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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Totally tone deaf!

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They just don’t get it. They really haven’t a bloody clue. It almost seems like they are some sort of parody group or something.

What I am speaking of is the new Alberta PAC calling itself the “Alberta Prosperity Fund”.

This is a group that apparently is working on uniting Alberta’s right. They have some interesting names popping up in association with them but their website is brutally shallow in detail. What is the extended goal? Where are these funds coming from? Who exactly is running that show?

This group is already arrogantly making demands of the established parties as we head towards a by-election in Greenway. This group is holding meetings here and there where they speak in circles of a united right yet we don’t see any of the organized players at them.

I was nothing short of flabbergasted though when I saw that they had held a meeting in Cochrane recently where they had none other than disgraced former MLA Bruce McAllister on the panel.

Are you guys really that damned stupid??!!

Does that collection of conservative minds really have such a disconnect with the public sentiment and the views of Wildrose and PC members that they would so idiotically trot out a face as inflammatory as that of Bruce McAllister when claiming to want to unite these groups?

Here is refresher for those who may have forgotten.the events of a little over a year ago.

Bruce McAllister was one of the Wildrose MLAs who stabbed the entire Wildrose Party membership in the back when they crossed the floor following Danielle Smith in hopes of taking a shortcut to the government benches. If you want to piss of essentially every member of the Wildrose Party in short order, bring one of the disgraced floor crossers to speak to them.

Prentice and his vapid gang of floor crossers didn’t just piss the Wildrose Party membership off. The Progressive Conservative Party caucus and members were rightly furious with the crossing too. Promises of protected nominations and cabinet seats for the floor crossers evaporated. When the PC membership took out their ire by wiping out the floorcrossers one by one in nominations, Prentice panicked. Prentice then kicked every Progressive Conservative party member in Chestermere in the balls when he intervened and appointed Bruce McAllister as their candidate before the membership could fire his sorry ass as they did with Smith, Fox and others.

The final rejection of Bruce McAllister came from the voters themselves in the general election. They rightly tossed McAllister to the unemployment line where he deserved to be.

Now I ask, since Bruce McAllister is despised by the Wildrose members, loathed by the Progressive Conservative members and was soundly rejected by the electorate of Alberta, what asshole in their right mind would put this kind of person front and center when supposedly trying to unite all three of these groups?

This is not a unifying effort. People like McAllister are a red flag in front of a grassroots bull. McAllister represents everything that principled party members abhor. It is difficult to find a person worse to represent unity.

If this is any indication of the sort of political instinct and judgement coming from the brain trust of the Prosperity Fund, I say no thanks. They look like all the unemployed assholes who the voters just tossed out and are trying to find a new backdoor way to get to the government benches again .

I would rather take my chances with a divided right than put the weasels back in power.

If things are going to unite in any sort if way, it will come from the bottom up. It will be members initiatives from both parties and it will take time. It will never come from a group so bloody obtuse as to highlight a person like Bruce McAllister. Will they dig Rob Anderson from the bowels of the disgraced political world next?

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Unite the right? Not so fast!

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Let’s be clear. The Notley NDP were not elected due to Alberta having a divided right. As can be seen with the historical NDP support numbers in general elections, there is room to split things over five ways before risking the election an NDP government.

What happened in the 2015 election was the result of a collective revulsion on the part of the electorate over Danielle Smith’s treachery and Jim Prentice’s repugnant and flagrantly power hungry behaviour.

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The electorate was appalled when Jim Prentice lured Smith and her followers into a mass floor crossing that spat in the faces of thousands of their former supporters. Voter disgust only increased as Prentice manipulated nominations in his own party while breaking his own party’s law for fixed election dates is what was a clear power grab.

When given the opportunity, party members showed their ire as they tossed out floor crossers at nomination meetings despite the best efforts of Prentice and Navigator to protect them. The panicked protection of Bruce McAllister’s nomination after other nomination losses only served to infuriate members and voters further as we moved towards an election with no justification.

