PC-Wildrose merger agreement leaves many unanswered questions for Wildrosers and the rest of us

Posted on June 16, 2017, 2:12 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney shake on their merger plan in this Wildrose photo. Below: Lacking anything better to illustrate this story with, here are a couple of party logos.

If anything’s clear from trying to make sense of the agreement that outlines the scheme to merge Alberta’s two main conservative parties, it’s that members of the Wildrose Party are being asked to give away, metaphorically speaking, the deed to their house, their bank card’s pin number, and the keys to their car.

Just whom they’d be giving them to is far less clear.

If Wildrose members decide to vote yes to somehow rolling their party into the United Conservative Party on July 22 – and it’s far from clear how this will work, or even if it will – they’ll just have to take it on faith they’re doing the right thing for their party in the right way.

It’s their party. They can do what they wish. Still, the agreement in principle signed on May 18 by Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney does not answer many key questions one would think members and supporters of a well-established and well-financed political party would want answered before they try to figure out what will replace it.

It’s pretty clear that what Wildrose members and MLAs will get to vote on is whether to dissolve their party, their constitution and their policies.

They won’t, however, have any idea what will replace them.

They will know, in the words of the May 18 agreement, that “a new society with the name the United Conservative Association … will be incorporated immediately under the Societies Act (Alberta) for the purposes of activities related to the establishment of the UCP.”

They won’t know:

  • Who will incorporate it
  • Who the directors of the new society will be
  • Who will write its bylaws
  • Who will be allowed to join
  • What role their current leaders will play

The Societies Act society that is the foundation of their party – the Wildrose Political Association – will cease to exist.

Assuming it continues to exist, the Wildrose Party will be run by a 12-member interim board. Six of those members will be appointed by Mr. Kenney, the PC leader.  Notwithstanding the size of the two parties’ legislative caucuses – 22 Wildrosers and eight PCs – there will be just one non-voting MLA from each party on the board.

The United Conservative Association “will apply to the Chief Electoral Officer to register an Alberta political party under the name UCP,” the agreement says. “The result will be that the UCP and the Legacy parties will have one executive and one leader having control of all three of the registered parties.”

In other words, current members of both parties will have no vote in what happens next.

The parties’ money and assets – the Wildrose Party has more – will be spent and disposed of by the same interim board, laden with Kenney appointments. Wildrose constituency associations will be dissolved. The acting leader will be appointed by MLAs only, including PC MLAs – which sure seems like a violation of the Wildrose Party’s supposed grassroots principles.

Well, I’m not a conservative, with or without a Capital C, so it’s not really for me to say what they should do, but this sure sounds like the old Tory entitlement and arrogance the Wildrosers used to rail against, doesn’t it?

How are the rest of us – who may be making up our minds how to vote – supposed to take their promises of grassroots influence and direction in 2019?

The other foundational document of the UCP is the legal memorandum signed on March 20 by five lawyers who made up the “Alberta Conservative Consolidation Legal Review and Strategy Committee.”

Entitled “Removing the Legal Roadblocks,” the document purports to show “the road forward to unification of Alberta’s conservative parties.” But while it is the political opinion of the authors (who are careful to note it is not their legal opinion) that this can be legally done, it is not at all clear that this is so.

If anything shines through this document, it is the shambolic and, yes, entitled way that the Progressive Conservative Party did business in Alberta for so many years.

The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, which since it was founded in 1977 Albertans have been told was the association that ran the PC Party? Oh, it hasn’t existed since 2000, when it was dissolved for failing to file annual returns!

But since it continues to do business, what is it, exactly? The memorandum’s authors are unsure. Is it a dissolved society? Is it an unincorporated association? Has it been replaced by the entity called the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta Foundation, using the name of the dissolved society as an unregistered trade name?

“All we know is what it is not,” wrote the five lawyers. “It is not a society.”

To me, this situation is powerfully emblematic of the shambolic and extra-legal way Alberta operated for so many years under the PCs – and, presumably, would operate again if they or their successor party were elected.

Laws weren’t really necessary if you were part of the conservative establishment. Things just sort of worked in your favour, as God and the PC Party intended. As for the rules, such as they were, they were for everyone else.

No wonder, as revealed a week ago in this space, Wildrose leaders felt they could blithely tell their members not to worry their pretty little heads about the money in their constituency associations. After all, if what they proposed to do turned out to be illegal, they’d just get elected and change the law.

If it seemed brazen to just lay it out as the Wildrosers did with such eye-popping chutzpah in a memo to their constituency association boards, it’s also completely in tune with past conservative practice in Alberta – just as the Wildrosers used to complain.

Judging from the murky details of the merger agreement, it seems that still might be something Wildrose members want to think about.

Perhaps this accounts for the intense feelings of disunity still plaguing the two parties’ memberships, which Mr. Kenney appears to be trying to explain away with his unlikely conspiracy theory that supporters of the Alberta NDP Government or the Alberta Teachers Association are plotting to hijack the July 22 unification vote.

