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Monday, November 20, 2006

PC Party Needs More Than Revitalization.

The next Leader/Premier has to revitalize the PC Party of Alberta. Part of that effort must be to take the lead and change some of the culture around the parties nomination process and candidate selection. If we are going to attract better people into politics, they have to be assured the systems are fair and balanced and the rules are enforced. Not do so erodes the public's confidence in political parties and their processes. They potentially impede the effectiveness of successful candidates.

Lets be clear, the PC Party of Alberta is no better or worse than the other political parties in this regard. A quick search will show "incidences" in virtually every party. They seem to be just another one of our institutions that has let us down or betrayed our trust.

My point is we in the PC Party, with a new leader can take the opportunity to make some real changes. We can and should do a lot better and become the political party that raises the ethical bar and set the standards for everyone else as a result.

For example, there were allegations of irregularities surrounding the voter lists in his 2004 nomination in the Foothills-Rockyview constituency and the matter went to Court. It appears the matter was just dropped in light of the pending 2004 election. Pragmatism over principle seems to have been the ethical standard of the day. Not good enough! People deserve to know the truth.

The Court records on this matter is interesting reading but inconclusive as to if or how the issues and allegations were resolved in the end.

The initial legal issue was apparently a defeated candidate for the nomination was seeking a judicial review over the eligibility of some of the people on the voting membership list in the Foothills Rockyview Progressive Conservative Party nomination process for the 2004 election.

The Alberta Court of Appeal states the issue as:
“At the nomination meeting, Morton won by some 4 votes. Anderson was a losing candidate. Anderson believes, or suspects, or has concerns that some people who voted at the meeting were ineligible to vote because they were not resident in the riding.”

The issue was stayed by the Court due to the pending election but it appears to be still unresolved. It appears there were weeks of negotiations between the parties to settle these matters out of Court, but ultimately unsuccessfully.

Is it sufficient that the PC Party leave such matters unresolved? Was the voters list for the 2004 nomination meeting, ever produced and reviewed and eligibility confirmed? Is the party sure all those people on the list were actually residents of Foothills-Rockyview Constituency and appropriate to vote in that nomination?

Please don’t tell us this issue was delayed and then forgotten about by the Progressive Conservative Party at the end of the day because the 2004 election was looming. As the Court said “…(these decisions)…are potentially very important, not only to these parties but to others.” To not find out the facts and with the seriousness of the accusation made in these court proceedings is not fair to anyone involved. It does not do much to instil confidence in the PC Party either. We have such an open and fair process to select a new leader for the party, people need to be confident the process to nominate candidates is also open and fair.

I think the next leader’s job is not just about revitalizing the party. It is also about changing the culture of the party so this stuff does not happen. If and when there are issues or concerns, they get dealt with efficiently, effectively, openly, promptly and fairly.

Allegations of gamesmanship with the nomination process left unresolved, just enhances the cynicism of citizens about politics. Such issues are still happening. We see it with the federal Liberal leadership race, the provincial Liberal leadership race when Grant Mitchell was choosen still has a cloud over it. The federal Conservative Party of Canada currently has a court challenge on the Rob Anders nomination in Calgary West and of course we have the Ontario Conservative caucus dumping of Garth Turner but wikthout clarifying the reasons and rationale for the move.

I will be interested to see if and how the new PC leader tackles these party governance issues just as much as they tackle the various social, economic and environmental issues facing the province.