Monday, May 7, 2007

AGM Wrap-up

Well, Nation... the 2007 PC Alberta AGM has come and gone. Depending on which newspaper you read, or which blog, it was either a triumph for the "backroom and backwoods" boys, a proving ground for the "deep split between North and South", an exercise in the party membership taking back power from the executive, a success for Ed Stelmach, a miserable failure for Ed Stelmach, an invigorating sign of the party's youth movement, or a sign of the party's impending demise because of its inability to attract members under the age of 55.

As a first-time convention attendee, I was lucky to have made contact with some "Handlers" before the event, to show me the ropes and keep my course true. They were absolute god-sends, and did their best to keep me out of trouble (they were MOSTLY successful). My gratitude to you knows no bounds.


It occurs to me, though, that the entire experience may have been quite intimidating to a first-time attendee, unsure of what was going on. I'd encourage the party to consider setting up a table for first-timers, to help them get acclimated... where to get your voting ballots, the seemingly arcane format of debate (when shouting "Question" in the middle of someone's statement can mean "Ask One!", "I Have One!", or "Let's Vote!"). Moving and seconding, the party's constitution (apparently, you either already knew it, or were expected to know it, by the letter before arriving). At several workshops, the importance of bringing in new membership was accentuated. To ease those new members into AGMs would go a long way. As I said, I had people to hold my hand, and it would ease the confusion significantly if everyone had access to similar help.

The make-up of the convention was, to my eye, about 60% above the age of 50, 30% in the 30s and 40s, and 10% under 30. Others may disagree, but that's certainly how it seemed in most of the sessions and meetings I attended, excepting the one on Youth Involvement which, as you'd imagine, was packed with young people, including young Ken Chapman, whom I've mentioned before as a whipper-snapper to watch. :) The reality is, 40 years from now most of the people at this AGM will not be voting. If the party is to survive, it needs to make itself available and accessible to young people. Selling conservatism and conservative values to young people who are by their nature disinclined to embrace them is a HARD sell, so rather than trying to "convert" youth, or change how they think, the focus should be on organizing and finding the young people who ALREADY think that way. Young Mr. Chapman, on his blog, touches more fully on this point.

There was certainly a feeling, both from the "experienced" membership and the younger members, of dissatisfaction with the executive of the party. The election of 3 new faces to the party executive may help create an impetus for change, and at least temporarily whet the appetite of those seeking to flex their democratic muscle more fully. A story that remains untold, at least in all its gory details, is the near-total implosion of the party's youth wing. Whether or not there should even BE a youth wing for the party is certainly a debate that can, and should, take place. But the more I hear about the dysfunctional nature of that wing's board, the easier it is to see WHY the larger party executive would be dismissive of the youth membership, at least tacitly if not openly. An inability to keep an organization of a few hundred functioning would, quite naturally, lead to doubts about the ability of youth to contribute effectively to an organization exponentially larger. The party's youth MUST get their house in order, and must not be shy about asking for the help of those in the Party, regardless of age, who can offer the advice that only comes with experience and past mistakes made.

Premier Stelmach's speeches, though not the type that would get you to pick up a rifle and defend the province from the Huns, were certainly better than those we heard during the leadership race. He is GROWING into the job, getting more at ease with the demands of the media, and getting better in front of a microphone. He even made a few jokes that, while not the type to make you shoot scotch out of your nose, were good enough to elicit a few honest belly-laughs. You get a feeling of decency from the man, and decency plays well in Alberta. I even had the chance to meet a couple offspring of the Premier, and they were both quality individuals who seemed more embarrassed by their name than emboldened by it. It speaks well to Ed's qualities as a father, and as a man, that his children should be as humble as they are considering the position their father holds.

There will be many postings in the near future based in part on observations made at this AGM. Among the ones to look especially forward to are "Politics versus Policy", and "Footsoldiers and Generals".

Thanks for sticking with me, Nation. Movement on podcasting, video, and schwag is forthcoming.

- ES

p.s. Anonymous - as we discussed, I'm curious to see if we actually spoke. :)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

ES,

Yes, I do believe we met at the AGM. I was doing some thinking after, thinking about all of the people I met (young and not), and I am now pretty sure we did. If not, then you have a doppleganger (not with respect to appearance, because I have never seen a picture of you with your name attached, but with other attributes).

But at the same time, I think it is better you remain more-or-less anonymous. I would hate to see your posts diminish in frequency or in depth of analysis if you felt that you were now "outed".

So, run free, young savage. [queue the Spaghetti Western music]

Allie said...

ES! What a great idea - we should totally have an ambassador type system set up where people could take new people around and introduce them. I am going to pass that feedback on.

Not that I am about to take issue with this following statement (or maybe I am, lets find out...) but when you said "Selling conservatism and conservative values to young people who are by their nature disinclined to embrace them is a HARD sell, so rather than trying to "convert" youth, or change how they think, the focus should be on organizing and finding the young people who ALREADY think that way." I couldn't help but think that this is the wrong approach to a large degree.

I think we need youth courageous enough to change and rejuvenate the Party. I think that youth (under 40's) need to come and show that conservatism and political thought in Alberta is evolving, and changing and for that they need to bring all of their beliefs and ideals to the table with conviction and honesty to influence the beliefs of the whole party. We are afterall the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, a party with room for all Albertan's - and a party for a changing Alberta.

They only ones who will drive that change is the youth that are growing up in it and the people that have a vision for the type of Alberta they want to live and work in.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Allie,
Since you appear to be in a position to pass on suggestions to the PC Party, could you also get them to post the Premier's Q&A on YouTube? I saw the Friday speech was there, but the Q&A would be a great opportunity for Albertans to get to know the Premier's thoughts on various issues in an unscripted way. Also, it would be an effective campaign against mis-information being propagated by the Calgary media that the convention was all about how Calgary is despised (which it wasn't).