Former Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith delivers a speech after losing the PC nomination to Carrie Fischer for the Highwood riding in High River, Alta on Saturday, March 28, 2015. Smith crossed the floor with 8 other Wildrose MLAs, defecting to the PC party and leaving the Wildrose with 5 seats. There were a total of 942 ballots cast for the nomination, but the exact results were not disclosed.

Former Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith delivers a speech after losing the PC nomination to Carrie Fischer for the Highwood riding in High River, Alta on Saturday, March 28, 2015.

People were outright disgusted with the Progressive Conservative Party and it’s leadership as the 2015 election campaign began. The Wildrose Party was still reeling from the mass defection and adjusting to a brand new leader. The taint of Smith’s self-serving actions still hung on the Wildrose Party as well whether fair or not. The Liberal Party was in shambles and the Alberta Party was still essentially unheard of by the majority of the electorate.

Desperate voters migrated to what they saw as the only familiar and principled voice in the electoral lineup. Nobody was thinking of right or left as they migrated to Notley. What people wanted to see for a change was some honesty and principles no matter what side of the electoral spectrum those principles came from. The PC principle of power for the sake of power was roundly rejected. Notley won a majority by default and we are all paying for that situation today.

The reason I am going over this is that some people are trying to simplistically claim that it is nothing more than a split on the right that got the NDP into power in Alberta and that simply is not true. If efforts to build an alternative to the Notley government do not take these facts into account, we may indeed really be working towards putting the Notley NDP back into power for another term.

We hear columnists calling for uniting the right.

We have a MPs calling for uniting the right.

We have Brian Jean calling to unite the right.

We have an American style PAC gathering notable names and raising money to unite the right.

We have basement meetings chaired by former MLAs calling for uniting the right.

Despite all of these calls to unite the right, nobody has defined what this united right is supposed to look like or how it will be formed. Are talking about a merger of the Wildrose and the PC parties? Are we talking about forming yet another whole new party? Are we talking about rebranding the Wildrose?

All of the above are considerations but it is going to take some time and a lot of deliberation to determine what course is best. Rushing into things with so many questions hanging could lead to further splintering and alienating the electorate even more.

I don’t have solid answers but I can certainly see some things that are sure to fail.

For some sort of alternative to succeed it has to be created totally in the open!

Among the many things that repelled the electorate last year, the backroom negotiations and nature of the moves by Prentice and Smith were paramount. Nobody likes secret, self-serving deals and if the public gets even a whiff of such activities in any new efforts they will head for the door in droves. It is this issue that makes me hope that the new PAC starts becoming much more transparent in its funding sources and its goals or it may be quite counterproductive,. On the surface right now it looks like many of the same old players trying to recreate the PC party simply for the sake of getting back into power again. This may indeed not be the case at all but perception in politics is indeed reality and the perception had best be improving soon.

I attended an informal gathering of conservative minded folks hosted by Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt and PC MLA Mike Ellis last December. While nothing solid came from the meeting, I think it was very productive in that it got many stubborn partisans into the same room with the goal of examining where they have common ground. The complete transparency and informal nature of the gathering was of great appeal. It let us put our hackles down with no hard agenda and let many of us realize that we are closer together on things than we may think. While these sorts of gatherings don’t produce immediate, solid results, they help build the foundation we need. I hope that we see more of them. Again, patience is required here.

We need principles that run deeper than simply gaining power and raising money!

The Wildrose Party is celebrating record fundraising numbers and they should. Strong fundraising indicates a good grassroots support base. That being said, we saw rather clearly in the last election that spending alone does not win seats. The electorate doesn’t give two shits about which party or candidate raised or spent more money. They want to vote for somebody who shares common principles with them.

If the move towards an alternative can only define itself as existing for the sake of gaining power, we can rest assured that the movement will be rejected as well. The PC party in it’s last few years in government truly demonstrated that retaining power at all costs was it’s only mandate and Albertans got more than tired with that. We need something more.

