It is no secret that I am a hard core political wonk nor is it a secret that I am a strong supporter of the Wildrose Party and have served within the party in multiple capacities. While a guy like me sees every AGM as being critical and important, some are more important than others. Due to the recent general election and the incredible disruption and internal change within the party, the 2015 AGM will be one of the most critical and formative ones that we have held in a long time. It is too bad in a bout of paranoia that the party powers that be have banned the media from the AGM!
The Wildrose Party has always prided itself in it’s transparent and open policy formulations. We used to eviscerate the Progressive Conservative Party for their hiding behind closed doors at their AGM. In doing the same thing we have unfortunately become hypocrites which is never a thing to be proud of. Rather than try to hide from or fight with the media, the party should work harder to avoid giving them fodder to chew on. Last August I wrote at length on the conservative tendency towards paranoia when it comes to the media. The media and political parties both need each other. Accept it and work with things with that understanding.
I will be attending the AGM of course. I haven’t missed one in a decade and I wont now. I will be live tweeting from there and I will be writing a full review of what I saw as I have every year for the last few years. I intend to be constructive but rest assured, I will never hesitate to be critical when it is warranted.
A party’s policy set is both important and unimportant in a way. Policies are really just a large set of the guiding principles that have been built by the membership over the course of AGMs. They often get way too specific and are very often prone to bloat as it is often easier to keep adding policies rather than clean up the old ones. The tone and direction of the party are reflected in the policy set which makes them very important. The leader and caucus are however not bound to rigidly follow the policy set nor should they be which reduces the importance of the set when it comes to actual legislation. Local representation and free votes will be lost if all MLAs are suddenly bound to unthinkingly follow a policy set that may not represent changing circumstances or local needs.
Our party constitution has a number of proposals going into this AGM as well and these while often dry, are essential to the efficient and democratic management of the party.
The policy and constitutional proposals were ranked by participating constituency associations and will be presented to the membership at the AGM based on those rankings. It is impossible for the membership to review every possible proposal (some are simply not worth examining) so while imperfect, the ranking system is a good one to help us prioritize and reflect the will of the members.
I will now dig into the dry but important proposals one by one in the order they will be going to the floor. I will be adding my highly biased opinion on them and will be encouraging votes to that effect from the floor of the AGM tomorrow. I only took the top 20 or so as not all of them will be making it to the floor. This post is rambling and long enough as it is.
Ranked policy proposals Wildrose AGM 2015
21. … encourage competition and choice in the delivery of health care, keeping the focus on achieving greater efficiency and better health outcomes for patients.
This proposal ranked right at the top of the policies which is fantastic to see. Unions and other lobby groups have managed to turn our health care system into an utter sacred cow making politicians fear any form of change aside from pouring in more money.
Despite massive increases in health care spending in past decades, our waiting times and outcome are simply not improving. We have to look outside of the box in order to get the best possible health care for our buck. Every universal health system in the world that is surpassing us in outcomes for lest cost per patient (and there are dozens of them) allows a degree of private provision of services. We need to stop people from simplistically shutting down health debate when they imply that only the Canadian and American systems exist and that there is no room to change. Europe is loaded with better systems and we would be fools to keep ourselves from studying and emulating them.
The left will predictably go haywire at such proposals. Let them. We need to start the rationed discussion and as more people die on waiting lists, the public will become more receptive to changes. This policy is a great place to begin and we have 3-4 years to work on how to present that to the electorate.
38. … Conduct a thorough review of the regulations regarding electricity generation, transmission and delivery with a view towards introducing reforms to make these segments more transparent, more competitive and more efficiently regulated and administered than they currently are.
The never ending discussions on electricity deregulation. It has been fodder for rage, conspiracy theories and political ire for nearly two decades now. It is clear that consumers are not winning and it is clear that the deregulation scheme was poorly applied. While returning to full government control of electrical services is likely a poor idea, we do need to study how we can fix the mess that we made in getting government out (somewhat). This is a good policy.
