Tuesday 31 May 2011

Glenn Taylor: Mayor or Party Leader Can He Be Both???

Well Monday morning has come and gone. Glenn Taylor, new leader of the Alberta Party has not stepped down as Mayor of Hinton. I listened to him on Rob Breakenridge last night on QR77 last night and Glenn has made it clear he will be staying on as Mayor at least for now.

To me it is pretty straight forward that someone who has been elected as the leader of a party; should not also hold another elected, non-partisan position that is paid for by the taxpayers. Glenn justifies it by saying his role a Mayor is “part-time” and that realistically at this point the role of leader is also “part-time”.

Here is a quote from the interview where Rob asks Glenn about stepping down:

Well, I haven’t resigned from it yet and there’s discussion to come with my council and my community about what the transition plan will look like. Course most mayors in Alberta, the smaller municipal level are expected to have to have part-time jobs. And the mayor’s roles are usually based on the meetings you attend and a small honorarium for the work that you do in between. So really they expect you to have a part-time job. And I guess when you really look at it, the Alberta Party at this point as we are building, is still a part-time job. But there is a transition plan that needs to be built and I will do that with my council and my community.

I’m not sure what this “transition” plan is all about. We have Municipal Acts and Election Acts in Alberta that cover what happens when a Mayor steps down. I’m fairly confident his council will support whatever Glenn and the Alberta Party want to do. After all every one of them is an Alberta Party member; the deputy mayor is even on the local Constituency Association for the Alberta Party. This information was obtained from Glenn’s own website. Here is a screenshot of it. (Click on image to enlarge)

I’m very interested in Glenn’s definition of “part-time” and of “small honorarium”. To me part-time is roughly 50% of normally work week, so 20 hours. Anything less than that, one would be inclined to say “very part-time”. And a small honorarium to me sounds like a token amount; an amount that likely someone wouldn’t be able to support themselves on, especially since Glenn adds that they “expect you to have other part-time work.”

I’ve searched Hinton’s website and was unable to find any reference to the total time commitment for council. There indeed are two regularly scheduled council meetings and two standing committee meetings each month. And with the “work in between” as Glenn described, I think it’s very likely the Mayors job could only take 20 hours a week.

What I did find this though, the 2010 audited financial statements for the town of Hinton. If you go to page #21 you will find this.

As you can see the salary includes honoraria, however it also includes base pay, bonuses, overtime, lump sum payments and any other direct cash remuneration. In Glenn’s case it totaled $46,533.00 last year; not including benefits. That works out to nearly $45.00 per hour, not bad for a part-time job.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying he’s not worth it or that we shouldn’t pay elected officials fairly. But I do have an issue with them presenting it to the public as a “small” amount. There are many working families out there struggling to make that type of income. To have an elected official brush it off as a “small amount, requiring a second part-time job” is insulting.

You can listen to the entire interview in the QR77 audio vault.
May 30, 2011
9:00 PM

Link to Hinton's 2010 Financial Statements

UPDATE:  I've received a message that approximately one third (1/3) of the Mayors salary is tax free. That would be $15,509.00 TAX FREE.

Follow up to this post is located here.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Alberta Party: First Test of New Leaders' Ethics

There have been a few people asking on Twitter whether Glenn Taylor, the newly elected leader of the Alberta Party will be stepping down as Mayor of Hinton. So far Glenn himself has not said either way. (At least not that I can find) There are no new entries on Glenn's blog, his tweets have all been thank yous and what not and no quotes in the handful of media articles.

According to Grace Wong, an avid Alberta Party supporter; "He has already stated that he would... he and his council start working on a succession plan ASAP..." She didn’t provide a link to where this was stated. The whole succession plan doesn’t make much sense. It’s not like he is the CEO of a corporation that has to engage headhunters to hire a replacement. He is an ELECTED official. He simply needs to step down and trigger a by-election.

To me this is a no brainer. He was elected as a non-partisan mayor in Hinton. Taxpayers cover his salary. Being the leader of a provincial political party automatically negates his ability to be non-partisan. The time commitment to be a leader of a party is huge and will without a doubt inhibit his availability to the town. Taxpayers of Hinton likely don’t want to pay for his time while he tours the province conducting Alberta Party business.

He really only has two choices; one step down as Mayor immediately, he should be walking into his Mayoralty office tomorrow AM with a resignation letter in hand. Or two, decline the role of leader of the Alberta Party.

The latter is unlikely; thus I fully anticipate we will hear of his resignation within 24 hours.

That is when, (if it hasn’t already) the reality will start to register with the Alberta Party brass. They can’t afford to pay a leader. At their weekend leadership convention they told membership they are currently raising about $4000.00 a month. According to them they only have one paid staff member, that being “Organizer Mike”.

Given this information it’s pretty safe to say Mike is making less than $48,000 per year; far less than he is worth. This is not uncommon in fringe parties. A lot of sweat equity goes in, by many, many volunteers.

