Team PC: The Real Pat Godkin, Executive Director

Today marks the beginning of a new series of blogs that highlight the great people that make up Team PC. Over and over again I’ve emphasized the strength of the PC Party is in its people. These people are energetic, engaged and integral to the evolution that we are experiencing from within the Party.

I’ve started with Pat Godkin, the Executive Director of the PCAA. Why? Well, in my opinion, she is one of our cornerstones. She is the muscle behind the success of events, the mastermind behind new communications initiatives, the face of the PCAA office, and someone who doesn’t get enough credit for all she does.

I watched Pat at the PC AGM and Convention a few weeks back. In a word – WOW! She didn’t stop … and she didn’t stop smiling. She met every potential event hiccup head-on with wisdom and grace. It was incredible to me. Pat went out of her way to connect with as many people as possible. And even took time to encourage me and thank me for my own volunteer work, even though she is the one truly deserving of this Party’s thanks.

She always replies to emails and voicemails. She is engaged with every member who reaches out to her. She is passionate about the PCAA – it shows in the way she talks and in her actions. Her eyes are full of fire – ready for an evolution. She is one of the key individuals ushering in the new era of the PC Party. She encourages everyone to speak up and get engaged. She fits volunteers with roles they will excel at which in turn makes the Party excel.

Pat has a heart for people and a heart for the PCAA.

Bolded below are a series of questions I asked Pat. Her answers are below.

Why did you originally get involved in the Party?

I was always interested in politics, but I gained a new appreciation for our system when I was working in the United Arab Emirates (seven absolute Monarchies) and in Bolivia  (where they had almost 200 military coups in about 150 years of independence). I was home on a holiday and the PCAA Executive Director, Marilyn Haley asked me if I would like to help out on a short term basis and I said “Sure!”. That was 13 years ago.

What keeps you involved?

Definitely the people. It’s wonderful to work alongside Premier Stelmach, Caucus and an amazingly diverse group of staff and volunteers. I think we all share the same commitment to ensuring we have the most stable and democratic government in North America. That never gets boring!

Favourite part about your role?

I love events, especially the Premier’s Dinners and the AGM & Convention. After 13 years I still haven’t met everyone! It’s so much fun to finally put a face on someone you have been speaking with for several years on the phone or by email.

Your goal in your role? 

To elect 87 PC MLAs in 2012! Hey, it could happen! Also, I want to continue to embrace new ideas and technologies, without leaving anyone behind.

Favourite thing to do on the weekend?

Waking up without an alarm clock. After I roll out of bed I usually do some yoga, meditation and then start reading political blogs. It helps to start off zen 🙂

Favourite thing about politics?

I like feeling part of something bigger than myself. Love being part of the team.

Highlight of AGM?

I thought the President’s Luncheon with the Premier was awesome. People were really engaged and positive. It felt like a love fest for the Premier. It was a great way to kick off the event.

What did you do the day after AGM?

Drove home and packed for Cabo.  I highly recommend it. 🙂

Big thanks to Pat for taking time to answer these questions, so honestly and with such enthusiasm.

This is one of the many people that make me proud to be a PC and keep me so excited about the future of the PC Party.

CR xo

Will the real Doug Griffiths please stand up?

Another PCinYYC collaboration– I’ll be the one writing in italics (CR).

I just read a letter from Wildrose Alliance Party Executive Director, Vitor Marciano, which warns me that “the Stelmach PCs could force through a new Provincial Sales Tax at virtually anytime”.  The next sentence tells me they “need my donation today to mount an effective campaign against this new tax.”

Holy smokes folks, I better hand over my wallet and run for the hills – the two headed tax monster is after me and he goes by the names of Ed Stelmach and Doug Griffiths!

Wait a minute, Premier Stelmach has said several times that there will be no provincial sales tax under his leadership and Doug’s comments have been taken completely out of context.  He has advocated for a “long term fiscal framework about spending and saving … and must include a review of taxation levels and systems of taxation.”  Yes, he mused about a provincial sales tax – and the people have spoken loudly and clearly against that.  From most people’s point of view this discussion has passed and we should all move on – I share this sentiment.

I was very impressed by Premier Stelmach’s strong stance against a provincial sales tax at the PC AGM in October. Several times he was unwavering in his decision that while he was the Premier it would not be an issue up for discussion. He pointed out that we are the only province in Canada without one and the only province not in debt – we must be doing something right.

