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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Is it really that hard to simply follow the party constitution?

Apparently for the powers that be within the Wildrose Party administration the constitution provides only loose guidelines rather than hard time-lines as I had thought it had.

As with most things lately, it appears that the Wildrose Party will only release the critical information that they are constitutionally obliged to release with constant pressure and they will do so kicking and screaming.

Jane covers it here:

AM I EXPECTING TOO MUCH? 

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Grassroots clowns.

 

 

In this last little while we have seen an excellent local example of the importance and power of social-media in politics.

I had found a large and critical breach of the Wildrose Party constitution in a nominee application form for people choosing to run for the Provincial Executive of the party. This document had been approved by the Provincial Executive and had been posted on the Wildrose Party website. We will never know how many potentially great candidates may have turned away upon seeing that dictatorial pap posted as an apparent application for a democratic nomination.

Not only was this application a serious breach of the party constitution, the terms had been directly approved by the Executive Committee (confirmed in meeting minutes). The optics of an Executive Committee putting barriers up against people who may run against them for board positions are rather terrible to say the least. This sort of thing makes past actions by the party look questionable too. Was it this this sort of thing that led to the unusual acclamation of Paul Collins as Party President at the last Annual General Meeting? Typically in a party that is making waves and skyrocketing in growth as the Wildrose Party was in June 2011, there will be many people vying for a position such as Party President. Oddly, Paul Collins was apparently the only member in good standing who applied for the position that year. Who knows, could have been just an odd anomaly in member choice that year and nobody else happened to want to run. Sadly when the integrity of the nomination process has been breached, these sorts of questions and theories begin to surface and have much more appearance of merit.

In addressing this offense against the constitution, membership and simply principled behavior, I was greeted with silence and stonewalling in my inquiries. Nobody would address the issue. Fingers pointed to the nomination committee but nobody could or would name the members of that committee. Emails were ignored and my phone remained silent.

With some excellent investigation and hard work, Jane Morgan (yes she is my wife), found out who was on the nomination committee and contacted them directly. It was found that while there were some excellent and respectable people on the committee, they had not even met as a committee yet and had no idea of the origin of the application form.

The clock was ticking. The deadline was approaching for applications for the executive committee and nobody with authority within the party would openly even address this breach, much less work to fix it. Jane then took it public and blogged her findings. If you have not read Jane’s posting yet, I strongly recommend that you do. Jane has excellently documented each step she took in her investigation and each conclusion and discovery that she found.

Jane’s article began to make rounds and finally we saw some movement. Jane made regular updates as now communications began to come in as a group of party officials having been found to have their pants around their ankles scrambled to fix the mess that they had created and now was blowing up in their faces.

An emergency meeting was called on Monday night and by Tuesday afternoon a new and constitutionally compliant application process was added to the Wildrose Party site.

Only ten years ago it would have been impossible to force such movement from a Party Executive Committee that has been losing sight of it’s mandate like this. Conventional media typically does not pay much attention to the internal machinations of political parties and trying to get members ignited through phone and mail while effective, simply takes too much time in circumstances like this. Between blogs and other forms of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the grassroots members of the Wildrose Party stood up and put the Party Executive back in it’s place. Change was made and the process is now open, democratic and most importantly constitutionally sound.

Most people will have never heard about this whole fiasco, but it was a grassroots turning point. Future Party Executive Committees and possibly other other party executives will certainly think twice before trying to sneak around party constitutional protections.

Not everybody was too happy about this grassroots victory however. The Previously acclaimed (hopefully outgoing) Wildrose Party President, Paul Collins appears to have awakened from his slumber long enough to post an outright petulant little rant on Facebook and on Jane Morgan’s blog where he calls the grassroots members who stood up to him and his executive “clowns”. I will post the tantrum in full below.

Wildrose Party President Paul Collins September 11 2012:

 

I find it quite amusing that the social media today affords people to express views with partial truth and a ton of misinformation. What happened to the days when people ,who wanted to know the truth, would make a call to one who had an answer. I guess this practice of going to the source before going to the public would be too practical or ethical. What I have experienced on Facebook blogs in the last few days is the heights of immature behavior and I must remember to keep my sense of humor and smile at the clowns that spend their time producing such comedic content.

