The PC’s held their AGM last weekend and
there were a few jabs sent their way on Twitter; from the usual suspects and
yes, okay I was one of them. On November 23 / 24 the Wildrose will be having
their AGM and I fully expect return fire; times three. Likely very little of it
will pierce me. Some might smart a bit if they come from PC friends like
Calgary Rants or Enlightened Savage. Later we will get together for drinks with Alberta Altruist and others to commiserate on how every party has similar challenges to deal with.
will point out how the Wildrose has been able to differentiate itself from some
of the other parties; in particular when it comes to listening to the
grassroots and avoiding top-down decision making. Alas, it would seem the days of having those
bragging rights are dwindling.
My last role with the Wildrose was being an
elected (volunteer) Provincial Director (PD for short or some call them Zone
Directors) from June 2011 to June 2012 when I stepped down. During that time
the Executive Committee (EC) very seldom met (despite it being an election
year) and on occasion the Provincial Directors were left off the meeting
agenda. This made it very challenging to bring ideas forward that came from the
Constituency Associations (CA) we represented and in turn from the members.
One thing the PD’s did get approved at the
EC level was for the party to cut back its’ monthly fundraising letters to
every second month. That way the CA’s could focus on their fundraising in the
alternate months. That directive was given to the Executive Director, Shayne
Saskiw in September 2011. It was never carried out.
More often than not though it would be the
President bringing forward motions with the notion that it was a foregone
conclusion we would pass them. With only a handful of individuals willing to ask
questions or speak and vote against many of them, things generally got passed
with little resistance. When this happens time and time again one begins to
feel you are there simply to rubber stamp someone else’s agenda; but you never
really know who “they” are.
Last Saturday my phone started ringing and
emails came in about a motion apparently passed just last Wednesday (Nov 7) by
the EC; that the vast majority of our members likely won’t be happy with, in
respect to an office move.
The Party has been in very expensive
downtown space since January 2010. In my
opinion it was the worst possible location and one of the worst financial
decisions we ever made. It’s not wheelchair accessible, parking is expensive,
the layout isn’t conducive to any sort of confidential business meeting, it’s
so cramped volunteers are elbow to elbow, it’s cumbersome for media to get
their equipment in and there is no room to set up for interviews. And to top it
off we signed a lease that would expire March 2012. I remember saying at the time; “we will be in
another election then.” And we were; so
since then we have continued month-to-month paying the high downtown prices.
The Party does need to move; there is no
doubt in my mind about that. This was to
have been a priority as soon as the election was over. This was discussed at
the December 2011 and February 2012 meetings of the EC. There was resounding
support to find a more affordable and accessible location in Calgary with free
parking for our volunteers. In fact in
those same discussions we all agreed that when looking for our new Executive
Director, (if Shayne were to be elected) that they would either be from the
Calgary area or be willing to relocate to Calgary.
As I understand it a similar discussion
occurred at the August
7, 2012 meeting; that the new location must be in Calgary. The EC
didn’t want to deal with the blow-back they would get from CA’s and members if
they considered another city. Indeed the
last time I did an analysis (early 2010), more than 80% of our membership base
lived south of Red Deer and 75% of fundraising was coming from southern
Alberta; with the vast bulk of that from Calgary.
Back to the motion passed. There seems to
be two versions of what was passed going around. Even the board
members I spoke to are confused as to what the motion said exactly. Version
one is that there will be a report brought back to the EC on November 20th
with options as to available space with a focus on finding space in Edmonton.
The second version is that by November 20th they will sign a lease
for a specific space in Edmonton.
Regardless of the wording, clearly the
intent is to move the office to Edmonton. This was something that I had
discussed with current ED, Jonathon Wescott just a couple of weeks ago when we
sat down for a coffee. At that time he said it didn’t matter one way or the
other to him where the office was. However he then proceeded to give me
numerous arguments as to why it would be better in Edmonton.
Some of the things he cited were; “Staffing
would be easier”, they wouldn’t “lose staff to the oil and gas sector.” “They
could pay staff less”. “Space is generally cheaper in Edmonton”. “It would be
closer to the Leg”. “It would help deter the ‘Calgary Party’ labeling”. And on
People seem to have either very short
memories or conveniently forget our failures. Wildrose has tried twice to have
an Edmonton office and failed miserably both times. Volunteers don’t show up or
if they hear certain other people are involved they refuse to help. There are more ‘factions’ within the Edmonton
Wildrose supporters than there are political parties in the whole province.
They also seem to think having an office
there will somehow draw support. No – it doesn’t happen that way. Our office
was originally in Red Deer, that didn’t change where our members came from.
When we did move it to Calgary it was because the party was all but broke and
someone offered free office space. Additionally, it was operated for over three
years by volunteers.
Some (mostly the MLAs) argue that being
closer to the Legislature will make it easier for MLAs or legislative staff to
attend at the office. If you were to ask me that is EXACTLY the reason it
shouldn’t be in Edmonton. The notion of is divvying their time between
legislative and party activity is what will get us into very hot water. Directing
any legislative staff or resources to partisan activity; even just the
perception of it, would be a goldmine of material for the other parties to
attack us on.