We have to define just what the heck the “right” even is.

What is right? Is it just fiscal conservatism? Is it social conservatism? How much mix? While the Wildrose was being labelled as being anti-gay due to the odious “lake of fire” ravings of one of it’s former candidates, the PC Party infuriated the province with the pushing of Bill 10. So which of the parties is socially conservative and how?

PC MLA Sandra Jansen is demonstrating a social leftism which puts her on par with the NDP despite her flogging of Bill 10 only a little more than a year ago. This sort of demonstration of floating personal principles demonstrates exactly the kind of self-serving opportunism that we are all sick and tired of. Jathensen will clearly support anything if she thinks it will keep her seat. Is she right wing? Is she left wing? Does it matter? If parties somehow merged, would she really be able to share a caucus with Rick Strankman for example?

I don’t think we should see MLAs and candidates lining up and declaring themselves to be right or left and not budging based on ideological standing. If we are going to keep harping on “unite the right” though we had better settle on just what the “right” is.

The last PC budget was decidedly left wing while their social policies in the end were right wing.

I am socially very left and fiscally very right. I wont claim that Alberta has a libertarian majority but it is a significant element among voters. How will a united “right” capture that element of the electorate?

I am looking forward to seeing an alternative formed and growing to the Notley government whether it is something new or an evolution of one of the existing parties. We need to act carefully though and resist the temptation to rush here. As can be seen in the initial stats in this posting, the NDP is far from being the natural governing party of Alberta. An alternative to Notley does not need to be perfect in order to replace her government. The bar is rather low when looking at traditional NDP support in Alberta as a matter of fact.

Let’s take our time and give the NDP more rope. They will take care of much for us. We cant sit on our hands for the next 3-4 years but we don’t need to hatch a “united right” in the next few months either.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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There is no right wing split in Alberta.

Though the voices are in a tiny minority, they are already becoming annoying.

Led by Danielle Smith and some other now homeless political types who found themselves politically homeless due to latching their careers to the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, this small chorus is trying to convince people that the Wildrose Party must merge with the dying PC party to stop this perceived split in the right. I guess that laying your own political downfall at the feet of an imaginary ideological split among the province is easier on a person than accepting that one’s own political instinct was crap. It is weak rationalizing and it simply doesn’t add up.

I will lay it out in simple terms as math is hard for some!

Here are the vote gains/losses in this election compared to 2012:

Progressive Conservatives: loss of 154,357

Wildrose Party:   loss of 82,224

Liberal Party:  loss of 65,455

NDP:    gain of 476,387

In 2012 the two parties that some consider to be right wing made up 78% of the vote in Alberta when combined. In 2015 this fell to 52% of the vote.

Let those numbers sink in. There is no split of the perceived right here. This is a collapse in support of the two right of center parties.

The 2015 election was not about right and left. This election was about trust and principles and it was won by populism. The folks foolishly muttering about merging parties had better realize this or we will see an eight year term of the Notley led NDP in Alberta. People don’t want to see a merged party of one ideology or another. They simply want to see a party that they feel they can trust for a change.

I spent about 13 hours per day on one of the campaigns in Calgary for the entire election. Right from the beginning of the campaign, the feedback and feel we were getting was disconcerting to say the least. Folks would call and ask what we were seeing on the ground and the best answer I could give was “it’s really weird out there”.

The anger of the electorate at the doors was palpable. People were outraged with the Prentice PCs and disgusted with his self-serving actions whether from drawing in the Wildrose floor crossers, the wretched budget, the never ending internal scandals or I think most of all an early election call that was clearly only done to serve the party in power. People were making it more than clear that they wanted to punish the Progressive Conservatives and they wanted to do it badly.

This led us to think we should be the clear second choice for people but that wasn’t the case. While people at the doors made it clear that they didn’t want to vote for the PCs, they became quite reticent when we would ask them to support us instead. While they loathed the PC party under Prentice, they were not exactly endeared by the Wildrose Party either. Whether fair or not, we were still suffering under the hangover of the floor crossings and people simply didn’t know the new leader. At best most doors in the early part of the election appeared angry but undecided.