10 Comments to: PC-Wildrose merger agreement leaves many unanswered questions for Wildrosers and the rest of us

  1. J.E. Molnar

    June 16th, 2017

    “It was a disastrous elite-driven top-down ‘unification’ attempt by MLAs that ultimately led to the NDP majority. Please do not allow the allure of a short-cut, presented by outsiders, to derail what must be a transparent, grassroots-driven process,” Brian Jean once pleaded with his supporters while condemning the previous merger of the two parties orchestrated by Danielle Smith and Jim Prentice. Oh my, how times have changed.

    Reading the disgruntled posts about unification efforts in MSM publications, it appears this deal won’t go through under the current terms of agreement. Even Jason Kenney last week began making excuses for potential failure by fallaciously suggesting that NDP members were buying party memberships to infiltrate the PCs and Wildrose, in an attempt to influence the outcome of the merger vote. How sick is that?

    Reply
    • Hana Razga

      June 16th, 2017

      “….fallaciously suggesting that NDP members were buying party memberships to infiltrate the PCs and Wildrose, in an attempt to influence the outcome of the merger vote…..”

      Except that NDP members cannot be members of any other party….so this is total bunk

      Reply
      • jerrymacgp

        June 17th, 2017

        To be 100% fair, while it is true that NDP members sign a pledge that we are not “members or supporters of any other political party” when we sign our membership cards, there is no real way to police this other than an honour system, since political party membership information is confidential. Of course, contributions over a certain threshold (I think it’s $250/year, but I could be wrong) must be reported to Elections Alberta, and so any New Democrat who contributes more than that amount of money to another party could be found out, that also means that a New Democrat could hold another party’s membership and still fly below the radar simply by keeping any financial contributions below the reporting threshold.

        However, this is purely hypothetical; there is no evidence, other than Mr Kenney’s paranoia, that ‘Dippers’ are taking out PC or Wildrose memberships in order to vote in this merger process. I suppose, perhaps, one or two might do just that, but certainly not enough to swing the outcome of the vote, and certainly not as part of any organized plan.

        Indeed, many New Democrats, myself included, think it likely that if this UCP merger does proceed, there will be a purging of progressive elements from that new party as so-called Red Tories bail out and move to either join the NDP or one of the two smaller, centrist alternatives (the Alberta Party or the Liberals). This can do nothing but help the NDP’s electoral fortunes in 2019, allowing the Party to campaign against the knuckle-draggers of
        the hard right, since the more moderate conservatives will be effectively muted by their presence in much weaker political entities.

        Reply
  2. Ron

    June 16th, 2017

    Just curious…. is there anyone in the Wildrose raising these issues?

    Perhaps Wildrose should reject the Kenny takeover and do a deal with the NDP to implement PR before 2019 and have a referendum on it after two elections. 😉

    Reply
  3. David

    June 16th, 2017

    It appears from all this there is quite a leap of faith required by Wildrose and its members. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details and it seems from this many of the details are to be decided after unification is approved. As someone who went through a merger of professional associations not too long ago, I am rather shocked by this arrangement. While not every detail can be anticipated or dealt with ahead of time, we did have a very detailed plan that addressed most of the organizational issues to protect the interest of the predecessor organizations and their members.

    I was also surprised that the PC Association has not filed its annual returns so it no longer exists. I am not sure if this complicates the unification process or just illustrates what most of us already knew – good administration was obviously not a strong point for the latter day PC’s.

    Perhaps the PC’s have nothing to lose from unification, their party is a mess, finances are dicey and it is unlikely they can pull it all together to win the next election. However, the Wildrose seems organizationally strong and in a financially solid position. Their members have every right to ask a lot of questions about unification and hopefully get clearer answers from the proponents of it.

    Reply
    • Tiddo

      June 19th, 2017

      “good administration was obviously not a strong point for the latter day PC’s”…

      I’m always amazed that the political actors who most loudly and proudly proclaim themselves the party of/for/about business are seemingly so inept at it, almost like many of them have never actually done it themselves.

      Reply
  4. Leah

    June 16th, 2017

    Kenney forgot about Sandra’s supporters

    Reply
  5. St Albertan

    June 16th, 2017

    I’m not surprised at all. Jason Kenney has always been a grievance bound Machiavelli. Derek Fildebrant is the poster child for opportunism. I’m sure those two would like to get Rob Anders and Ezra Levant in a trade for Brian Jean. Sigh, if Albertans go for this I may move.

    Reply
  6. Sam Gunsch

    June 17th, 2017

    So… this sounds like:

    …maybe ordinary grassroots Wildrosers are being taken for ride as Kenney/Jean & their insider posses saddle them up… like a couple generations of elite PCAArs did, since Klein started fronting AB’s gang of Calgary petro-pseudo-truckstop AB oligarchs.

    OK… ok… ok… I know… purple political prose. Just sayin’ though.

    Reply
  7. Jim

    June 20th, 2017

    Playing the role of the Russian hackers… the ATA? Really that’s the best Kenney and the so called elites who selected him and are trying to shove down the throats of Albertans could come up with? Will he be going on a blame everyone but me tour if this thing doesn’t work out for him? Where have I seen this before…

    Reply

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