Many don’t seem to grasp the concept of the
Board of Directors being responsible for the “operational” side of the Party
and the Leader and Caucus being responsible for the “political and Legislative”
side. The two work alongside one another, but the EC doesn’t tell Caucus how to
run government (opposition in this case) and Caucus doesn’t tell the EC how to
operate the Party. Sadly I think these lines have been drastically blurred.
Others also try to make a case about “there
are too many Calgarians running for positions on the EC”. Well, yes there are a
lot because this is where our largest base of members, supporters, volunteers
and donors happen to be. If Edmonton
wants greater representation on the board all they need to do is RUN! Again, moving the office there won’t
magically make people more interested in doing a completely thankless volunteer
I’ve suggested it many times before, if
Edmonton is so gung-ho to have an office (or Red Deer or the Hat or anywhere else)
they should start it the same way we started in Calgary. Get your donated
space, get volunteers to man it; then show us if you have an increase in
support, membership, volunteers and donations. If your CA’s can’t do that, having 3 or 4
paid people in office cubicles aren’t going to get it done either.
After people started contacting me, I
reached out to and spoke with several of the current board members. I wanted to
get a handle on why the change in direction and why there also seems to be a
rush to get this done just weeks prior to our electing a new board.
So I posed some questions to a few EC
members (both for and against the move to Edmonton), CA presidents and a couple
members. I’m only posting the responses that were made by two or more
Why did this have to be decided now, right before
a new EC is elected?
- During the
meeting an EC member did ask for it to be tabled for new EC
- Paul Collins
insisted it be dealt with prior to AGM
- Rob Ladouceur
formulated and put forth the motion
- There is a Nov 20th
deadline to enter into new lease (3 days prior to AGM)
- Some MLAs felt it
wouldn’t go through once new board was elected at AGM
What about the staff?
- There is only one
staff member Wescott is willing to bring to Edmonton
- One is being
offered a soft landing with the CPC
- The other two
will be let go
What do you think is the true motivation for
moving the office Edmonton?
- Jonathon Wescott never
intended to relocate to Calgary even though he was aware it was a board
stipulation back in late 2011 for the new ED
- Jonathon’s wife
is a Crown Prosecutor in Edmonton and won’t relocate, she is also 7 months
pregnant so Jonathon knew this when he applied for the position
- Promises of jobs were
made to people in Edmonton. IE: “Put your name forward in the election (that you
likely won’t win) and we will take care of you post-election by way of
I will restate I do support the office
moving and believe the EC should have dealt with it six months ago. Some will
say; “oh but there wasn’t an ED in place six months ago.” My response to that is
it’s not the EDs decision to make. ED’s operate under the governance and
guidance of the EC. Certainly locating space is something they could task the
ED with, however in the absence of one they could delegate it to someone else.
Or as the EC in 2010 did, they could engage the services of commercial rental
brokerage. Heck they could even send out a Tweet and do some crowd-sourcing.
They know full well a new board will be in
place by month’s end. Indeed the timing of a November 20th deadline,
just three days prior the AGM is very suspect. Is this their way of leaving a
legacy of their time served?
In case you’re wondering which board
members opposed the move to Edmonton they are:
Now, back to my opening remarks about
listening to the grassroots and avoiding top-down decision making.
Is moving the office part of Caucus
business? No. Having a party office and its location are an operational
function which the EC is responsible for.
Is moving the office at the ED’s request or
to suit where he lives a good idea? Again, likely not. Are we going to move the
office and hire new staff each time we have a new ED? Keeping in mind Wescott is
our fourth Executive Director in less than three years.
Is moving the office a decision for the
entire membership to be making? I think not, it would be a bit cumbersome to
garner input from 25,000 people.
Is it something that perhaps the EC could elicit feedback from
CA’s on through their PD’s? Absolutely. It would make great strides towards
building those bridges and they do after all represent the members.
One of the
concerns I hear repeatedly coming out of Edmonton is access to EC minutes.
Currently the only way to get them is for a CA president to request in writing
to attend personally at the office to view them. Previously our practice was to
email them out – you know part of being "open and transparent." So
it’s no wonder CA’s who can’t attend personally at the office feel put out by
As it stands right now it looks like this
decision was made outside of the EC and they are simply being used to get it
approved. It unfortunately raises doubts about how many other decisions are
being made by individuals not elected by the members. It begs the question;
“are we really any different than the PC’s?”
If we want to be able to keep holding our
heads high and honestly say “we aren’t like other parties”; we had better make
sure we elect an EC at our AGM who will abide by our constitution and listened
to the members and our CA’s who are also duly elected by the members.
Members please take the time to get to know
all the candidates who are running. You can find a list and more information on
each of them by clicking here.
Update: I've received a copy of Jonathon Wescotts' "Office Relocation Report". However, I will need to remove some information; so will be posting a redacted version shortly.
Report is now posted under a separate tab at top of blog. Here is quick link to it.
Update: Saturday, Nov. 17
Interesting twitter discussion on this post.
Link to full string.