The debate was the turning point. People were waiting to get a clear look at who the alternatives for governing our province really were and they watched the debate closely. The contrast in the debate could not have been more clear between the leaders. Prentice came across as an arrogant weasel. Swann came off as the has been that he is. Jean came across as wooden and repetitive and Notley came across as dynamic, principled and energetic. In that 1.5 hours the minds of the electorate went NDP and it was folks from all sides of the spectrum. Not right or left.

When the election is about trust, it is a clear handicap having a brand new and unknown leader. While people do not dislike the new leader, they are not yet ready to embrace him either. Jean’s opportunity to get to know a large segment of Albertans was in that debate and to be blunt, he blew it catastrophically. Jean had been coached to stick to a simple script and to never deviate. He was coached to dodge specifics on questions by repeating a stock line and he was coached to avoid thinking on his feet. The Wildrose needs to fire that coach!

In watching that debate, even I as a hardcore, partisan Wildroser had to wonder if I could vote for a party led by this robot. One columnist best described Jean’s debate performance as “ghastly” and I think that hits it on the head. Nothing irks me faster than seeing a leader dodge questions. It makes them look untrustworthy and there was no worse time than during that debate to appear so. Even being wrong on a couple specific facts yet appearing sincere and energized would have been better for Jean in that debate.

Policy specifics meant nothing in that debate to voters. People were looking for energy and a sense of sincerity. Notley won it by all accounts.

A silver lining here is that Brian Jean’s debate performance was out of character for him. In following rallies and events Jean showed a fantastic and genuine energy and wit. When seeing Jean at other gatherings, it is tough to imagine that this is the same puppet like fellow that we observed just a few weeks ago at the debate.

Inexperience and a simply harrowing series of events in this last three months really do explain much of Jean’s appearance as a leader in the 2015 election. From a whirlwind leadership race, to the death of his son to the call of the general election Jean simply never got a moment to breath and adjust to these changes. With four years as leader of the opposition Jean now has the time and will have the resources to grow into the role that he has earned. I am confident he will do so and as Albertans get to know him, that trust will grow.

While time and genuine effort will help grow that trust that Jean and the Wildrose need, embracing the remnants of the corrupted and withering PC party through a merger would have the opposite effect. Alberta’s most despised party has now been packaged in a neat 9 seat rump and a growing and invigorated Wildrose Party would be insane to embrace the baggage and mistrust that comes with that party.

Navel gazing about a right wing split will do nothing to displace the NDP government. Notley won on trust and will only lose when a party that has gained trust shows up to challenge her.

Bear this in mind, almost every person who claims that the Wildrose and PC parties must merge now were of the same chorus of people who loudly and confidently declared the Wildrose Party as being dead last December.

Sort of says worlds about their political instincts doesn’t it?

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Party members get the final word (along with the electorate).

Voters in Alberta in general have been used and abused by our provincial government for quite some time now. Few have been democratically abused more though than the party members of the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party (pre-crossing) in the last 12 months.

The very essence of the party system is to facilitate organization and election of like minded people to office. At the core of this system is the nomination system where members will campaign and choose who will represent them in elections. This of course is the very area where the unprincipled in politics (alas there are many of them) choose to meddle the most.

The Wildrose Party under Danielle Smith’s leadership and with Rob Anderson’s constant interference was brutal in their efforts to manipulate nominations. Members in constituencies around the province were getting increasingly infuriated with the delay of nominations and arm twisting of potential candidates as they sought to get their chosen ones in. It is this sort of thing that led to member blowback against Danielle Smith and was a contributing factor to her callow departure from the leadership of the party.

andersonAnderson and Smith were truly delusional and lost in their own bubbles in thinking that the party membership would follow them when they organized their brutal act of treachery and joined the Prentice Progressive Conservatives.

