Let this one go.

I get it. I know. Bill 24 is a crass action on the part of the Notley government to create a wedge issue and to distract from her horrific fiscal management in Alberta. I understand that Notley is using children as a tool to try and preserve her inept government’s power in Alberta. Bill 24 is a solution looking for a problem.   GSAs have been here for years now and there has been no crisis of children being “outed” by schools. Bill 24 is modeled to label even people who have rational concerns about the wording has being terrible bigots even when its terribly unfair.

I get it!

All the above being said, we have to let this one go. Bill 24 was created for purely political purposes for the advantage of the NDP party and its working like a charm!

Alberta’s unemployment rate remains mired in the shitter. Our deficits and growing debt are nothing less than appalling. We have become a pariah as far as international investment is concerned as we watch an increasing number of multinational companies divest themselves from this socialist run government that tried and failed to tax us into getting outward bound pipelines. It will take generations to fix the damned mess the NDP are creating.

Are we hearing anything about the above issues right now though?

No!

The news is dominated by what is really actually a minor social issue and policy. The legislature sits precious few days as it is and the debate is all focused on Bill 24 while so many other issues are withering away on the wayside and out of the public eye. This just isn’t worth it.

Tension is growing within the United Conservative Party caucus over this too. We are a newly created party and need to form solid bonds within the leadership, membership and caucus. This is pretty damned tough to do when the legislative session is immersed in this hornet’s nest of a bill.

I used the picture of Notley laughing because that is exactly what she is doing today. The NDP had been on the ropes for months. The reek of fear and desperation from them was palpable in every hysteric tweet and news release. The UCP was taking Alberta by storm and the future of the NDP looked pretty damned bleak. The only possible out for Notley was for the UCP to mire itself in a no-win social issue. Well, the UCP jumped right into that issue in the first week of the first session of the legislature that they came to as a new party and Notley is giggling herself to sleep over it.

We need to pick our battles and this hill simply isn’t worth dying on.

Attempted amendments came today and they were of course shot down. That effort showed at least a little cooperativeness and bending by the UCP. Better late than never.

We know that the NDP will not grant the UCP a victory so small as an amendment changing the placement of a comma within the legislation. Send out a few more good proposals and then let it go guys.

Vote for the damned bill and get on with important business.

I know that Notley will find some other social issue to dump in front of the legislature in the next session. This tactic won’t stop simply because the UCP capitulated on this one. That said, if Bill 24 is the toughest social legislation that Notley could find to toss in front of the nascent UCP, I don’t think we need to worry much. She will have to really stretch for the next one and the electorate will tire of her constant pulling of the social issue fire alarm.

The UCP needs to dominate the agenda in the next couple years and they will never be able to do so if they are constantly bogged down in these kinds of issues.

If (and this is a big if) Bill 24 somehow is found to cause damage in the next couple years, the UCP can address it when they have a majority government in a couple years. If they insist on jumping in neck deep every time Notley tosses a social issue at them though, we won’t see an end to the accidental Notley Regime and by the time the next general election rolls around the great grandchildren of our grandchildren will be in debt. Its just not worth it.

Let this one go.

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On the UCP leadership race. There is no easy way to do it.

I am annoyed. I am a longtime member of the founding party and was a member of the PCs before the merger. Despite this, my registration to vote was rejected for some reason and now I have to contact the party to try and resolve this before I can vote. I was annoyed at snapping a pic of my drivers license and jumping through the hoops in order to attempt to register in the first place.

Despite my annoyance, I understand that there simply won’t be an easy way to go through this process if we want it to be fair and legitimate.

There are two big factors in a leadership race that members at large often don’t take the time to think about and those are cost and security. Its dry stuff. Having served on a leadership committee before, I know where the issues are and why the process has likely evolved into this annoying setup.

I am going to start with security.

Leadership races can be passionate and messy affairs. Some campaigns stick within the rules and some try to stretch or even break rules when they think they can get away with it. Some supporters act to stretch rules on their own thus causing embarrassment to one team or another and sometimes conspiracy theorists fabricate breaches in the rules during and after leadership race.

The most important and toughest things to do are to verify that each voter is legitimately qualified to vote, that they are who their application says they are and that they actually purchased their membership on their own.

In a past leadership race I served on the committee for, one of the teams literally sold memberships to dead people. They had bought bulk memberships using a veteran’s organization members list and submitted these to the party. I guess they figured that they could convert these veterans to their candidate later. Needless to say, some infuriated widows called the party office demanding to know why memberships had shown up in the mail for husbands who had passed away years before. Its sad but this kind of crap happens and it takes levels of security to ensure that it is kept in check.