However, once you have a full-time leader you can hardly expect them to do it out of the goodness of their heart. Even if they did, that goodness doesn’t pay for the flights or other transportation around the province. Or what about the hotel accommodations? Meals? The list goes on.

Without some quick, heavy donors; it looks like the Alberta Party will have to choose between Organizer Mike and Leader Glenn. Or one of them will have to work for free until they can bulk up the bank account a bit.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Alberta Party Leadership Convention

Today the Alberta Party held their Leadership Convention to elect a new leader. I will give credit where it is due; they used some great innovations, such as live broadcasting of the event and electronic voting for their members.

There were a couple of things that did surprise me though. First was the inordinate amount of attention they were giving to those of us on Twitter who were needling them throughout the day. Why did they even respond? Why not just ignore us?

They really went off the deep end though, when the MC of the event read out one of my Tweets to the audience. Actually, it wasn't even my Tweet originally, simply one that I had "retweeted" from someone else.  This occurred at the wrap up of all the leadership candidates speaking; surely there are better ways to respect these candidates than giving an active member of an opposing party, public acknowledgement.

In fact they were paying so much attention to me, that my username started to trend in Calgary. 

And the winner is......

Glenn Taylor, Mayor of Hinton, Alberta. Glenn pulled it off in the first round of balloting by garnering 665 votes out of 1200 votes.  According to their President (the night before on Twitter); they had 2066 members eligible to vote. Today that number somehow grew to 2200. Either way, according to their own press release voter turnout was 58.8%. This was the second surprise of the day. Nearly 42% of their members couldn't even bother to vote!!! They couldn't have made it any easier. You could phone in, do it online, you could do that on Friday or Saturday, rain, snow or sun.

Even the Wildrose Alliance in their 2009 leadership race managed to get nearly 72% of the members to vote. And they used old fashioned mail-in and in-person ballots.

One of the Alberta Party's big mantra's is "engaging the 60% of people who didn't vote in the last election". Well, again credit where credit is due..... apparently they have engaged them.... and guess what 40% of them still don't vote.

As an interesting side note, Glenn Taylor got more votes in 1997 when he ran for the NDP, than the Alberta Party has members.

A commenter in Calgary Herald also put the vote into perspective with these thoughts.

So 1200 Alberta Party members voted on a new leader with Mr. Taylor winning on the first ballot with 665 votes. Let's see how these results stack up with other recent leadership contests in Alberta. 
In 2009, Danielle Smith won the Wildrose Alliance Party leadership with 6,295 votes out of 8,297 ballots cast. Taylor's 665 votes would have qualified him for a last place finish, behind 2nd-place contender Mark Dynholm's 1,905 votes.
In 2008, 4,575 Alberta Liberals voted for their party's leader, with David Swann receiving 2,468 of those votes. Glenn Taylor's 665 votes would have placed him 3rd in that race behind Dave Taylor's 1,616 votes and ahead of Mo Elsalhy's 491 votes.
And in 2006, the first round of the PC leadership race produced 97,690 votes and no clear winner on the first ballot. Taylor's 665 votes would have qualified him for last place, behind 8th-place Gary McPherson's 744 votes and compared to front-runner Jim Dinning's 29,470.
Just a little perspective...

Oh the irony.......

One of the things the political pundits on the left like to skew is how many people didn't vote for the winning candidate. Alberta Party supporters did this plenty after the Federal Election... things like "60% of Canadians didn't even vote for the Conservatives". So I have no qualms turning the table on them and say; "nearly 70% of their membership doesn't even support their new leader."

Let the music play.....

Music was a big part of today's event. They had bongo drums scattered about the room and outgoing interim Leader Sue Huff did a marvelous rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"; proving she does indeed have a sense of humor. (The Alberta Party is often referred to as the Rainbow and Lollipop Party).

During the breaks in the programmed events, there was prerecorded music provided by the convention centre that was fed over the live streaming video.  At the end of the convention they "rolled credits" on the screens all the while playing Corb Lunds' "This is My Prairie".  This was interesting on two fronts; one the selection itself, given the lyrics in my opinion are somewhat political. And two, that an artist would agree to be directly affiliated with a political party.

On Twitter I asked; "Wonder if  paid  for rights to publicly broadcast his recording?

People of course jumped down my throat saying they did nothing wrong. But it was indeed a genuine question on my part. A couple of years ago I was asked to approach Paul Brandt's agent about using one of his songs at a convention and we were turned down. They cited reasons of not wanting to be connected to a political party. Now Alberta Party members claim there was no public broadcast of it. Well how is it then, that I heard it in Calgary when the convention was in Edmonton?  Is the internet not public? According to Evan Adnams broadcasting via the web is doesn't count. Huh, who knew. Learn something new everyday.