The membership of the Wildrose Party was actually renewed and emboldened by the departure of Smith and her compatriots. While it hurt the party in the short term, the core is stronger and more dedicated than ever as the worst of it’s unprincipled members are now no longer with it.

Rob Anderson was the first to recognize that he was politically finished and he figured it out in rather short order. Having screwed the membership and supporters in Airdrie from both parties in two different floor crossings, Rob Anderson found himself utterly alone and despised by the membership in both the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party. Knowing he was politically finished, Anderson scurried off into the sunset to try and work on a new and less public career. Jason Hale and Bruce Rowe quietly fled the mess of their own making soon afterwards.

Danielle Smith maintained her delusion right up until the Progressive Conservative members got the chance to kick her out of office which they eagerly and overwhelmingly did. Smith’s treachery and abuse of the members who supported her led to the utter end of what had appeared to be one of the most promising political careers in Canada. Word is that Smith didn’t even attend the first Progressive Conservative constituency association meeting in person after having crossed the floor. Had she a clue how powerful the members are and how enraged they could be, perhaps she could have salvaged the nomination (though I doubt it). Smith will now fade into well earned obscurity as an odd footnote in Alberta political history.

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When livid party members tossed floor crossers Gary Bikman and Rod Fox out on their self-serving asses in nomination races along with Smith, Prentice panicked. It was clear that there was no way that Bruce McAllister was going to survive an open nomination race. The PC party jumped in and disqualified party loyalist Jamie Lall in hopes of maintaining at least one of their floor crossing trophies of prominence.

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A rightly enraged and motivated Lall entered the race for Chestermere-Rocky View as an independent candidate along with his considerable local support down there. The Progressive Conservative constituency association is now in utter disarray as the President and other board members resigned in disgust with the party actions under the guidance of Prentice.

With Lall pulling from the Progressive Conservative base and with most voters being repulsed by the actions of the floor-crossers, it is very likely that Bruce McAllister will be joining his unprincipled colleagues as a disgraced and unemployed political has-been on May the 5th.

Of the 9 MLAs who betrayed the membership of the party in December only perhaps a couple will still be employed a mere few months later. Perhaps none of them will make it through the election.

Will MLAs and party operatives learn from all of this? I doubt all of them will but I sure hope many of them will have learned a lesson here:

You can only fuck with the party membership for so long and so much before they lash back!

 

 

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Wildrose & Progressive Conservative. What’s the difference?

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As the Wildrose Party has grown and matured as a party, our policies have evolved and moderated every year. We have learned from experience what is realistic and what is acceptable to Albertans and have adjusted our actions accordingly. As the policy set moves towards what some may view as a more mushy middle, some critics have questioned what differences remain between the Wildrose Party and the reigning Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. While the policies may appear to be getting similar (can’t really find a good copy of the PC ones), the difference between the parties is still immense.

The biggest difference between the Wildrose Party and the PCs is subtle yet profound. The difference between the parties is one of both culture and of attitudes held by both the general membership and senior party members. This huge difference was laid out and exposed excellently in a blog posting by Christina Rontynen who courageously has spoken up from within the PCs.

Christina and her husband Piotr Pilarski have both been very loyal and involved members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta for years. Christina has now spoken up out of concern for the party that she has given so much to. In return for Christina having expressed frank concerns, she has received a letter of censure from the Party President Jim McCormick.

Letter of censure

The bottom line is that the powers that be in the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta have told a concerned member in no uncertain terms to shut the hell up. This exposes the great difference from the Wildrose  Party and sickness from within the PC Party of Alberta. Redford can’t be blamed for this attempt to gag a concerned loyal member. This missive came from the Party President who is supposed to represent the membership.

 

My wife Jane and I have both been very vocal and outspoken when we have felt that some elements within the Wildrose Party may be trying to move things in the wrong direction. We have been critical of the Wildrose Party on a number of occasions. Jane is a former Executive Director for the Wildrose and has served in a number of executive capacities while I served multiple terms on the party executive. Both Jane and I are past candidates for the party. Serving in those sorts of roles does not mean we can no longer be openly critical of the party at times as McCormick has implied in his letter to Rontynen.

