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

smith2014

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

bearpit

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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Wildrose AGM 2013. Constitution time.

It is undeniable that the Wildrose Party has made terrific strides in the last 8 years or so within Alberta. Our provincial government has been held to account more effectively than we have seen in decades as Alberta finally has a strong opposition party in the legislature.

As the Wildrose Party continues to grow we will of course have some growing pains and internal battles to hash out.

There is an element within the Wildrose Party that sees the grassroots membership and basis of the party as a necessary evil at best. Year after year we have to fight off attempts to centralize the management of the party among a small and unaccountable group while sidelining means of member control and party accountability. The Executive Committee is the branch of the party that is to be controlled by nobody else but the membership at large and this distinction and role is critical to the entire basis and purpose of the party. This power within the Executive Committee has constantly annoyed the weasel faction within the party thus constant efforts have been made to reduce the role and strength of the Executive Committee every year.

Due to party meddling and a large number of Executive Committee resignations within the party, the Wildrose Party found itself last year after the election with a do-nothing party executive that could barely bring itself to meet more than once over the phone every couple of months.

This ineffective Executive Committee so impressed some of the powers that be within the party that they even tried to defer the party’s annual general meeting for two years so that they need not risk getting an active Executive Committee chosen by the membership. This effort was exposed though and due to this being in complete contravention of the Alberta Societies Act, an AGM was suddenly and grudgingly slapped together to at the least meet legal requirements within Alberta.

With a meeting scheduled no other information was put out to the membership at large on details for things such as Executive Committee elections. It became incumbent upon party members such as myself to blog the information that the party refused to promote and to give a platform to aspiring candidates for Executive Committee positions. Party members Rob Woronuk and others worked to hold open candidate debates so that members could get to know the candidates as again, the party refused to offer such aids to the internal democratic process for some reason.

It took a great deal of effort to pull the party kicking and screaming into adherence with it’s own constitution in leading up to the AGM.

Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated and stubborn party activists, a good AGM was held where an active and effective Executive Committee was elected in the fall of 2012 (much to the chagrin of the weasel faction).

Now with the election and retention of an effective EC within the Wildrose Party, the weasel faction has turned to a new means to try and take control from the membership within the party. At this year’s Annual General Meeting in Red Deer, the membership will be discussing changes to the constitution and policies of the party.

A few of the proposed constitutional changes coming forth this fall are nothing less than outrageous and they are clearly modeled with the intent of neutering the Executive Committee and Constituency Presidents (thus by extension the membership) in the management of the operations of the party.  The members must understand what these proposals are and vote them down en masse at the 2013 AGM to send a message to the weasel faction that we are getting really tired of this.

The full list of proposed constitutional changes can be found in the link below.

ConstitutionAGM2013

It should be noted that almost all of the offensive propositions are coming from the Cardston-Taber-Warner constituency for some reason.

RESOLUTION 16

OK the first and likely worst proposed change to the party constitution would take the power of selecting an Executive Director for the party from the Executive Committee and put it solely into the hands of the Party Leader. I will use screen snaps for this as the layout from the file makes it easier to see in an image.

resolution16I like how the statement says it: “clarifies process for selecting Executive Director”. Uh no. This resolution does far more than clarify the selection process, this resolution essentially would not only give the Leader of the party sole-authority in not only the selection of an Executive Director but it would give the Leader sole-authority in setting the terms of reference and power of the Executive Director.

Resolution 16 is ridiculous and outright dangerous if approved. There are some very good reasons why the Leader’s office is a separate division from the management of operations within the party. The role of the Leader encompasses many things but the operation of the party is actually not one of them. There is no rational reason to put the party Leader directly in control of the party operations and in having such powers over the Executive Director the Leader’s control of operations would be full and unchecked.

The Leader, Party President and Executive Director are essentially the top three folks within the party structure. If any one of the three has unchecked control on the selection of the people for either of other two roles, we will have created essentially a dictator with no reasonable check against their actions.

While we need the Executive Director to work in a productive and hopefully cooperative manner with the Leader of the Party, we simply can’t put the entire power of selection of this powerful role into the hands of the Party Leader. The membership must strike this down soundly this fall.

RESOLUTION 28

resolution28This resolution from Cardston-Taber-Warner made me scratch my head and say “wow” at such a blatant move to try and undercut grassroots organization within the party.

If one wants to start a dictatorship, one of the first things that must be done is to isolate communications and organizing capability among the masses and that is exactly what this proposal is trying to do.

