Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Am I Expecting Too Much?


After my previous blog posting, I had hoped not to blog again about the Wildrose Party or at least not in a critical fashion. I've registered for the AGM, booked our hotel room and booked a dog sitter. Despite some misgivings I do believe it's more important than ever to attend. We won't be passing any policy or constitutional amendments, however we will be electing a new provincial board and the importance of that can't be ignored.

In my previous post I mentioned that I felt the party was "off" on their dates for the deadline for nominations. Specifically the constitution says it is 65 days prior to the AGM.  By my calculations that date would be September 19; yet the party had a deadline of September 21.  In that same post Paul Collins (President of the Party) left a comment referring to (presumably) me as immature and a "clown".  He also suggested that I should pick up the phone. I did take him up on this advice.  

Since I didn't have a phone number for Paul, I called Jonathon Wescott, Executive Director; who falls under the direct supervision of the Board and of course also communicates back to the board.

My questions for Jonathon were simply; "Why the mix up on the dates?" And; "If they were sticking to the 21st deadline was it going to leave them enough time to meet the next deadline?"  (That being notice to members of the names of those running for the board positions.)  Jonathon and I played telephone tag for a few days and my last attempt was on a Thursday, I was advised he had returned to Edmonton and would call me back the following week. The call never came  and the deadline came and went. My initial question went unanswered and appears my second question has now been answered.

For reference (emphasis is mine), from our constitution:

6.8
At least sixty (60) days written notice of the holding of any General Meeting shall be sent to all members of the Party who have been members in good standing of the Party for at least fourteen (14) days before the date of such notice. Notice may be given by post or it may consist of transmitting the information of such notice by using appropriate telephonic and or electronic mail to the member’s appropriate information of record and simultaneously posting the information on the Party’s website.

And  7.2
Not less than ninety (90) days prior to any Annual General Meeting of the Party, the Executive Committee shall create the Nominating Committee, consisting of three (3) 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 also be made by any member up to sixty-five (65) days prior to the date of the Annual General Meeting, and such nominations shall also be included in the notice of the Annual General Meeting.

As you can see the notice can take three forms; regular post, email and website. And it must include the nominations. (In this particular case telephonic likely wouldn't be considered due to the mass amount of information to be conveyed.)

The 60 days prior to AGM was this past Monday (Sept 24); in my opinion by extending the nomination deadline from Wednesday, Sept 19 to Friday, Sept 21 they really left office staff under the gun to get the proper notice pulled together for Monday the 24th.

There indeed was an email notice from the party on Monday, however it didn't include any report from the nominating committee or even the names of those running for the various positions.  I've also been watching the party website for updates with a list of names and still nothing has appeared. That leaves regular post (snail mail), unfortunately I've learned through someone who was in contact with the office yesterday that the mailer at best "might" be ready to go out today (Wednesday) - rendering it least two full days late.

Let me be crystal clear here, I don't believe this is any fault of the staff or the appointed Nominating Committee. The failures here fall squarely in the lap of the Executive Board and the Executive Director. The Board didn't do it's due diligence of checking the dates. The Executive Director also didn't verify or if he did, he failed to bring it to the boards' attention.

An oversight like this may seem minor to some, but if we blatantly ignore our constitution why do we have one?  What else has been or will be ignored? If the constitution isn't working then we need to change it accordingly and following the correct procedure to make those changes.  The board is elected with the expectation they will uphold the constitution, not ignore or abuse it.

What this has really impacted is the democratic process. A number of people are running for the various positions and our members don't even know it!! Each day that passes is to the advantage of the incumbents who are free to communicate to members via their current role. Leaving the challengers as unknowns.  The constitution allows for 60 days notice of this information for a reason - - for members have time to educate themselves on all the individuals running.

My husband (Cory) feared the notice was going to be delayed and to his credit he took it upon himself to gather the information on who might be running.  So while you won't find a list of candidates on the Party website, you can find it on Cory's blog. The names in italics are rumored only at this point. The others have confirmed directly with him.

Update


Mere hours after my blog post gets published, the Party has now posted the list of those who are running for the various positions.

I called the office and asked if a mailer has gone out. No, it has not. 

I asked if it would be going out today? No, there is no notice scheduled to be mailed today.

Did they know when it would be going out? No, they would have to check with Jonathon Wescott if there was even going to be one.

HUH?? Our constitution is pretty clear about the means of notice. Not every member has email, not every member uses the internet. Why no mailer? Are we short on funds? Short on organizational skills? Neither scenario allow the Executive Director or the Provincial Board to overstep and ignore the constitution.

If funding is the issue, I can see perhaps tailoring the mailing to go only to those who wouldn't get the email notice. Realistically though you should mail all members, even expired ones, to get them reengaged. 