Jane and I have surely made many senior members of the Wildrose Party grind their teeth when we have gotten openly cranky with the party. I have gotten more than one grumpy phone call from higher-ups in the party asking what I am up to. One thing that has never happened though is that nobody in the Wildrose Party considered for even a second to tell Jane or I to shut up!

The culture of the Wildrose Party is still one where the concerns of the membership (and Albertans) are paramount. The party is still relatively new and embraces internal critique as part of it’s growth rather than try to stifle it. Perhaps if the Wildrose Party held power for 43 years in Alberta these values and attitudes would change but for now the party is as grassroots as it gets despite taking an increasingly pragmatic approach to it’s actions.

The culture and attitude of a party can’t be captured in a policy statement. Those things can only been viewed in actions and felt within membership. Even if the Wildrose Party and the PC Party had the exact same policy set (they certainly don’t), the difference in cultures within these two parties would still set them greatly apart.

The Progressive Conservative Party acts only for the benefit of the party itself. The Wildrose Party is still dominated by the ideal of service for the benefit of the province and acts through the guidance of the party membership. That difference is and will remain tremendous no matter who may lead the Progressive Conservative Party next.

 

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As summer approaches, the real fun begins.

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Last week late-night sessions came to a head in the Alberta Legislature as the Redford Progressive Conservatives rushed to bring yet another catastrophic legislative session to an end. Scandal after scandal erupted which complimented a disastrous budget that put lie to nearly every promise Alison Redford made only a year ago when she lied her way to power in Alberta. While polls have certainly proven themselves to be unreliable, it is pretty much undeniable that the Redford government is in a popularity free-fall in Alberta.

Among the many scandals that have sprung from our government, the revelation that over $2 million in severance has been paid out in the Premier’s office alone is the most telling of the state of affairs in our legislature. Rumors of Redford’s outbursts and untenable attitude are being confirmed as exhausted and harried staffers are constantly shown the door having failed to do the impossible in painting Redford in a positive light.

Alison Redford like Ed Stelmach before her and like Stephane Dion won her position due to being everybody’s second choice in a divisive leadership race. Like those before her, Redford is floundering as she never really had a large base of support within her party to begin with. Redford won by playing the system and through renting the support of Alberta’s teacher’s union. Only one caucus member supported Redford’s leadership bid initially and she really hasn’t endeared herself with caucus since.

Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives are hardly known for their selfless idealism. MLAs and staffers have no intention of going down with the Redford ship and we can rest assured that the knives are already coming out.

Where the fun starts as a political watcher is in observing the leadership race that is not a leadership race. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has announced that he will not be running for re-election this fall and his coyness about his potential entrance into provincial politics is quite transparent. Watch as Mandel suddenly begins appearing at events outside of Edmonton and begins speaking to issues of provincial jurisdiction. Rest assured, Mandel will be lining up potential supporters within the Progressive Conservative party itself which will trip more alarm bells within caucus.

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Aspirants such as Doug Horner and Thomas Lukaszuk will be furious as they see a Mayor building a leadership foundation while they are still bound as cabinet members. The unofficial leadership campaigns among the PC caucus will be well underway by mid-summer as we will see MLAs and cabinet members surfacing in the most unexpected of parades and barbeques as they try to broaden their provincial exposure and support. An increasingly desperate and furious Alison Redford will be watching and it will be quite entertaining watching her trying to plug the holes in the dam before the leadership campaign flood bursts it.lukashorn

Policy and legislative action are important and interesting to watch. Internal party intrigue is even more fascinating though and the summer of 2013 will be loaded with it. Be sure to read between the lines with every action you see from PC MLAs and Alison Redford. A 40 year dynasty is crumbling and more than a handful of it’s members feel they could be the party’s savior if they could only get their hands on the reins.