I was on the Wildrose Party Executive committee prior to the 2012 election as well and dealt with the nomination battles. In one of our Northeast Calgary communities, the battle was rather hard fought. There were 4 candidates for the nomination. Three were of identifiable ethnic minorities and one was not. Thousands of memberships were submitted in a matter of weeks. Upon examination, it turned out that thousands of these memberships were duplicated among all three of the minority candidates. Whether we like to admit it or not, some cultures are more inclined to play some rather rough politics than others.

This put us into a terribly sticky situation as a party. What optics could look worse than disqualifying three non-white candidates in favor of a white one? We spent weeks with some people literally going door to door and confirming memberships. It was proven without doubt that all three of the candidates in question had sold memberships over and over to the same people and without their knowledge or consent. Some still cried racism when we punted them but they had little to stand on as we had made a solid case on who had broken the rules.

The more security in the system one has in races, the better the chance that the situations like those above could be avoided. That said, every level of security comes with a degree of inconvenience and cost.

Now on to cost.

We are in an unprecedented situation. The United Conservative Party is starting from scratch. The bank account began at zero. Those who have worked with parties during leadership races know that getting volunteers and donors to the party during these times can be damn near impossible as leadership candidates are all working the hell out of the feet and wallets of every possible party supporter already. That is why entrance fees were high. The bills have to be paid somehow and managing one of these races is expensive.

The most secure way to do a race is still with ballot boxes in every constituency in the province where volunteers or paid people can check the identification of every member as they come in to vote. The Progressive Conservative Party used to do races that way and it worked fairly well. The PC party of that time had literally millions of dollars that they could dedicate to this most expensive means of running a race as well. The UCP simply doesn’t have those resources. Gathering and counting all of those paper ballots securely was expensive and time consuming as well.

Another means is with mail in ballots. We did that with the Wildrose Party race that elected Danielle Smith. There were a number of security measures along with uniquely numbered ballots and multiple sealed envelopes. While is was possible that a person could fake a membership or two, to come up with the thousands of unique mailing addresses in order to get the ballots made rigging pretty much impossible. This method too was very expensive and time consuming. Cases and cases of sealed ballots were kept in secure storage and a long counting process ensued.

Now on to electronic voting as the UCP is using. It comes at a cost but I imagine that it is much cheaper than the prior two methods I listed (as least I sure hope so). Vote counting is nearly instantaneous which is nice as well. The huge challenge though as we are seeing is in the verification of the members. That is why the best that they could come up with was this registration method. though it is a bit of a pain in the arse.

Registrations still need to be confirmed by a real live person as well. That takes a lot of staff/volunteers and time. That is why there are cut off dates set. The party simply can’t cut things too close to voting day or there could be some real issues if processing isn’t complete in time.

Are there better ways? Perhaps. Maybe even probably. As it stands now though, this is what we have and it simply will have to do.

Every leadership candidate and their team agreed to the rules and the system when it was set up. It is rather disingenuous if any candidates are claiming that these timelines and regulations caught them off guard. They know the deadlines and the requirements. It was incumbent upon them to prepare their campaigns based on these things and if they couldn’t get prepared in time, it is nobodies fault but their own.

I will still grumble at all these steps. I will likely have some suggestions to avoid this sort of thing whenever the next leadership race comes along. Until then though, I will simply accept the system and do what I have to do to cast my ballot.

This race will very likely be choosing our next Premier of Alberta. There is no easy way to conduct such an important vote while ensuring security. While this system has some bugs, it will serve its purpose just fine in the end.

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How to disunite the right.

It took so much work by so many people to pull the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservative Party together. So many folks had to set aside old gripes. People had to swallow some pride. People had to make compromises. Despite all those tall personal orders, people put their priorities straight and got the job done. We now have a United Conservative Party that is primed to unseat the Notley regime even before getting a new leader.

Our work as a party is still far from done. While we are indeed united, we still have some sensitive spots. We still have people who’s support is tentative and we still have some old wounds. That makes the United Conservative Party vulnerable from the inside and nothing challenges internal party unity more deeply than a leadership race.

What I am getting at is based on a Facebook exchange this evening.

For those unfamiliar with me or my wife’s backgrounds, we were both founders of the Wildrose Party. We have both been on the executive of the party in multiple incarnations and have both run for the party before. We have volunteered on countless campaigns and been a part of all sorts of party efforts.

