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.
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.
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.
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.
A good post Cory. The Wildrose has done well to recover from the Daniel et al floor crossing dance but as you note a number of times, there were some systemic and structural problems in the Party that we must avoid as we move forward. We must follow our positive election showing with a strong AGM with good ideas and candidates.