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The power of social media.

While I am prone to using thousands of words in a posting to get an idea out there, Amanda Achtman managed to cut the Redford Progressive Conservatives right to the core with a catchy and funny parody video that is less than two minutes long.

In light of Redford’s plummeting support and incredible budget deficit despite such a strong local economy, many many people are wondering just what happened to the party that they used to support.

People are abandoning the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta in droves as they simply really don’t know what the party even stands for anymore. Amanda drove that home excellently in her little video and it is going viral. It is an awesome example of a small grassroots effort making a strong impression on thousands. Proper use of social media can be very politically powerful.

Improper use of social media can be politically devastating. The Redford government see’s their lack of popular presence in the social media world (due to a lack of real grassroots support) so they have hired a cadre of leftover comms staffers from other provinces in a desperate hope of swinging online views. As with most of Redford’s efforts this has been a failure and the flood of tweets and such from her paid gang is really not taken terribly seriously by most.

Never ones to let a small irritation remain small, the Progressive Conservative twitter bunch thought that the best course of action would be to collectively report Amanda Achtman’s twitter account for spamming. This in effect leads to an account being temporarily suspended while they confirm that Amanda indeed was not spamming (and she wasn’t).

The foolish effort above of course then turned Achtman into an online grassroots martyr leading to radio and television coverage of the video. At times I swear the Redford gang will cross a street just to purposely step into a pile of dog crap.

Below is a link to Amanda Achtman on the Source with Ezra Levant discussing the issue.

http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/featured/prime-time/867432237001/some-party-that-i-used-to-know/2297143795001

Good work Amanda. I hope we see more efforts such as your video from both you and others. It helps broaden political discourse for us all and as has been seen, it helps expose where the real extremists are.

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Alberta tragedy; Redford’s Michener Centre closure.

If I am to be measured on the political scale, I land pretty strongly on the libertarian side of things. I want to see a minimal amount of government in our lives along with a maximum amount of personal freedoms. People often confuse this sort of outlook with anarchism though which would mean having a truly survival of the fittest sort of world with no boundaries or general social obligations. Anarchism is not reasonable in a modern world.

The scope of ethical obligations that we have as human beings to take care of our neighbors is large and usually very debatable. In the minds of all but the most extreme, we as a society have an obligation to take care of those who CAN’T take care of themselves. The problem that we always have is in defining who actually can’t take care of themselves as opposed to those who won’t take care of themselves.

There is very little to debate in the above regard when it comes to the status of the remaining 125 or so residents of the Michener Centre in Red Deer. These Albertans are afflicted with serious developmental disabilities and they will always be in need of the kind of specialized care that they are getting in the Michener Centre. Despite what appears to pretty much anybody as as self-evident need in societal care that had been provided by the facility, the Redford government has unexpectedly decided to close Michener Centre and displace every one of it’s residents.

In a zeal and rush to close the facility, the government has issued some pretty weak statements essentially trying to paint Michener Centre as being some nasty sort of institution where residents are languishing in misery while separated from society. The sterilizations that ended over 40 years ago are mentioned and it is implied that the place is right from a scene in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It is blathered over and over again that residents will simply be placed in the “community” though it is not really specified just what that will mean.

Last week I attended a meeting held by “Friends of Michener Centre” in Calgary. This group was formed by concerned family members who have loved-ones living at the facility. It was both informative and heartbreaking to hear from those who have had to deal the most directly in caring for people with serious developmental disabilities. The challenges faced by and the strength demonstrated by the families of Michener Centre residents came through clearly in that couple hours. It is sad that not a single one of Redford’s MLAs could come to that meeting as they would have been able to get a better image of what damage is being wrought by their thoughtless decision to close Michener Centre.

One theme that was constant as people shared their stories is how each Michener Centre resident’s needs and circumstances were quite unique and how critical consistency of care is for each of them. One lady spoke of how her brother been bumped from group home to group home until after putting a chair through a window he was finally admitted into Michener Centre for the last 17 years of his life. While in Michener Centre this man got to settle in and a caring staff learned to deal with his unique and special needs. The stability he needed only came upon getting into a facility such as Michener Centre.