All that being said, Jane and I are still individuals and we are not always on the exact same political page. For example, I joined the PC Party well over a year ago in order to help promote Jason Kenney’s unity plan. Jane on the other hand refused to leave the Wildrose Party. We were in different parties with different views on how to best move forward yet still comfortably shared the same bed. With the formation of the UCP we are now in the same party again.

Jane was asked to serve on the UCP Leadership Election Committee and she accepted. That is why I have been uncharacteristically quiet in this leadership race so far. While Jane is her own person, we just didn’t need to bring on the headaches and inevitable complaints that would come if I had been active on one of the leadership campaigns while she was on the committee.

Yesterday Jane decided to leave the committee. It wasn’t a bitter, sour grapes sort of thing or anything like that. Jane posted her reasoning in full here. 

Along with explaining her resignation Jane intimated that she would be choosing to openly support a leadership candidate as well and would be posting that today.

Jane’s post led to a Facebook posting by a Kenny supporter who speculated that Jane was going to endorse Brian Jean. Nothing wrong with that. All part of political discourse.

It is in the response from a couple other posters where we see the dangerous, combative attitude of some pretty fervent people who truly can cause some unity issues within the party.

Trevor Norris as a rather vocal little fellow on social media. His antics have force him to mercifully put his twitter account into private mode but alas, he still prowls on Facebook.

OK, so apparently if Jane were to endorse Brian Jean, that makes me a “fucking sellout”. How nice. I guess I am obliged to control my little woman and tell her who she may or may not endorse? Demonstrates that Norris has about as much acumen with marital relationships as he does with political ones.

I have to admit, I let this irk me and responded to him. This led to him labeling me as a some sort of hypocrite. It really doesn’t make much sense.

Norris’s buddy (with a Kenney banner on his picture no less) added his thoughts while he was at it.

Hardly the first or last time I will be called such. Certainly not reflecting well on Team Kenney at this point however.

Either way, other folks popped into the conversation and Norris put his personal skills back to work.

This is where things get concerning as it appears that Trevor Norris with his badgering and belligerent insults managed to drive a long time politically active person right out of that discussion forum.

Gina Bossert had interjected essentially calling for calm. Trevor implied that she supports the “slimeball” Jean.


 

Gina debated for a little while and dejectedly finally left.

While this may seem to be a simple single incident, I am afraid that it isn’t. These little happenings are going on in all sorts of social media platforms and at gatherings such as debates.

While the majority of supporters of the leadership candidates are passionate yet respectful in their allegiances, there are some nasty and virulent ones in the minority who are causing some real damage to the party and the campaigns that they claim to support.

I don’t blame Brian Jean, Jason Kenney or Doug Schweitzer for the actions of these people. Leadership teams and candidates are busy and sure as hell don’t have time to try and crack down on every divisive wingnut who is being an asshole on social media.

We as a party have to check ourselves. We need to call out people (as I am doing now) when they become fanatical, insulting and divisive within the party before these  people can spread more internal damage.

It is OK to be critical of leadership candidates but when you start personally attacking their supporters you are creating wounds and rifts that may never heal.

There can be nothing good in calling people idiots, hypocrites and supporters of slimeballs who are not worthy of respect just because you may feel that they are supporting the wrong candidate. How in the hell do you earn converts that way? I assure you we need them.

When the general election finally comes to Alberta, I can’t think of a better way to ensure that Notley gets re-elected than by having a party full of wingnuts who insult and berate all of the undecided or those who they think support Notley. Many people supported Notley. That is why she is unfortunately our Premier right now and if you keep tossing shit at the folks who put her there, they sure as hell won’t consider coming to the UCP. Rest assured, we need that protest vote back.

We have a lot of work to do after the leadership race. We are still essentially building a new party from scratch and we sure as hell don’t need deep caustic factions within the party which will distract us from our more important goals.

There is no better time to stomp out this divisiveness than right now. Like any illness, it will spread and be tougher to cure later. Leadership teams need to look within and try to address their problem spots before they flare into catastrophes later.

As a final note, Jane endorsed Doug Schweitzer and myself I support Jason Kenney.

Norris guessed wrong on both fronts and managed to alienate many folks for no good reason.

We can’t let folks like him divide us and drive out those party workers that we will need so dearly in the days coming ahead.

 

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When will we see the “Deborah Drever” rule in the legislature?

Are they done yet?

Has the legislature kicked enough dirt over the political grave of Derek Fildebrandt over some unseemly but not illegal actions?

People overwhelmingly felt that it was inappropriate for Fildebrandt to rent his government subsidized apartment on AirBnB when he was not occupying it. That is fair enough. The hysteric response since though has been one of the most overblown scandals we have seen in years.

