Saturday 21 September 2013

The Alberta Party, a sad waste of a good name.


So far as registered political parties in Alberta go, the Alberta Party has by far the coolest and best name.  It’s been around since the mid-eighties and more than one other party has tried to get their name. The Social Credit, the Separation Party of Alberta and the Alberta Alliance all made attempts at mergers through negotiations and all failed. 

In 2010 people from the failed “Renew Alberta” movement and the defunct (deregistered) Alberta Green Party were successful in a quiet takeover. They managed to attract some intelligent and well spoken individuals, like Chima Nkemdirim and Naheed Nenshi.

Many feel they took a big hit to their rise as a real party when Nenshi became Mayor of Calgary. He really was their only hope at having a quality leader. They also saw a glimmer of hope when Dave Taylor crossed the floor to sit as an Alberta Party MLA.  That was short-lived as Taylor didn’t run in the following election. I’ve heard some explain his actions as a “final ego trip” before retiring.

Trying too hard?

The Alberta Party will say they are “big in social media”; they are utilizing “cutting edge of technology” and the “new way of doing politics.”    

Social media can be a deceptive thing. For example, Marc Doll one of their biggest cheerleaders, recently admitted (after getting caughtred-handed) to creating a “sock puppet” account on Twitter. He said many people had access to it. So you know if there is one fake account, there likely many, many more.

They do use the latest in technology, like online and telephone voting, live streaming of their AGM’s and other meetings. However in doing so they have cut themselves off from both a huge voting demographic and forgotten how to use tried and true methods of reaching people. Case in point: My husband Cory purchased a membership, he never received a membership card; in fact he has never received any correspondence via regular mail from the Alberta Party – not even a ballot or voting information for the Leadership vote happening this weekend.  And from the sounds of it many others didn’t receive anything either, since on Friday morning they sent out a last minute emails to everyone. 

So far as their new way of doing politics – their “Big Listen” turned into a Big Flop.  No clearly defined policies, no one knowing where they stood on issues – in fact you could ask two or more members and get two or more widely different answers. 

Downhill fast

On February 23rd of this year the Alberta Party held a “Special Constitutional Meeting” to make some amendments to their Constitution/Bylaws. They made some bizarre changes, like allowing the Leader to be a voting member of the board and keeping the board size at an inflated 25 members.

The one though that was of interest was changing the quorum requirement at AGM’s and Special Meetings. Their requirement had been set at 25% of membership. Their reasoning (top of pg 16) for the proposed amendments (there were several) was as follows:

“As the party has grown, 25% of the membership has become an unreasonable number for quorum (the bylaw in its current form requires a quorum of almost 800 people).”

From that we can calculate they had nearly 3200 members in February.  Just days ago it was reported that they have580 members eligible to vote for the new leader. This means that over 2500 people, who likely purchased memberships in March/April of 2012, decided not to renew.

Even the Wildrose in 2009 (year after an election) had nearly 1200 members and exploded to 12,000 during its leadership race. If the Alberta Party had a hope of growth post-election, this should have been it.

Getting back to the quorum amendment – what did pass was to change it to:

“One hundred and fifty (150) or 1% of Party Members in good standing, whicheveris less, will constitute a quorum for Special Meetings or Annual General Meetingsof the Party.”

Well one percent is indeed a very attainable goal with only 580 members. Heck at 5.8 people only ¼ of the provincial board could show up and they could have a valid AGM.  Is it just me or isn’t that downright absurd? They need the majority of the 25 directors at board meetings – so 13 people; yet only need 6 at AGM’s???

I asked yesterday on Twitter how many were registered to attend. The President, William Munsey replied saying “50 or so”, well above their required quorum. 

Is it though? Most political parties in Alberta are registered under the Society’s Act and as such fall under the law of the Act. One of those reads as follows:

Rescission,etc. of bylaws
15(1) The bylaws of a society shall not be rescinded, altered or added to except by special resolution of the society.(2) No rescission or alteration of or addition to a bylaw has effect until it has been registered by the Registrar.(3) If the Registrar is of the opinion that a bylaw is not in accordance with the application for incorporation or that it contains anything contrary to law, the Registrar shall refuse to register it.

It is 15(2) that is important to note. Societies can vote on all sorts of things, but until the changes are filed the bylaw has no effect. Actually not only do they need to be filed, but as you can see in 15(3) they have to be accepted, as the Registrar can refuse to register it.

It took the Alberta Party a very long time to get their revised Bylaws and Constitution posted on their website, it just showed up this past week. That got me thinking, if they didn’t have it amalgamated into one document until now (7 months) after the Special Meeting, what were the chances that the changes were in fact filed and approved by the Society’s Registrar?

I went down to a local registry office and requested a list of directors and a copy of the current bylaws and constitution.  They were able to give me the list of directors and a detailed history of all changes and documents filed.  The copy of true and current bylaws will take a couple business days to come to me.

With the information I did get though, I can already see that no changes or documents have been filed in 2013. The most recent change being an update to their address and the most recent documents filed being the annual return; both filed November 5, 2012.

Now, I’m no lawyer, but I do know from past experience - a party can’t presume to operate under amended bylaws until you receive the confirmation letter from the Society’s Registrar that they have been accepted.  To me this would indicate that the Alberta Party is still governed by (what they believe to be) their previous bylaws.  

The bylaws that require 25% of membership at AGM’s to meet quorum. With 580 members they will need 145 members in attendance at today’s AGM in order for it to be valid.  Will this impact the Leadership vote? Likely not, I suppose the losing candidate could make a case for it.  

However, I believe it would invalidate any other party business done at this AGM; the election of the new board for example.  Indeed there are many who would argue, that unless quorum is present at the onset of the meeting, it shouldn’t even proceed.

Update 9:50 PM

I've had a couple of exchanges on Twitter today and it would appear the Party thought my concerns valid enough to seek legal advice.  According to Chris McClure "legal council says no problems" This is great news and as you can see, I asked if they would be issuing an explanation to members.  Apparently they are going beyond that and have issued a press release, which they say will be covered on Global TV tonight.

You can see that information in the same link by scrolling down to see responses from "suepeac" and "SusanPeac".  I suspect they are one and the same person. It would be an incredible coincidence that two people, with nearly identical names, are both huge Alberta Party supporters AND just happen to respond to questions directed at the other.