The gentleman hosting the meeting told an interesting story of his brother who had been a Michener Centre resident. His brother had been admitted to hospital with a respiratory infection and while in there staff was mystified with why he would not open his mouth to eat. This was during the H1N1 outbreak so staff were outfitted with full infection control outfits. While those outfits could discomfort pretty much anybody if unfamiliar with them, they were outright terrifying to the poor fellow with a serious developmental disability. Of course he would not let these alien people feed him. The staff were not in the wrong of course, they simply did not understand that unique circumstances of the gentleman they had in their care. The story again drives home why consistency and specialized facilities and staff are so essential for people with serious PDDs.

After the meeting, I decided to look further into things. I tracked down and spoke with a couple people who had each worked at and around Michener Center for over 30 years each. The stories were not of a place with terrible institutional abuses and misery. The picture painted is one of a facility that was a community in itself that went to great pains to create the best conditions possible for their clients. One of the best was in hearing how one of the clients was of Asian decent so staff sought out Asian themed decorations for his room (and they sought to decorate to please all of their residents of course). This reminds one that Michener Centre is not an acute care facility, it is a home to the residents and should remain so. On the sadder side, I was told of funerals for some residents that passed away which were only attended by staff as these people had no remaining family outside of the facility. Think of what moving these people will do to them.

Having a centralized facility such as Michener Centre allows for more specialized services to be maintained and developed as well. Having doctors and pharmacists on site allows for much better diagnosis, prescribing and monitoring of medications as many clients needed medications. Dental and other care is provided on site as well in ways that never could be done for persons with serious developmental disabilities in a smaller group-home setting. I was told that people from outside group homes are brought to Michener Centre for their dental care as most dentists will not treat them or don’t have the skills required to do so. Where will they go now?

As was driven home at the meeting, Michener Centre is a community and a family. Driving the residents out of there is a needless and possibly catastrophic disruption to these people. It has been said that many of the residents will be sent to seniors care facilities. Really? Are seniors centers really able to care for these people with such special needs? Do they have the space or the resources? What will this do to seniors already residing in those facilities? This just sounds utterly senseless.

In driving around the Michener Centre grounds last weekend, it could be seen that some facilities are getting a bit dated (though hardly dysfunctional). The campus is very large though and if anything we should be investing to expand and improve the facilities for people with PDDs rather than driving them out and scattering them.

Michener Centre is on 300 acres of pretty prime land in Red Deer. While nothing has been confirmed, there are many rumors about plans for that land once it is vacated. Sadly in that context, one can see the underlying motivation in the Redford government’s zeal to displace these most vulnerable of Alberta’s citizens. If the efforts to save the Michener Centre fail, we must watch very carefully to see just what Redford (along with friends and family) does with the land. Why else would her government rip into this facility having so recently promised never to do so (though broken promises from Redford are hardly few or unexpected).

The closure of Michener Centre is not a done deal yet. If enough people stand up and demonstrate a backlash, I do think Redford will back down on this closure. Redford never apologizes or admits wrong, but she will quietly kill initiatives that prove to harm her political well-being and that is all that matters. Alison Redford will be lucky to survive the wrath of her own party at this fall’s leadership review. She is very sensitive to public pressure right now so let’s exert it.

There is a facebook page for Friends of Michener Centre here. Give the page a like and look around for more information on upcoming actions and events.

Call or write your MLA to express how this closure is a mistake. It may not feel like it but they really do notice when public ire is rising on something. That will only happen if we speak up of course. Be sure to encourage others to speak up on this as well.

Finally, one can attend a rally on April 10, in support of Michener Centre. This is being organized by the AUPE with details in the picture below. When you see me promoting something being organized by a union, you know something serious is happening.

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Let’s let Redford know that she is really crossing the line on this one.

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