Sunday, May 06, 2007

Notes from the Alberta Progressive Conservative Convention

I saw lots of energy in the meeting rooms, hallways and hospitality suites at the Alberta PC AGM this weekend. At last April's AGM in Calgary, the party decided to tell Ralph Klein it was time for him to retire, and he did. It was an example of the membership taking back its power as a political party. It was a decision that shocked the status quo players and astonished most of the media...but it had to be done.

This convention there was still more changes happening, that may not be as dramatic as last year, but will be just a profound and potentially just as far reaching.

New Faces Elected to the Executive:
The party executive election results underscored the displeasure of the party delegates with the performance of the party executive and the continuing focus on change. They chose a new face for VP Calgary over old regime options and a much younger new face option for VP North over an older experienced party stalwart.

The defeat of Joe Lougheed for party president by a 90 vote margin of the 900 voting delegates will be seen by Calgary as another slap. It is not. This vote result was not and Edmonton over Calgary choice but the old guard power brokers in Calgary may have trouble believing that right now.

I think the selection of St Albert lawyer Marg Mrazek for president was the party opting for a proven organizer and a respected party activists. She is going to lead the PC Party through the next series of changes they clearly want. I know her and believe she will implement these changes very carefully, without any hesitation - and she will definitely not lead reluctantly. She will be independent from undue influence from the Premier's office too. This has been a serious problem in the past as far as I am concerned.

She will be steady and wise hand at the tiller as we shake things up and get set to sail into the next election under new leadership. Speaking of the new leadership, some 1500 delegates attended the AGM. That shows the transition to the new leadership is well in hand but there is lots of post leadership fence mending still to do. Ed Stelmach is clearly on top of that challenge but it is not a done deal yet.

More Change Coming:
There were other notable events at this weekend AGM with serious implications that offers insight into the hearts and minds of the PC Party of Alberta. Policy development and discussion is a big part of any successful political party and it was front and centre at the AGM.

Policy Process Proposal Rejected:
A centralizing and narrowing policy process option presented by the executive was rejected. The new executive will have to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to design an effective, inclusive, open and comprehensive policy development process. A unilateral party executive decision to double membership fees to $10 per year was rejected too.

Delegates Demand More Leadership Campaign Funding Disclosure:
Delegates were not impressed with the disclosure and accountability standards of the recent leadership around campaign funding disclosures. Delegates made it known they want serious and binding changes in place to assure transparency and accountability in such matters in the future. A legislated approach to apply to all political parties was the recommendation.

Democratic Reforms Well Received:
The new democratic reforms for all-party committees and the new processes and powers recently put in place were well received as positive and necessary democratic reforms. Internet streaming video of the entire legislature session and now even some committee proceedings will be streamed in video on the Internet to further enhance citizen’s access so they can see how they are being governed were innovations that were applauded.

Housing Crisis is Serious - Rent Controls are not the solution
Housing issues were top of mind. Rent controls were soundly rejected as an option but the shelter problem for Albertans was now seen to be a crisis and delegates wanted the government to come up with better solutions and fast.

Study Nuclear Energy Option for the Oil Sands
Then we have nuclear energy. A Calgary constituency put forth a resolution to look at the option for the oil sands exploitation. There was lots of controversy but in the end, it was pretty clear that the PC Party believes something has to be done and all options are worth studying.

There will be lots of spin and misinformation circulating over this nuclear power decision I expect. For the record, here is the wording of the nuclear power option resolution that what was passed:

Resolution to immediately set up a committee to study and come up with
recommendations for the construction of nuclear power plants for use in tar sands
development, including public consultations with experts from the private sector.

PC Party is Late in Adopting new Technologies:
Finally, it was pretty obvious that this political party has some technological literacy issues when we are told we only have e-mail address of about 20% of members. Part of that would be the result of instant party members who want only to participate in the leadership selection and not the life of the PC Party. Still, it is astounding that so few members have put their email addresses on record. On a positive technology note, the Premier's AGM speech was actually taped and uploaded on You Tube – it is a start and shows that some one is thinking ahead.