Evening Update

At 5:20 PM I received an email from the Party which included the link to the list nominees that they now have online. Makes one wonder if my blog might have prompted this finally going out.  Perhaps there is hope for an actual mail-out as well.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wildrose; I'm Calling Your Bluff

Those who know my husband Cory from his online presence of his Ranting and Raving blog, Twitter and the occasional appearance on Sun News Network; often are surprised or remark to me,  "You're married to that guy?"

Our real life friends of course get to see our relationship up close and witness how much we can disagree on things from politics to poker. Without a doubt, it can be challenging at times when we are on different sides of an issue. However it's never boring and that is one thing he promised me; life with him would never be boring.

So a few weeks ago, when he decided he was going to speak out and take the Wildrose Party to task on a few things; I had one of those "oh crap" moments.  Both of us have been closely tied to the Party, even before it became the Wildrose. In fact this past summer was the first summer since 2005 that neither of us were sitting on the Provincial Executive Board.

We have both dedicated countless hours; held our tongues (and noses) through a lot of goings-on within the party. The Party and its' success mean a LOT to us and we truly believe it's founding principles can guide Alberta to a better future. So why would either of us be critical or call into question our own party - - simple, you need to speak up for what you believe in. You need to call people out when they have gone too far and are going the wrong direction.

In July Cory started to shed light on some of the concerns. Concerns that likely others shared, but were either unwilling or had no way of vocalizing. Concerns like; the Party building trust,  or confronting the confusion over the date for the Party AGM, and digging up the fact that the current Executive barely met since being elected in June 2011 and during an election year. Others started to question his motives and he addressed that.

By the end of August he called them out once again on the date of the AGM, cobbling together information garnered from random Twitter messages, because nothing had been released officially on the Party website. Low and behold the next day (and after 5 weeks of prodding) the Party sent out an email and dialed all the members regarding the upcoming AGM. When we returned from an extra long, long-weekend Cory broke the bad news part of the AGM details.  Here is an excerpt, to save you some reading and save me typing.


On the party website is a link to an application form for executive positions.  This is a very deep and intensive application form and it demands right in the beginning that it be filled out completely. Sorry folks, the party is in no place to make such demands. As per the constitution the applicant only needs to demonstrate that they are a member in good standing of the party.
Now at the bottom of the form it demands that applicants sign off their party rights to the nominating committee (whoever they are) who may refuse the application for any reason that they may see fit. Sorry folks but that is simply horseshit on many levels.
“1. Acknowledge and agree that the AGM Nominating Committee has the authority to disallow my candidacy on any grounds it sees fit, and whose decision shall be final and binding and not further appealed or challenged.”
So candidates are expected to sign off authority to an un-named and appointed committee who may reject their application for any reason that fits their fancy. Think about that.
If this application is to be believed, authority within the party rests with an appointed committee as opposed to the membership as the constitution states.


Around this same time I decided to get involved. Something neither of us normally do, we tend to let each other go off and do their own thing.

I prefer going to the source for information and thoroughly enjoy research and fitting pieces of a puzzle together. This is one area where Cory and I differ; he can be seen as browbeating at times, I like a more methodical approach.

First I emailed Jeff Trynchy at Party head office (he is always very helpful) and asked him who was on the Nominating Committee. Keep in mind that in 2011 this committee had their names published on the party website well before the deadline to apply to be a candidate.

The timing of appointing this committee is crucial. It must be done at least 90 days prior to the AGM (as per our constitution). This means they had to have been appointed by August 23rd. However earlier is by far more preferable given they are tasked with ensuring there are candidates to run for all 16 positions. At 65 days prior to the AGM they must report to the Executive Committee all the names of nominees. As you can see if they leave appointing of the committee until 90 days, that only gives the committee 25 days to find people, to communicate to the constituencies and the members at large.

More than a week past I hadn't received a reply from Jeff (this is unusual). I then forwarded the same email to Paul Collins (President) and Jonathon Wescott (our new Executive Director) and re-asked who was on the committee and added a question about the crazy clause. I pointed out that our Leader, Danielle Smith had publicly stated that this concern should be addressed by the Executive.

When I didn't get a reply from either of them, I then sent an email to the entire board. I also sent it to a group email address for all of the Constituency Association Presidents. To my surprise I got this automated reply: "Your email is being held until the list moderator can review it for approval."  I understand it's meant to deter spam and frivolous emails, but it didn't deter my inner-bulldog (lol), as I set about sending it to every public CA address.

THANKFULLY, a board member did reply early Sunday and gave me the names of individuals that they believed to be on the committee. Specifically; Rob Ladoucer (VP of Policy), Doug Main and David Chatters. Since then I've received three more confirmations of these names, though one was an anonymous email.

