Friday 23 November 2012

Wildrose 2012 AGM - Live Journal

Going to try quasi live journaling our weekend adventures and the Wildrose AGM. Truthfully a lot of it may end up being after things happen - depending on how much socializing we do, battery power on the laptop and of course internet access.

Thanks to the good graces of a wonderful boss, I have today off of work. :)

Friday November 23

First - Happy Birthday to my oldest sister. Man you ARE old...she is 6X today.. LOL

7:00 AM - Thought I could sleep in a bit today; had to settle for just 30 minutes extra sleep as the dogs decided to break into their food bin and help themselves to breakfast.

Duke, Blue and Stewie (click on image to enlarge)
9:00 AM - Blue and Stewie are packed up and Cory is taking them to their sitter for weekend. Thanks Jade at Where's You're Sit.

9:30 AM - Cory returns and loads up Duke, who is currently an Alberta Bulldog Rescue, and he is on his way to a foster volunteer. Time for me to get dressed and go for my pedicure / manicure appointment.

1:30 PM We have been on road for about 1.5 hours now, just passed through Red Deer. I did a telephone interview with James Wood from the Calgary Herald. He will be attending and covering the AGM. You can follow him on Twitter.

3:15 PM Checked in at the Mayfair Inns & Suites in Edmonton.  Get ready for evenings events.

5:15 PM We had supper in the restaurant of hotel. I'm not a huge fan of buffets, but this one was quite exceptional. Awesome food. Highly recommend it.

6:30 PM We checked in with the Wildrose registration desk and received our AGM packages.

Saturday November 24

Saturday AM Session

8:00 AM Everyone rejoins for breakfast. Many look slightly and/or greatly hungover; thankfully I'm not one of them...LOL

9:00 AM Doug Main is MC'ing the morning events. We start out hearing from the various candidates for Executive Committee positions.

Provincial (Zone) Director candidates all speak of connecting with members, strengthening CA's and grow strong base in preparation for 2016 General Election. Excellent candidates and tough choices in all the various divisions around Alberta.

10:25 AM After a coffee break we will now hear from the candidates for key Executive Committee positions.

Confirmed there are 700 members in attendance.

Rob Anderson makes fun of bizarre rumors that have been floating around.

..... more to come.

You can also watch live stream of Danielle's keynote speech today.

Here is link will be around 11:30 AM

Media coverage

Graham Thomson, Edmonton Journal
James Wood, Calgary Herald

Reference material for followers:

Candidates running for Executive positions

General AGM information

AGM Attendees Package

My Twitter handle is Jaanikka

Friday 16 November 2012

Burning the Grassroots ??

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. 

Typically I 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 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 job.

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 individuals.

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 employment.”

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.

It leave one to wonder why there is now such a rush to get this done? Especially when it seems the two main EC members championing it are Paul Collins and Rob Ladouceur, neither of whom are running for their positions again. Remember Rob L is the one who wrote the clause enabling them to prevent anyone from running for the EC for any reason.  And it was Paul Collins (in the comments of that same posting) who referred to vocal Wildrose, grassroots’ supporters as “clowns”.

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:

Cheryl Phaff
Judy Johnson
Krista Waters
Wendy Fulton

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 the Party.

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.


Sunday 11 November 2012

Remember George Quist Hansen

I've always have always been drawn to graveyards. I'm not sure why this is. I know most people avoid them and some even feel uncomfortable in them.  I remember being genuinely surprised when Cory told me he too liked them. Since then we have visited many together and even had some of our wedding photos taken at the Union and Burnsland Cemeteries in Calgary.

We love strolling through them, reading the names and wonder what their lives might have been like. We can only wonder as we never knew these people and I guess it's our way of remember those who came before us. That's what Remembrance Day is about; paying tribute to those who made sacrifices for all of us, whether you knew them or not.

As generations pass I think it will become harder and harder for people to remember. As those who survived the major wars pass away, so will some of their stories. Grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on will be further and further removed from the memories of those directly involved in war.

Last week my son was award three scholarships and bursaries from Mount Royal University. One of them was the "Flight Sergeant George Quist Hansen Military Memorial Bursary".  This piqued my interest to learn more about George Hansen. What I found was very limited, but does include two things of (ironically) personal interest.

George died either April 27 or 28, 1944 (depending on the source) during WWII. He was 28 years old and he is buried at Schoonselhof Cemetery in Belgium.


He was a gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force.  He was in the 431 Squadron and the serial number of his plane was MZ536. This is will be of interest to my son, since his grandfather on his fathers' side was also a gunner in the RCAF. It makes one ponder if they ever crossed paths.

MZ536 was one of four 431 Sqdn Halifaxes lost on this operation. See: LK842; MZ522; MZ529. MZ536 was initially issued to No.432 Sqdn. Airborne 2323 27Apr44 from Croft, tasked to bomb the railway yards. shot down by a night-fighter and reported to have crashed at Trognee (Li_ge), 10 km WSW of Waramme, though burials are reported from Antwerpen-Deurne 30Apr44. Their graves are now located in the Schoonselhof Cemetery. Considering the distance between the reported crash-site and the place of burial, some amendment in respect of the former may be necessary.     Source

Given it was a mission on the evening of April 27 that explains why there are the two dates of death. From another site I discovered he had a wife and was from Standard, Alberta. Since I grew up in the area and attended High School in Standard - it has me wondering if I went to school with one of his descendants.

There is so much we don't know about George Hansen. Where was he born? Did he have children? What kind of man was he?

On this day though, I we don't need answers to those questions.

On this day all we need do is remember that he gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. Him and many, many more that we know little of.

It is our duty now to remember what they stood for.

What they all believed in and died for.

Our freedom.


I do not know your name, but I know you died

I do not know from where you came, but I know you died

Your uniform, branch of service, it matters not to me
Whether Volunteer or Conscript, or how it came to be
That politicians' failures, or some power-mad ambition
Brought you too soon to your death, in the name of any nation

You saw, you felt, you knew full well, as friend and foe were taken
By bloody death, that your life too, was forfeit and forsaken
Yet on you went and fought and died, in your close and private hell
For Mate or Pal or Regiment and memories never to tell

It was for each other, through shot and shell, the madness you endured
Side by side, through wound and pain, and comradeship assured
No family ties, or bloodline link, could match that bond of friend
Who shared the horror and kept on going, at last until the end

We cannot know, we were not there, it's beyond our comprehension
To know the toll that battle brings, of resolute intention
To carry on, day by day, for all you loved and hoped for
To live in peace a happy life, away from bloody war

For far too many, no long life ahead, free of struggle and pain and the gun
And we must remember the price that was paid, by each and every one
Regardless of views, opinions aside, no matter how each of us sees it
They were there and I cannot forget, even though I did not live it

I do not know your name, but I know you died
I do not know from where you came, but I know you died.

Kenny Martin

Photo by Daliscar

Saturday 3 November 2012

Alberta Political Quiz

Just for fun.

Who made this statement?

".....the Alberta Alliance is a completely separate entity from the Wildrose Party..."

For bonus points, is the statement true or false?