9. … prohibit spending announcements by the provincial Government during a by election period.
Notley began her legislative term with a hypocritical about face on this issue now that these announcements serve her own needs. This is a good policy. Hypocrisy always costs credibility as I spoke to in the preamble to this post.
22. … take concrete steps to eliminate the fundamental imbalance between Government revenues and expenditures through spending reductions and efficiencies.
This is fluff and bloat. It sounds nice but adds little. Our policies in general reflect an inclination to reducing government expenditures and eliminating deficits. We can start demonstrating efficiencies in leading through example and not adding this to our policy set.
11. … protect parent’s right to choose what school their child attends whether it be public, separate, public charter, private or homeschooling.
11. … Recognize that parents are the primary decision-makers for their children and their children’s education, and protect parent’s right to choose the education their child receives whether it be through public, separate, public charter, private school or homeschooling.*
I am not sure where the proponent of this one is going but have some suspicions. I think our current policy suffices.
59. … Investigate the feasibility and manner in which the current Workers Compensation Board (WCB) system can be opened-up to become a transparent and competitive system with the cost and service benefits such a system could deliver in the provision of this vitally important protection of Alberta’s workers.
One thing I have consistently seen over the years in provincial politics is a near universal discontent in how our WCB is administered. I have been fortunate in never needing it and cant speak directly from experience. I don’t know if privatization is the solution here or not but it certainly is worth examination as the status-quo is not cutting it.
11. … Amend the Post-Secondary Learning Act to allow every student to choose whether or not he/she wishes to become a dues-paying member of a student association, in each year of enrollment at a post-secondary education institute.
Could almost call this “right to learn” legislation. Student’s unions are becoming increasingly expensive. The unions are often spending the funds on political initiatives rather than protecting the rights of their students (a good parallel to labor unions). Nothing provides accountability better than giving the membership choice. A great policy.
59. … gradually move public sector employee pension away from defined-benefit plans and towards defined-contribution plans.
This is a great policy and we need to work in this direction. That said, it will have to be done carefully as beneficiaries of the defined benefit plans will fight tooth and nail to keep it despite it being unsustainable. Our unfunded pension obligations on all levels of government are terrifying and we need to change this trend. The word “gradually” in the policy is a good addition.
1. …grant public, separate, and public charter schools more flexibility to offer specialized programs in the trades, arts, music, physical education and business while ensuring all students learn the core aspects of the standard curriculum.
1. …grant public, separate, public charter schools, private schools and homeschooling more flexibility to offer or access specialized programs in the trades, arts, music, physical education and business while ensuring all students learn the core fundamental aspects of the core subjects.
No. Just making a mess here. Take it to the school boards.
26. … Investigate the creation of a Seniors and Disabled Care Allowance program that would give seniors and the disabled Albertans who require assistance for their day to day living the funding and thus the freedom to choose how they wish access that assistance.
People are healthier and happiest when at home. Initiatives that may aid in keeping people at home rather than in hospitals are important. This is worth looking into.
11. … Amend the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to add postsecondary student associations with mandatory membership to Section 1(j) of the Act.
I think having voluntary membership will be good enough. Transparent unions will draw members.
38. … Conduct a thorough review of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and its regulation with a view towards introducing reforms to make it more efficient and responsive to the needs of both the industry and Albertans as well as linking its funding the activity level of the industry itself.
A review may be a good idea. It is a messy area. We have to be careful to ensure not causing further instability in the industry. I will determine my vote after hearing discussion from the floor.
The Policy and Constitution Committee strike a Member Approved Policy Restructuring Committee with the goal of subdividing the Member Approved Policy Document into two categories: a) No more than 25 overarching policies fundamental to the Party’s philosophy and priorities for future campaigning and enactment, if elected, as the next Government of Alberta
b) The remainder of the existing policies to be streamlined, and consolidated where possible into a more manageable number.