It is quite a sad irony that a Party President would post such a pouty reaction to a serious issue and then say that others are “immature”.

Comedic content? Partial truths? Misinformation? Please Paul, kindly cite those allegations. As can be seen on Jane Morgan’s blog, she cited and quoted all of her sources. If it was all a load of hooey, why did the party even change the form then?

What Paul Collins is angry about is that not only was he caught sleeping at the helm, but that those grassroots clowns in social media accomplished more in the development and defence of grassroots operations in a couple weeks than he has done in his entire presidency.

It must be kept in mind, Paul Collins is the Party President who could barely find it in himself to call a simple executive teleconference meeting even every two months in an election year. Clearly this man does not like the coasting in his flaccid presidency to be interrupted by eruptions and actions made by those darned uppity grassroots “clowns”.

Well suck it up princess. I do hope and look forward to those grassroots clowns voting Paul Collins out as Party President at this year’s AGM as it has been made clear that he has utterly no respect for the will of the membership or the constitution that protects those member rights.

Thanks to social media and the grassroots clowns within it, parties can no longer sneak things past the member’s radar. This is a great thing.

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It’s like pulling teeth.

In the last little while the Wildrose Party Executive Committee has reminded me of nothing less than the Stelmach PC party in their inept reactionary way of dealing with issues within the party. With multiple blog postings on this site, it has been exposed that the Executive Committee barely met five times in an election year, missed the window to hold an Annual General Meeting where policy and constitution could be revised by the membership and now are bungling the process of nominations for the Executive Committee to the point of violating our very party constitution.

Every time these issues are brought to light, the Executive Committee or others in positions of responsibility within the party have grumblingly and grudgingly addressed the problem. It is sad that it takes such pressure and scrutiny from social media and outside individuals to keep our current Executive Committee even marginally functional.

Now my far prettier and more sane half, Jane Morgan has gotten to work with her keyboard and phone to expose even more detail on the inept actions of the Wildrose Executive Committee under President Paul Collins and has excellently detailed her findings on her blog. While some slight effort was made by some to lay blame for the mess on the nominations committee, Jane exposed that the committee had not even met before and had no idea that the Wildrose Party had posted a constitutionally illegal application form for executive nomination forms on the party website. I of course invite you to click through above and read the details and updates from Jane yourself.

Again responsibility lies directly with the current executive committee. Did the whole committee approve of that document being drafted and put on the website? Who drafted it anyway? Did the VP communications approve that release? Did the President approve it?

Jane’s latest update has been that she is informed that a meeting will be held to discuss this issue and that she will be updated on it’s outcome soon.

I do hope that those at this apparent meeting realize that there is very little to discuss. The Wildrose Party Executive Committee either chooses to act within the Party constitution or it does not. There is no gray area here. You can’t act just a little outside of the rules you are bound by in this game.

With the waffling and the profound nature of this oversight (if indeed that is what this is), I strongly suggest that the membership of the Wildrose Party strongly consider voting to replace the entire current Executive Committee at this year’s Annual General Meeting in Edmonton. While I do know that many of the member’s of the Executive Committee are excellent individuals and while I know that a few have been privately communicating with myself and others to try and fix this mess, not a single one has been willing to break ranks openly and condemn this breach of the party constitution. Not a one will call out and demand that the party President publically fix this sooner rather than later as embarassment and even rumors of corruption spread.

The Executive Committee needs to be made up of a diverse group of committed individuals who will follow through with their assigned roles and who will speak up when things are wrong. Our currently Executive Committee is lacking on all of those fronts.

The party constitution is not a document full of suggestions for the Executive Committee to abide by. It is a document drafted by the members and controlled by the members for the protection of the rights of the members. Only through 2/3 of the collected members at a general meeting can that document be changed and this has not happened. The Executive Committee is bound by the party constitution no ifs ands or buts about it and they had better damn well realize that quick.

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Speaking of “no meet” committees…..