I understand that some people do not want their personal information floating around out there. Having one’s name on a list as a CA President is hardly an offense to privacy and the person chooses to be in that role in the first place. We are not talking about home addresses and phone numbers here.

I expect this will be soundly rejected at the AGM but should this resolution pass I will state this here and now:

I will track down the names and email addresses of all 87 Constituency Association  Presidents within the Wildrose Party and will list them on this site along with regular updates. I have the connections, the will and the means to do this so why don’t you weasels just drop this odious suggestion now?

Why on earth would we want to stifle communications between our constituencies?

RESOLUTION 11

resolution11One would think that after having nearly gone in contravention of the Alberta Societies Act with the attempted deferral of the 2012 Wildrose Party AGM that the weasel faction would have been supportive of correcting the constitution to reflect legal requirements so such errors would not happen again. While two resolutions help clarify the obligation and needs, Cardston-Taber-Warner wants reference to and obligation of AGM timing totally removed from the constitution. I wonder which of the three resolutions will be discussed.

Those who despise member driven parties like the Wildrose Party also despise AGMs of course as this is when the collected membership can exercise their rightful control upon the direction, management and policies of the party. Of course the weasel faction wants to get constitutional obligations for AGMs removed. I expect the membership to overwhelmingly toss this one in the trashbin where it belongs.

RESOLUTION 13

 resolution13In keeping with what became a pattern, Cardston-Taber-Warner wants terribly for some reason to deeply enshrine some pretty strong unilateral appointment powers for the Leader into the party constitution.

It is critical that the Leader takes a strong guiding role in the appointment of these positions but I do not see why this has to be mandated in the constitution to be at the sole discretion of the Leader.

A good leader will be able to work cooperatively with the caucus, Executive Committee and Executive Director in filling these roles without having sole authority to do it all directly. If the Leader can’t do their job under those constraints of cooperation and compromise, then perhaps that person is not the appropriate one to be the Leader of the party.

RESOLUTION 22A

resolution22aVetting and preparing policy for presentation to the membership at an AGM is an exhausting, thankless task. I know this well as I served two terms as VP Membership with the Wildrose Party and that was while the party was considerably smaller than now.

A policy committee is a great way to get more done and to bring minds together on what is a tough and messy process. Many policies come in that are unreasonable, poorly phrased or at times outright incomprehensible. Despite this reality, the committee simply can’t be empowered to revise or comment on a proposed policy without the consent of the person or people who submitted the initial proposal.

Without this check in place in the constitution, the policy committee could theoretically change every policy submitted to them unilaterally with no consultation with the people who submitted the policy in the first place.

The policy formulation process will always be tough, time consuming and messy. There are improvements to be made.

Deleting this critical check on the power of the Policy Committee as proposed by Cardston-Taber-Warner would not be an improvement by any means.

There are some other questionable and debatable suggestions in the proposals and I expect more vigorous examination and discussion of these issues in the next few months. Policy will take me many long-winded postings but these constitutional proposals must be nipped in the bud and addressed right now.

Who are the people with Cardston-Taber-Warner who put these together? I certainly would love to see some attempted rationale for this clear effort to centralize the management of this grassroots party that we all worked so had to build.

Grassroots organization is messy and tough but it can work and it is worth it. We have to remain vigilant and keep knocking down the weasels who think that by setting aside our principles that we can get where we need to be. If we wanted to be in a party like that, we would be with the Redford Progressive Conservatives.

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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.

michener

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

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How about a date?

In my last posting I covered how the Wildrose Party needs to earn the trust of Albertans and how the party could make great strides in that regard if they acted more openly and trustworthy with their own affairs.

That posting was inspired by the growing controversy and discussion happening around an interview that Danielle Smith had a little while ago where it appeared that Smith may be taking some liberties in statements on policy positions and policies without prior member input.

Danielle Smith’s musings in that interview led to concerns being expressed from some socially conservative members within the party as well as those who (like myself) are very committed to maintaining a member driven and controlled means of policy formulation. Danielle is indeed most entitled to her views but when speaking for the party she  is indeed obligated to speak for the party, not herself.

Now what most people have agreed upon is that there certainly will be some rousing and important discussion at the Wildrose Party’s next AGM. It has been a pivotal election year and many things have been learned. Now it is time for the Wildrose Party to gather it’s membership and to discuss as a whole how we plan to move forward as a party that is both serving in official opposition and aspiring to form government down the road.

I like to think I am generally pretty tapped into many inside sources with the party and have heard multiple rumors about where the date and the venue of the party’s next AGM ranging from October 2012-April 2013 and at locations from Red Deer to Edmonton to even Canmore for crying out loud.

