Alberta Liberal Party board meetings have always been a scramble to organize. During my time on the board as VP, Communications (and briefly as President), there were never enough hours to organize agendas and packages. Board members were usually rushed to find transportation and make it to the meetings with busy personal lives and family time to juggle.
This is why I’m reluctant to come down too hard on the party for not sending out an agenda in advance or communicating with members about matters to be discussed at the meeting. Communication with members has and will always be a bigger job than the series of volunteer VP’s have been able to manage. I sympathize.
Obscuring the facts
But there is something suspicious about the recent board meeting held at the party’s office in Edmonton. I get the distinct impression there was a deliberate attempt to obscure the real agenda for the meeting and even now, almost a week later, absolutely no information has officially been communicated to members regarding the rescinding of a policy.
Members were mostly blindsided, finding out about the decision by reading a blog post by Dave Cournoyer (a former Liberal VP of Communications also). I had many questions about what transpired and attended the Calgary-Buffalo Annual General Meeting last night to question the Calgary-Buffalo board and others about the process. I think it’s worth noting that not a single person at the Buffalo meeting agreed with the way the policy was overturned, including those who were never fans of the cooperation policy (more news to come on that soon).
I’ve also posted my questions on the party’s Facebook page (awaiting response, like my questions if you would also like to know) and have questioned board members who are friends on Facebook. (I will update this blog post if I receive an official answer to my questions).
The answers I’ve received so far have not calmed my concerns. Not one bit. In fact, if anything, I am more concerned than ever after talking with them.
Standing quietly by
Surprisingly, the party membership has been pretty quiet about what transpired last weekend. I’m not sure if it’s because the majority are unaware or if it’s because people are afraid to ask questions. If people are afraid to ask questions, then we have another major problem. Lively debate is the lifeblood of a healthy political party.
Perhaps the majority now support the rescinding of a policy that was highly controversial? It hasn’t enjoyed a lot of success since it was passed but that doesn’t mean that after a dismal showing in the last election, it wasn’t worth revisiting. But whether or not you support the policy is not the real issue here.
Draw your own conclusion
I believe what transpired over the weekend should be of grave concern to all party members. And I’m not talking about the surprise introduction of a new logo. My concerns go beyond a line drawing and a colour scheme. I’m more worried about the conclusions that will be drawn as a result of this weekend’s board meeting.
The party’s policy on cooperation was created by members, debated (vigorously) and passed by a majority at the party’s annual general meeting. For some reason, the board decided to overturn that policy, without any announcement or advance warning to the general membership.
Clause for concern
As it turns out, the board used a new clause that was passed by the membership but has never been used…that is, before last weekend. Upon reflection, the clause likely needs to be either reworked or removed because clearly, it was never intended to be carelessly used by a minority to overturn the wishes of the majority.
So, after these shenanigans, I’m left wondering, why would any party member bother to draft, present and argue policy at a policy meeting of the Alberta Liberal Party from this point forward? Does it not seem like an exercise in futility? Apparently, the board feels it is perfectly okay to–without warning or notice to members–overturn any policy for whatever reason they see fit? Even after they overturn the policy, they apparently feel no responsibility to even communicate to members they’ve done this.
So much for grassroots
What has happened is an extremely dangerous precedent and seriously undermines any credibility the party is hanging on to. The right thing for the party to do is to make every effort to connect with its members on policy-making. The exact wrong thing to do is to overturn grassroots policy on a whim and to add insult to injury, do so in secrecy.
Whether or not you agree with the cooperation policy of the party, the values of openness, transparency and democracy are unassailable. Or have these also been overturned by the board? Will party members stand by and allow these values to fall by the wayside? To fail to speak up is to give your consent.
Is openness and transparency important? Does policy come from members or are we advocating a top-down approach?
Our actions speak louder than our words.