This Member Approved Policy Restructuring Committee will be tasked with consulting members and returning to the 2016 AGM with a Member Approved Policy document restructured as above for approval by the membership. This restructured document will be submitted on the deadline date for policy submissions according to the following timelines:
1) Approval of this resolution at the 2015 AGM
2) If passed, formulation of the Member Approved Policy Restructuring Committee.
3) Review at 2016 Policy Forums for CA members and other highly motivated members
4) Distribution of Restructuring Committee recommendations to CAs and solicitation of CA feedback/comments by August 2016
5) Restructuring Committee iterates the recommended document as it deems appropriate for submission to the membership at the AGM.
6) Voting by membership on the restructured document at 2016 AGM.
This is potentially great or a potential nightmare. I love the concept but question the viability. I say let’s give it a crack! If the committee doesn’t produce an acceptable product in 2016 the members can and will reject it.
16. … take control of the administration, application and interpretation of the Firearms Act with the goal of reducing paperwork and legal hurdles for gun owners in Alberta. The government should also appoint our own Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) and limit what the CFO can do on an arbitrary basis.
Todd Brown has done a great deal of work on this. This option is within provincial jurisdiction and gets some federal meddling out of our hair. I say yes.
26. … direct provincial health care dollars towards high quality palliative care.
No. Not saying we don’t need high quality palliative care but we don’t need a fluff policy like this pointing out that we do.
4. … Create an Equalization Reform Task Force to investigate the issues surrounding the
Federal Equalization Program with the objective of developing a new equalization
formula that correctly accounts for both provincial revenues and spending and thus is
fair for all Canadians and in doing so strengthens the confederation.
No. Take these issues to your MP.
17. … Allow private enterprise to compete against government essential services and receive the same grants as those provided by government monopolies.
No. I agree with the principle but this is just too vague.
9. … Pass legislation preventing MLAs from crossing directly from one caucus to another; MLAs must sit at least six months as an independent in order to consult with constituents before being eligible to join another caucus.
Absolutely not. Floor crossing is a part of the system we are in. Good leadership prevents floor crossing.
Danielle Smith and her band of fools all found themselves politically unemployed due to floor crossing. That is one of the best ways to prevent it.
The ability to cross the floor keeps party leaders in check.
9. … Pass legislation preventing MLAs from crossing from one caucus to another; MLAs must sit as independents or resign and run in a by-election even if that means their constituency is unrepresented for up to 7 months.
No. See above comments on floor crossing.
Due to years of terrible internal leadership, a culture of mistrust has been fostered within the party between members, the leader’s office and the provincial executive. Central party meddling in nominations was brutal. In some years the provincial executive was neutered and communications were dismal.
This has led many proposals trying to limit caucus power and to strengthen the EC. The party is supposed to be run by the members and this battle is ongoing. The constitution is where all that happens.
8.3 The Leader shall be elected by the members of the Party using a preferential ballot, and must receive a majority. To be entitled to vote in a Leadership Vote a member must have been a member in good standing of the Party for the fourteen (14) days (change to) thirty (30) days immediately prior to the date of the vote.*
This one is sort of tough. Leadership races are good party builders as candidates cross the province and sell memberships. That being said, last minute members can make a mess of a race and I is tough to process them all. Just look at how Redford rented herself to unions in order to win. All in all, I like this proposal and say yes.
“Do you want a Leadership Vote to be called?”
“Do you approve of the current Leader?” with the voting options being “Yes” and “No.”
Yes. The earlier way made people vote in the negative while meaning a positive. Lets keep it simple.
Nominations shall close seventy (70) days in advance of the Annual General Meeting.”
Nominations shall close thirty-five (35) days in advance of the Annual General Meeting.
Yes. We need more Executive Committee candidates and I know damn well some central party managers want to limit that.
Change period from 90 days to,
6.9.4. a Nominating Committee (if necessary), which must be created not less than one hundred twenty (120) days prior to the Annual General Meeting of the Party
As well as adding on eligibility to serve on committee:
nor are Staff or Caucus members.