I asked Rob on Twitter to confirm, so far I haven't heard from him. He would have also received my email.

I've previously corresponded with Doug Main, so I emailed him. The exchange went as follows:


On 9/9/2012 8:52 AM, Jane Morgan wrote:

Hi Doug,

I understand that you may be on the Wildrose Nominating Committee for the upcoming AGM.

Can you verify this? If so, I have a couple of questions for you.

Thanks,
JaneMorgan

From: Doug Main [personal email address removed]
Sent: Sunday, September 09, 2012 10:05 AM



Yes.




On 9/9/2012 10:26 AM, Jane Morgan wrote:

Thank you for the quick response Doug. Last year the party had released the names on the committee well before the AGM, this year it seems a bit challenging to find this information.

I will preface my questions with the fact that I’m not personally seeking a position.

Who else is on the committee and when were you appointed?

I noticed (and others have as well) that there are some stipulations added to the application form. Specifically:

   1.) Acknowledge and agree that the AGM Nominating Committee has the authority to disallow my candidacy on any grounds it sees fit, and whose decision shall be final and binding and not further appealed or challenged.

Did the committee or the Provincial Board come up with this clause? Isn’t this counter to our grassroots?
What was the intent in having applicants agree to this?

And lastly, are there other ways to get your name on the ballot without going through the application process?

Thanks,
Jane

From: Doug Main [personal email address removed]
Sent: Sunday, September 09, 2012 10:45 AM
Hi Jane...

I'm sorry I can't answer any of your questions since I was only recently asked if my name could be put forward for this committee and we haven't had any meetings or discussions yet. Perhaps see Jeff Trynchy for your answers.

D



On 9/9/2012 12:32 PM, Jane Morgan wrote:

Actually I asked Jeff already a couple of weeks ago, he didn’t have any answers.

That was Aug 29th, so maybe you hadn’t been approached yet.

So you don’t know who else is on the committee or who might call a meeting?

Thanks,

Jane


From: Doug Main [mailto:doug.main@wildrose.ca]
Sent: Sunday, September 09, 2012 12:40 PM
Sorry. I was approached around the same time, but have no other info


I didn't have David Chatters email, but I was able to find his phone number and I called him Sunday evening.

I confirmed he is on the committee. I asked him if he could verify the clause  "...committee has the authority to disallow my candidacy on any grounds it sees fit".

Me: Can you tell me why the committee put that stipulation in there?

Mr Chatters:  No. I don’t, actually….. because I was asked to sit on the committee and I said I would. And the committee hasn't even met to go over the rules or anything. So I really don’t know who drafted that. Or why they would.

Me: It's very disconcerting to me because it does go on to say the decision would be final and binding. And that you wouldn't be able to appeal or challenge it. As I understand it the committee is made up of three people, is that correct? 

Mr. Chatters: Yeah, that's what I understand as well. I don't ... I assume that the current board and the Executive Director put in place those rules. I don't know, it sounds kind of high-handed me. I don't know why they would have to put something like that in. It doesn't make any sense to me and everything should be appeal-able. 

Me: Right. And our constitution when it speaks to running for an Executive position it says you need to be a member in good standing. And it doesn't really say much more than that. But this makes is sound like this committee, these three people have the ability to prevent someone from potentially running. And really, in my eyes, I mean it should be up to the members to decide.

Mr. Chatters: Yeah, I would think so......I, I don't know ..... I know that Collins the former, or the current President ........ he's not running again so he is sitting on it and I'm sitting on it. And I think the other one is Rob Ladouceur; who is policy director and is not running again. I think if you have questions like that you should perhaps talk to the Executive Director. At least until the committee has a meeting and has a chance to discuss these things. 

Mr. Chatters went on to say that he was appointed about a month and a half ago and only communication he has had  since is an email he got about three weeks ago. In it he was advised he would be receiving applications by mail to review. So far he hasn't gotten anything. He said at this point even if he did get them, he's not sure how he would review them without knowing the rules. 

Mr. Chatters: So I'm pretty much in the dark, like you.

Me:  I have sent an email to the Executive Director, but I haven't gotten a reply as yet. 

Mr. Chatters: I'm expecting to get something and I'm expecting the committee will have at least a conference call meeting to go over the rules and what the criteria are and why would we object to someone running. You know all of those things we should go over it as a committee. 

Me: That's right.

Mr. Chatters:  I don't know where these rules came from. They sound a little dictatorial to me for a grassroots, democratic, party.



At this point I do want to be very clear; Doug Main and David Chatters are both very well respected in political circles and beyond. They have both served on committees with the Wildrose Party previously and Doug in other capacities as well.  I have never had any concerns with respect to either of them.