Yes, Derek build himself a reputation as a fiscal watchdog and was relentless in his pursuit of politicians that abused the public purse. This indeed made things look much worse when it appeared that Derek was trying to make a few more bucks on top of his already generous salary and legislative allowance. I understand the anger and calling him out on it. It does have to be kept in mind though that while this was a case of poor optics, no rules were broken and his actions didn’t actually cost the taxpayers a dime.

Coupled with some minuscule expense oversights which other MLAs were guilty of as well (still admittedly doesn’t make it right) and a leadership race full of contenders who didn’t want to be seen with even a whiff of potential scandal we saw a perfect storm of condemnation for Fildebrandt over a scandal that is tiny by political standards.

There is no doubt that Fildebrandt should have known better. There is no doubt that he should pay some form of price for his errors. When though will the price be enough (if ever)?

Fildebrandt is now sitting as an independent member and is essentially in political purgatory for an indefinite time. Quite a price for relatively small transgressions.

A committee today formally made a rule against MLAs renting out their apartments. OK easy enough. Do they need to still try to keep the hysterics running?

After making this rather simple rule, they couldn’t resist firing more shots at the already punished and apologetic MLA. Greg Clark of the Alberta Party said: “I guess this may go down in history as the Fildebrandt rule”.

This was Greg Clark’s way of trying to ensure that the political sentence against Fildebrandt is for life. Let’s enshrine it in a rule.

If that is OK, then I contend that we create a “Deborah Drever rule” and the term will be applied every time a member of the legislature tosses out an anti-gay slur.

Drever made her bed when she used an anti-gay slur against Prentice and McIver years ago.

This is fair isn’t it? I mean, yes Drever is young and impetuous (as is Fildebrandt), yes Drever apologized (as did Fildebrandt) and yes Drever was sentenced to sit as an independent MLA for a period of time (as with Fildebrandt).

Is this enough political sentencing for Drever though? Maybe we need to coin a term so that her name is associated with homophobia for the rest of her career. That seems to be acceptable for minor fiscal transgressions so I don’t see why it is overboard for such displays of anti-gay bigotry.

OK, getting back to reality. No, I don’t think Drever should be labelled for life over an error in judgement. Nor should Fildebrandt.

I am looking forward to the end of Derek’s penance as an independent MLA and his resuming his role as a tenacious and effective fiscal critic in the legislature. Fildebrandt is one of the sharpest and most energetic members in the entire legislature. He was an effective crusader for taxpayers before his time in office and was once he got in. It was Derek’s aggressive and effective fiscal critique of leftist officials that built the loathing that so many on the left display towards him.

With the tempering of time and experience, Derek Fildebrandt may turn out to be one of the most effective legislators of our time. It has to be remembered, he is only 31 years old. Think of how he could be with another decade of experience.

The left will never lay off Fildebrandt but the right needs to embrace his return. We don’t get assets in politics like him often and it would be a terrible waste to see his career ended over relatively minor mistakes.

I contend that there will be no MLA who keeps a more squeaky clean personal fiscal record of their actions than Derek Fildebrandt now. He has learned a lesson in the most harsh of ways.

The left wants Derek gone forever from politics. That is quite telling.

The right has to make sure that this doesn’t happen. I hope and look forward to seeing Derek Fildebrandt sitting as an effective and principled UCP MLA again in the future.

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UCP can’t tell others to get their fiscal house in order until they clean up their own.

You see those people pictured above?

They are NDP.

They are socialists. They have no concept of nor interest in balancing budgets. I expect little of them fiscally and they never fail to meet my expectations.

You see those people pictured above?

They are the Wildrose Party caucus (now UCP).

They are supposed to be conservatives. They are supposed to balance budgets. They are supposed to be efficient managers and capable stewards of the tax dollars entrusted to them by Albertans. I expect a great deal from these people. They have failed to meet my expectations.

UCP Caucus facing deficit.

Even with a newly merged conservative entity, we can’t assume that we will be able to displace the Notley Regime in the next general election.

I can almost guarantee you that we will not beat the NDP in an election if we can’t even keep a simple damned office budget balanced. How the hell are we supposed to tell people to tighten their belts when we make cuts when we wont tighten our own? How can we ask them to trust us when we wont lead by example?

Get your shit together guys.

We cant afford another term of the NDP.

Ranting further below.

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Do party policies matter? Yes and no.

We are in a pretty unusual political time in Alberta as the leadership race for the United Conservative Party leadership race develops. We have a brand new spanking entity that is well poised to form the next government of Alberta, yet they do not yet have a single official policy or principle.