8.9 In preparation for a Leadership Vote, the Executive Committee shall appoint a Leadership Rules Committee, the members of which must be members in good standing of the Party and voting members of which may not be members of the Executive Committee.
8.9.1 The Leadership Rules Committee shall establish the rules, procedures and mechanisms according to which the Leadership Vote shall be conducted (“Leadership Selection Rules and Procedures”). These must not be inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, but may provide for appropriate telephonic and computer technology for voting.
8.9.2. The Leadership Rules Committee will be the final authority on disputes related to the Leadership Vote and its process, but for certain offences set out in the Leadership Selection Rules and Procedures which shall be subject to an appeal to the Provincial Candidate Selection Committee.
A big YES!. We need more time to draw in good EC members and we need to get the staff and caucus members the hell out of the process. This is the turf of the membership.
Lists of Constituency Association Officers’ names, titles, email addresses, phone numbers, and the Constituency Association they represent shall, at least once per calendar quarter, be sent in electronic form by the Party to all Officers of recognized Constituency Associations who have executed the ‘CA Board Member Code of Conduct & Confidentiality Undertaking’ appended to the Wildrose Constituency Association Bylaws.
Yes and no. The central party tries to limit communications between constituency associations. This would stop that. That being said, sharing phone numbers is too much. There are some folks out there who I don’t want to hear from. Email addresses should suffice. We are at a point where folks in senior positions on CA boards should all have email.
7.17 Approved minutes of the Executive Committee meetings shall be provided simultaneously to Executive Committee members and Presidents of recognized Constituency Associations upon written request.
The party loathes providing the minutes from EC meetings despite being constitutionally bound to do so. We need to streamline this. There is nothing to hide right?
2.1 The object of Wildrose is to provide open, honest and effective government for thepeople of Alberta.
7.2. Subject to this article, the officers shall be elected by secret ballot at the Annual General Meeting of the Party for a maximum two-year term. A term automatically ends at the AGM after the member has served six (6) years on the Executive Committee or if the member has been appointed by the Executive Committee. A member may not seek election for more than one position on Executive Committee at a time. Their term of office shall commence at the close of the Annual General Meeting at which they were elected and shall conclude at the close of the Annual General Meeting where their successors are elected.
7.2.1. The terms of the President, the Vice-President-Fundraising, the Secretary, and one Provincial Director from each of the five (5) regional zones, shall be elected in conclude in odd numbered years.
7.2.2. The terms of the Vice-President-Membership, the Vice-President-Policy, the Vice- President-Communications, the Treasurer and one Provincial Director from each regional zone, shall be elected in conclude in even numbered years.
7.2.3. Provincial Directors shall be elected by members in good standing of the Party from the regional zone in which the Director resides.
7.2.4. The Executive Committee may, with the approval of two-thirds of its members present, and voting by secret ballot, appoint members to fill the term of office of any vacancy on the Executive Committee, provided that the person is a member in good standing and, in the case of a vacancy in a Provincial Directors position, that the person appointed shall reside in the regional zone that has the vacancy.
9.7. In accordance with the Principles and Policies of the Party, Caucus members are entitled to free votes in the Legislature, with the exception of the budget, votes of nonconfidence, and Wildrose policy and principles
11.4. The rules shall provide that any Wildrose candidate must enter into a standard contract with the Party which commits the candidate to paying the Party $100,000 in liquidated damages should the candidate be elected as a Wildrose Member of the Legislative Assembly and subsequently leave the Wildrose caucus to join another party’s caucus.
This edit gets a little messy but it is important. The vast majority of EC members right now were appointed rather than elected. Despite two year terms, the members should be able to vote at the first possible opportunity. The extended terms and attrition have unfortunately led to an undemocratic EC even if some of the appointees are excellently qualified.
That should cover it for now. Should be an interesting weekend.