With some less than gentle prodding on this blog, it has been finally (almost grudgingly) confirmed that the Wildrose Party will be holding it’s AGM on November 23-24 in Edmonton at the Mayfair Inn. While this information is still not on the Wildrose Party website, a tweet from Danielle Smith has confirmed this.

 A tweet from Wildrose Party VP Policy (Rob Ladouceur) has confirmed that policy and the party constitution will not be on the agenda at this year’s Annual General Meeting. It is unfortunate that getting answers for what should be simple questions is like pulling teeth these days and the best information comes from twitter rather than party releases or even the Wildrose Party website.

The bottom line is that the party is between a rock and a hard place. When it was discovered that an Annual General Meeting was a legal obligation, one was hastily slapped together for late November in Edmonton. The Wildrose Party constitution states that 120 days of notice must be given to members if policy or constitutional changes are to be considered. The deadline is past so it is impossible for policy and constitutional issues of the party to be addressed at the upcoming meeting. This is most unfortunate as so many have been saying that the Wildrose Party needs some robust policy debates soon.

There is one important matter that can and will be addressed at this fall’s AGM and that is the election of the Wildrose Party’s executive committee. Now according to section 5.1.1 of the Wildrose Party constitution: “Authority within the Party resides in it’s members”.  That is a huge and critical principle and it is the foundation of the entire party.

The only real way the members can exercise that authority is through the direct election of the party executive committee. An active party executive ensures that the members concerns are addressed and should communicate between the membership and other elements within the party.

The Wildrose Party’s current executive committee apparently only held five meetings between June 2011 and June 2012!

 The above statement can be verified by any Constituency Association President through viewing the minutes of the executive meetings as per section 7.18 of the Wildrose Party constitution.

What kind of party oversight is being provided when the Executive Committee only meets on average once every 73 days (in an election year no less)? In those few meetings apparently time was usually not set aside for reports from provincial directors so to those candidates and constituency volunteers who felt that their voices were not being heard by the powers that be in the party; you were absolutely right. While some PDs did want to raise issues and concerns to the board, they simply did not have the means or authority to call meetings.

Party President Paul Collins (who was unsurprisingly somehow acclaimed at the last AGM) while enjoying wearing the hat of Party President has been quite derelict in his duties. The responsibility to call board meetings is upon the Party President and it appears that Paul had little interest in going to that trouble. Outside of the board, has anybody really seen much of Paul Collins? I recall past presidents popping in to Constituency Association meetings and helping out greatly on the ground. Our current president has been largely invisible. This is indeed what happens when a party Executive has been stacked and given an unwritten mandate to marginalize itself. This allowed a certain element of staffers and the like to run and operate the party unencumbered by such things as member guidance and oversight.

If the Wildrose Party is going to stay true to it’s grassroots basis, the members must elect active members of their own choosing to the Provincial Executive this fall. It is simply inexcusable that a group of people tasked to such important duties could barely meet every second month. Executive meetings are easy to call and hold. The vast majority of them are through teleconference and last a couple hours. We used to hold them at least monthly.

Some may claim that the board did not need to meet much as committees actually took care of much of the party business. That is simply bunk. The committees of note are formed by the Executive Committee and report to the Executive Committee. How can that be effectively be happening if the Executive Committee barely ever meets?

I know that many members of the Executive Committee have worked very hard volunteering in all sorts of roles within the party. That does not compensate for the lack of meetings where important issues and party direction should be discussed. The board is not there to micromanage the affairs of the party, but it does (or should) provide a critical form of oversight and guidance in party affairs.

The Wildrose Party has a little less than four years to prepare for the next election. One crucial step in becoming the party that a majority of Albertans can trust and embrace will be having the membership of the party resoundingly reclaiming control of the party at this year’s AGM. We need to prepare now and gather the right group of people to take part in the provincial board. If we do not speak up and act, the Wildrose Party will simply get another token “no meet”  executive committee and accountability to the membership will be lost for another year.

One final note, I am not seeking a position on the next provincial board. Been there, done that. I just want to speak up and ensure that we get a proper and functional board at this coming AGM. Nothing else is on the agenda there anyway.

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