Clearly neither of them had anything to do with writing the clauses on the application form. I also doubt they were provided with much information as to what is entailed on this committee. Things such as the timelines. By my calculations 65 days prior to the AGM lands on September 18 or 19 depending if you count the Friday of the AGM; not September 21 as stated on the Wildrose application form. That gives them a mere ten days. Then the countdown starts to get notice to members of who is running, which needs to be post-marked by September 24  (60 day mark).

However there are bigger questions than logistics surrounding this issue.

Who wrote that clause? Was it the Executive Director, the board, a staff member?

If it was staff or the ED, did the board agree to it?

If they didn't approve it, how did it get as far as it has?

It's in writing and posted on the website, so clearly appears to be a party sanctioned document that is in direct violation of our constitution. 

Another aspect of this that doesn't sit well with me is current board members being on the nomination committee. We are a party of 25 K + members and we can't find three members completely removed from the executive??!!!

Some will say it's not that big of a deal if neither Rob Ladouceur or Paul Collins are running again. Do we know that for sure?  Rob very recently started a brand new blog with a subtitle "Wildrose VP Policy's Blog"  Why would someone do that 15 months after they were elected to the role and they know they only have less than 90 days left?

I had heard Paul Collins actually did step down in the summer and they had even found a replacement, but someone in caucus didn't like the replacement and convinced Paul to stay on.  I believe this rumor is supported by the fact that when David Chatters was contacted a month and a half ago he was told Paul had stepped down. Thus him thinking the three committee members are Collins, Ladouceur and himself. Whereas we have Doug Main who, in his words, "was only recently asked" to be on the committee.

I think the committee was in place sometime in July with Collins, Ladouceur and Chatters. Then Collins is convinced to stay on has a change of heart (when, we don't know), his spot is then filled (recently) by Doug Main.

Normally I wouldn't purposely draw negative attention to the Wildrose. However the Party we joined, the Party we helped build, the Party we believe in; wouldn't normally so publicly and blatantly, violate our member endorsed constitution.

Wildrose; I'm calling your bluff. Pull that application in its' entirety. It's a disgrace to what we stand for, what we built and what we dream of for our province.

Update Monday, Sept 10, 1:15 PM

I have now heard back from both Paul Collins and Jonathon Wescott. Unfortunately their answers were incomplete and generated further questions on my part. Both promised to get back to me later today with additional information.

I've also had an email exchange with Rob Ladouceur, confirming he is on the committee. He also confirmed the EC passed a motion regarding the nominating committee and related clauses. 

Quote from Rob: 
"This year's application uses strong language partly because the motion from the EC is also stronger in language."

He goes on to say; 
"The motion was specific in saying that disqualification can only happen if someone could damage the party's reputation."


"if someone "could" damage the party's reputation".   Could.   May.    Might.   Perhaps.

Really? How does one determine that? Is it someone with a criminal record? Is it a member who is openly critical of the party? Is it someone who wears different colored socks?

Is this committee expected to be able to predict the future? To predict the future, specific actions of a person from a review of a written application?

We already have mechanisms in place to deal with individuals when they "actually" damage the party's reputation. 

If you ask me the party's reputation has already been damaged by a board that is violating our constitution.

No committee "could" have seen that coming 15 months ago !!!


Update Monday, Sept 10, 5:15 PM

As mentioned previously, both Jonathon and Paul agreed to get back to me later today. I have received an email from Jonathon and given the contents, I suspect I won't hear any further from Paul today.

Quote Jonathon Wescott: 

Ms. Morgan,


By way of short update, I have a meeting scheduled to receive instructions and discuss your email, but it is later this evening, therefore, if I am not back to you this evening, it will be tomorrow am.

Yours truly,

I am of course very hopeful that common sense (IE: follow our constitution) will prevail at this meeting. And that the offensive clause on the application will be removed.  Or better yet, the entire document; all they need to know is if the person is a member in good standing. 

Update Tuesday, Sept 11, 12:15 PM

It's now just past noon and no word from Jonathon Wescott; however it has been brought to my attention that the clause on the application form has been changed. Also there is a memo from the Nomination Committee as a result of their first meeting of last evening.

It's excellent that there has finally been action on this. I am particularly pleased that they have outlined the second way to nominated and provided a form for convenience. 

It would appear there is still some confusion over the cutoff date. As I previously mentioned, 65 days prior to AGM falls on September 19, not the 21st. as indicated on the Wildrose website. 

I am looking forward to getting a response from Paul Collins, current President of the Wildrose Party; to clarify his comment left on this blog earlier today. (See below).



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