A large poll has indicated the vast majority of Albertans would still choose this new party that has no leader and no policies over the Notley NDP if an election were held today. This of course has sent the NDP into abject terror and desperation as they try their hardest to attack the character of the interim leader of the party and even their nascent board of directors in trying to paint them as extreme on the most slim of evidence.

An odd outcome of having no policies has meant that the NDP has no simple target to fire at with the new party that has surpassed them in provincial popularity. The party can’t use a lack of policies to their advantage forever of course. Eventually an AGM will be held where members can choose their official policy and principle set. Until then though, it appears that Albertans are already pretty happy with where they sit politically.

The lack of policies has put the leadership contenders into awkward positions as well. True grassroots conservative principles generally tend to support having member driven policy rather than a top down method where policy is imposed by the leadership. Leadership contenders have the tricky balancing act of trying to define themselves with policy while not crossing the line and stepping on member’s jurisdiction. It is members, not hysteric, indignant NDP supporters on social media who will be choosing the next leader and candidates would be well served to remember that.

Jason Kenney has taken an odd strategy in refusing to take specific policy stances and insisting that he will wait until members define those policies. Doug Schweitzer has taken some very specific economic policy stands and Brian Jean is sort of sitting between the two. Time will tell which approach may be the most successful.

Getting back to the subject at hand, just how important are member driven policies? As a person who served on the provincial executive as VP of Policy with the Wildrose Party for multiple terms I have to admit that they are not nearly as important as we like to think they are.

It is critical that members drive the policy engine in general. Members need not only to feel that their input matters in party direction, they need to see it. In having members build, debate upon and select policies the party can ensure that its actions reflect the majority of the membership.

All the above being said, the leadership of the party and the caucus are not bound by the party membership in any way nor should they be.

There is an ironic contradiction in the principle of conservative member driven policy. Grassroots style ideology always stands in strong support of free voting by MLAs in the legislature. At the same time, many feel that MLAs must act in accordance with the member driven policies. What happens if an MLAs constituents want the member to vote in the legislature in a way that contradicts the policies of the membership? The leader can’t or shouldn’t whip the member to vote one way or the other. That contradicts the principle of free votes as well.

What happens if a piece of legislation hits the floor of the legislature where there is no party policy to guide the reaction of the MLAs and leadership? What happens if issues hit the news that demand that the party take a stance but again there is no specific policy on the books to deal with it?

The party and it’s caucus can’t sit handcuffed on issues while awaiting member input on every issue. This is where leadership takes place and a stance is taken. This may happen with membership consultation, or with caucus consultation or perhaps with none if time does not present itself.

Here is something that members don’t want to hear but its true. Sometimes the membership despite their best intentions simply comes up with some really shitty policies that simply will never be broadly accepted by the electorate. This is a risk with member driven policy as people with specific agendas can at times be very well spoken and very well organized in getting a policy through. Remember, one doesn’t need to sway the entire membership in order to get a policy through. A person needs only to convince the majority of the members attending an AGM and if it is getting near coffee break time, the members will often vote to accept damn near anything in order to get a break from what can be tedious policy discussions.

So what is the point of member driven policies if the party won’t always act upon them?

Policies need to be viewed from something of a higher level. The policies and principles as a whole reflect the direction and flavor of the party and while they will never cover every possible event or instance, they will give a good indication of where the party will move on those issues when they arise. The members truly are the boss and the policy set will draw people to seek nominations who share those sorts of principles. The policy set will always be there to remind the leadership just where the members want to go even if they cant follow it to the letter.

Policy development can be a minefield. It is very unlikely that any specific policy that comes from members will win an election but it is very damned possible that a stinker of a policy could lose an election. Members have to balance ideals with realism when choosing policies and that is a difficult task for any of us.

Hopefully the maiden set of UCP policies is concise yet broad. Prescriptive little policies that try to address every issue on the planet serve little purpose and only add to policy bloat. It is usually easier to add policies than it is to get rid of them and having an encyclopedia of policies only gives opponents ammunition to shoot at you with while leaving you crippled in your potential responses.

The Wildrose Party always kept their policies front and center while it was a long running joke about whether a policy book for the Progressive Conservative Party even existed as they always kept it so well hidden. With the marriage of these two groups lets hope we find a happy medium.

Policies are important but we cant let the specifics become a hill to die on. Albertans are already ready to accept the UCP even without specific policies. We need to fill that void but to remember that broad principles will do the trick. We cant ignore policies nor can we put too much emphasis on them. We will only get one kick at the cat with our founding meeting.

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