The Wildrose Party website is devoid of information and nobody is officially speaking up. This should be a simple thing should it not? You schedule a meeting and you hold the damn thing. The word “annual” in the name should ease the stress of wondering how often one should hold these sorts of things.

The date and location of an Annual General Meeting is hardly any sort of proprietary secret and there is no real good reason (on the surface) that such information should be withheld from members. It has been about 14 months since the last AGM as of this posting by the way.

This made me dig yet a little more deeply. According to the constitution of the Wildrose Party, despite being named an AGM, an annual general meeting needs only to be held every two years.  Unfortunately this leads to quite a conundrum as technically the Wildrose Party is a society bound by the rules of the Alberta Societies Act which states that an Annual General Meeting is (wait for it…….) an annual obligation under section 25.  The constitution of the party is trumped by the societies act here.

Now some hair splitting may be done here and the meeting potentially can wait until the 18 month period. That does mean according to the Party Constitution that notice must be given to members 120 days before the date of the AGM if policies and constitutional changes are to be contemplated.  Now I know that I as a member have not gotten this notice nor have I heard of any other members getting it. The clock is ticking rather quickly on this one.

Another oddball clause with the Party AGMs covers the nominations for the executive. I will quote the whole thing below:

7.2 Not less than 90 days prior to any annual general meeting of the Party, the Executive Committee shall create the Nominating Committee consisting of three members. It shall be the duty of this committee to nominate candidates for the officer positions to be filled at the Annual General Meeting. Candidates for officer positions and all officers must be members in good standing of the Party. The nominating committee shall report to the Executive Committee prior to the notice of the Annual General Meeting being sent to all members and such report shall be included in the notice of the Annual General Meeting. Nominations may be made by any member up to 65 days prior to the date of the annual general meeting and will be included in the notice of the Annual General Meeting.

That statement is quite a mouthful. Now what is really concerning here is that one can’t be nominated past 65 days before the meeting yet the notice of the Annual General Meeting can be as little as 60 days if there is not to be policy discussion. This sort of makes it difficult for people to know if, how or when people may consider nominations for the board. This complexity is no mistake.

It may be noted that no directions for the pursuit of executive positions are available on the website and I assure you not everybody reads the entire constitution of political parties. It is conceivable that a 60 day notice could be issued and nobody of course aside from those personally chosen or somehow discovered by the committee (no information on how to reach this hypothetical committee) will be able to run for executive spots.

At last year’s AGM, only one person from the prior executive ran for re-election. The rest including myself gave up on the party board and did not run again. That should ring alarm bells to many in itself. Why would none of the executive members want to run for the position again when the party was growing so strongly at the time? That issue in itself is worthy of another likely long blog posting soon as it is part of another problem within the Wildrose Party at the management level. Now this led to a pile of acclaimed and weakly contested positions for top executive positions within the party as nobody even knew how to even find the committee in charge. On top of it all; the few contested executive positions that there were actually had asterisks indicating party endorsement for certain people next to their names!! The party committee actually took sides and made endorsements for the executive positions. This is reprehensible and completely contrary to grassroots principles. Still sadly, we let it slide. Nobody wanted to rock the boat on the way to a potential election.

Now with all of the above issues, what the Wildrose Party gained in the last AGM was an executive board that was handpicked and proved itself to be ineffective and neutered. No longer did the powers that be have to contend with an uppity board as the prior one was which gave up and did not run again. Executive meetings since the last election have been rare and essentially pointless as the party executive has allowed (or been built) to marginalize itself.

We have less than four years here people and if the Wildrose Party is going to get it’s crap together it needs to start now. People have been engaged by the populist appearance and apparent principles of the party. For the most part those principles and goals exist among the membership. The main means of empowerment for the membership is the election of the party executive. This is how the members may participate and retain control of the party and policy direction even if some staffers and the odd MLA feel that the membership is a hindrance.

The constitution empowers the members of the Wildrose Party and for good reason.

In order for the members to participate though, we need a mandate and a date for a general meeting at the least.

Should it be this hard to find out when an AGM is and what will be on the agenda? It has been over a year since the last one and months have passed since the election.

If the members of the Wildrose Party can’t control the direction of the party, then the party is indeed no better than the PCs. The Wildrose will simply be another facade of populism with an autocratic reality.

The Wildrose Party has stridently demanded fixed election dates in Alberta. Pretty sad that the party can’t set even it’s own AGM dates.

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