicated to cronyism and maintaining power by any and all means possible. While there were some shining individuals within and actions taken by the party over the years, my general assessment of the party was rarely proven wrong.

 Due to being the most likely route to government benches, the Progressive Conservative Party attracted unprincipled opportunists in droves. Why battle to win a seat under your own left-wing principles when you can simply swallow your principles, talk the talk and win a seat with the PC Party?

 Sandra Jansen is a prime and recent example of this sort of thing. While Jansen’s personal views align her more with the NDP than the PC Party, she knew upon entering politics that she would never (or so it would appear at that time) win a seat under the NDP banner. Jansen played the part of a PC supporter and got a seat due to her prior media profile and the efforts of party volunteers. Jansen even tabled and promoted the odious anti-gay Bill 10 under orders from Jim Prentice. While such a bill was in total contradiction to Jansen’s principles, she viewed her political career as being more important than the gay rights she purports now to support. This is exactly the callow and weak willed crap from opportunists that has soured me and many like me from the PC party for decades.  

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Another recent example of Progressive Conservative style opportunism was of course Danielle Smith and her band of fools trying to take a shortcut to government benches after being sold a bill of goods by Prentice. Prentice was of the old stock PC mindset where support is best bought rather than earned at the constituency level. Smith had discovered that trying to manage a grassroots party is thankless, exhausting and simply damn tough. Under her poor management, the party was ripping itself up with internal turmoil despite doing well in the polls. Smith did what so many PC MLAs did before her and took what she thought was an easy route to a cabinet seat. As we all know, Smith’s self serving idiocy only led her and her followers into a well earned political oblivion.  

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There is an upside to the treacherous union of Danielle Smith and Jim Prentice that repelled the Alberta electorate so much that they accidentally lashed out by electing the NDP. The actions of Smith and Prentice stripped the PC party down to a shell of it’s former self. Most of the opportunists have fled as they saw little personal benefit in taking part in an indebted, disgraced and moribund party (aside from opportunists like Jansen who managed to keep her seat). Those remaining in the party are idealists whether right of center or left. These are people who know that there is a lot of tough and thankless slogging ahead of them yet they are going ahead anyway. These are the kind of people who build movements of principle.  

It is not only the sloughing off of the political parasites by the Progressive Conservative Party that has drawn me to it of course. I, like most people to the right of Che Guevara am very concerned about the catastrophe that we have in government right now. I am resigned to the fact that the Notley NDP will remain in power for a few more years and will continue to reap havoc on the Alberta economy in that time. I am terrified at the concept that somehow through constant right of center battles, that Notley will manage to gain a second term and put Alberta’s industries deeply into the economic graveyard for generations.  

I suspect that Notley will continue to crater in the polls as Albertans en-masse realize (as with every other NDP province) that having socialists in power is intolerable and will cost the grandchildren of our children as they try to dig themselves out of the massive debt built by a province that hamstrung it’s own industries. I think that even if there were four parties on the right that Notley would be wiped out by a coalition of these parties as she struggles to maintain double digit support.

Despite what I think, I DO NOT WANT TO LEAVE THINGS TO CHANCE! 

The only thing that may indeed give Notley’s ghastly administration another term will be constant splintering on the right leading to more mistrust and rejection by the electorate. Mass, dejected apathy on the part of the electorate on election day could put Notley in yet again.  

Jason Kenney has provided a plan. It is a tough plan with many possible pitfalls and variables, but it is a plan that could work. I am ready to work as hard as I can to help bring that plan into fruition.

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I am a socially liberal libertarian sort. Why can I get behind somebody as socially conservative as Jason Kenney? I can for a couple reasons.  

While Jason Kenney is personally and unapologetically socially conservative, he is not proposing implementing any socially conservative policies and I see no reason why he would. Do you really think he would try to make gay marriage illegal again? Do you really think he could overstep provincial jurisdiction and wade into the abortion debate again? I sincerely don’t see it. One fellow I see as a political mentor is Paul Hinman. Paul is personally socially conservative but he is also deeply dedicated to individual rights. It is in that balance that libertarians and social conservatives can work together.  

Another factor is that Jason Kenney will have to run in two leadership campaigns. If the first campaign is successful, Kenney will have to run again to lead the new party vehicle. If one doesn’t like Kenney, they can and should support another leader in the next race.

I see Kenney’s current campaign as being focussed on right of center unity. It is not a campaign to make Kenney Alberta’s Premier (this time anyway). This is a campaign that is using the leadership process as a means of referendum for right of center people to vote on a unified party. 

People are already trying to distract the campaign by miring it down with questions on policy specifics. I spent three terms on the executive of the Wildrose Party as Vice President of Policy. I understand the importance of policy as well as anybody. I also understand how easily and quickly it can become a divisive minefield.

Kenney’s current run so far has not delved into specific policies nor should it. Right now we need to focus on broad principles. There will be time to battle on policies at AGMs and during nominations for years to come. We cant let ourselves get dragged into that during a leadership run based on unity.  

While always being a supporter of one member one vote systems, I see some great advantages in this race being delegate based. This race will not be won by somebody who has sold their political soul to unions as Redford did (and Jansen would love to). This race will be won by the person who can manage to win broad support constituency by constituency across the entire province. It will take ground level organization and engagement. A person with deep federal connections and the endorsement of the former Prime Minister certainly has an edge in that regard.  

A great side effect of this kind of race is that it forces the organization of the constituency associations. I suspect that many if not most of the PC CAs are essentially in total hibernation. Instead of simply selling memberships in any location, candidates now need to court support in every constituency and ensure that those constituencies are well enough organized to send a full slate of delegates to the leadership convention.  

Assuming Kenney wins the leadership (I know that is still a big assumption), he will essentially have the framework for a new party already built for him. Constituency associations will be rejuvenated and active across the entire province as the race has motivated candidates to build them and activate them. That of course is also the organizational machinery which will obliterate the NDP in a general election.  

After a Kenney win and the formation of a new party, the remaining rump will fade away. Joe Clark and other federal PC holdouts never took part in the federal merger and it didn’t matter. They and their former party simply died of atrophy. Jansen and gang will do the same with the remnants of the PC organization too.  

After a Kenney win, the pressure on Jean will be tremendous. Jean has clearly already seen some caucus division and general party unrest. It will be tough to keep members whether on the ground or in caucus from getting in with the new party if Jean remains intransigent on the issue.

If Kenney somehow loses the race, I assume that somebody like Sandra Jansen has managed to pull off a win somehow. That will unify the right as well as people flock to the one remaining right of center party in the province.

I still think highly of the Wildrose Party. I was a founding member and put in countless hours and resources over the years in hopes of bringing that party into government. There are some fantastic people in the party on all levels from simple members up to MLAs. Jean is a good and dedicated person as well. The bottom line though is that the Wildrose Party is spinning it’s wheels. While general support numbers are good and fundraising is strong, the growth is mostly flat lined. The party is remaining strong only because Notley is terrible rather than people being engaged and excited with the Wildrose. As many have said before, people want something to vote for rather than against. The Wildrose just cant seem to bring itself into that generally inspiring position.  

Kenney’s move is a gamble. Many things may happen that will derail the effort. Still, Kenney is offering the best long term plan that I have seen yet and I will do what I can to aid in it’s success. Notley is dependent on the right remaining in shambles and we just cant afford to keep letting her win this way.  

I need to get a Progressive Conservative t-shirt now.

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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

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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

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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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