But before I am ready to move on, I want to share what I know about the ‘Real’ Doug Griffiths – the man behind the politician – because it reveals something about politics in Alberta that we need to pay attention to.

For those of you who have met Doug, you will know that what you see is what you get.  Doug is principled, articulate and visionary.  He is a father, husband and great personal friend to many, many people.  He understands complex policy, but takes a common sense and practical approach to issues.

Doug likes to cut through the politics and put all solutions on the table.  He wants to get the job done and his motivations are clear and simple – future generations – his boys and your kids.  Doing what is right because it is the right thing to do.  This is a brave stance in a turbulent political environment, but it is the only stance Doug lives for.

To me this is why the PC Party is different. We have representatives that are willing to look at all options, listen to all opinions, and speak up when necessary. Our party is cultivating a culture of engagement and discussion. It is an exciting time. I challenge you to talk to your PC MLAs one on one if you have a problem, need direction, or have a brilliant idea for our province – they listen. They live for this stuff – especially Doug. His community knows he does and respects him for it – he won the last election with79% of the vote in Battle River – Wainwright in 2008.

I have to admit that I am biased when it comes to Doug Griffiths, since I have had the opportunity to work for – or with – him.  He makes an excellent boss.  His inclusive style is always open to suggestions, questions and comments.  He listens to every angle and compares his opinion to yours; he responds after giving your position careful examination and consideration.

I’m fortunate enough to call Doug a friend. I have approached him for advice more times than I can remember. As a passionate young woman in the party it could be easy to get lost and become apathetic towards the cause, but Doug doesn’t let people like me (and you) slip through those cracks. He knows how important it is to foster the next generation of PC leaders. He will be ushering us in – and is welcoming us.

I like that whenever I go to him with my latest idea or struggle he looks at it objectively. I never expect it to be sugar coated. I expect it to be honest, caring, and upfront. His encouragement is from a thoughtful place – he meets you where you are at and puts himself in your shoes (which is hard in this case – I’m a big fan of pointy-toed heels). I am so thankful that Doug takes time to listen to me and give me calculated advice. With everything else on his plate he still makes sure to pour in to Alberta’s people.

The way that Doug has responded to Vitor Marciano’s fear campaign against the supposedly proposed sales tax speaks volumes about Doug’s true character.  Wildrose Alliance MLA, Rob Anderson, wrote a commentary defending his friend and former colleague.  Alberta Party organizer, Ken Chapman, called Doug “the kind of progressive, forward thinking and consciousness raising kind of politician we need in Alberta.” Heck, even Graham Thompson from the Edmonton Journal came to Doug’s defence.

While both these commentaries are completely accurate and more or less sincere, they are also politically motivated.  If you read between the lines, you see two new political parties trying to become or represent something Doug Griffiths embodies with a high degree of grace and ease – a true progressive conservative.

This drives me crazy, but also makes me laugh. Doug is a sought after, highly intelligent politician and he stands firm with Team PC. Of course the two latest political parties on the scene would be vying for Doug’s attention – whether that is by firing him up or flirting with him. They want people like Doug to stand firm with them … and those people are hard to find. Graceful, go-getting, gutsy people are what the PC attracted and still attracts. I am excited about those stepping up to run in the next election and I am excited that these two new parties will allow our PC candidates to define themselves even further.  

Doug is also, by all measures, a Minister-in-waiting.  He holds the title of Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance.  He has excelled in his positions, and has written a book based on his popular speech, “13 Ways to Kill Your Community”.  He holds an Honors Degree in Philosophy, specializing in Environmental Ethics.  A rural guy with urban flare!

Like I (we) said before, Doug is a principled, articulate visionary.  The kind of representative you would want as your Minister of Environment, Employment and Immigration, or Advanced Education and Technology – my top vote the latter.  He makes a great spokesman for Alberta, crosses all political and geographical lines, and raises the bar in political discourse.

Will the real Doug Griffiths please stand up?  This Progressive Conservative would like to see you take the stage, challenge those who strive to twist what this party is about, and represent the ‘real’ values the PC Party believes in and advocates for.

A real party full of real people having real discussions … what’s not to love? So proud to be a PC member, and so privileged to know I can count on leaders, like Doug, to push me to be all I can be.

PP and CR

Guest Blog by Brian Dell: Unions Flex Muscles (again)

The following blog was posted on http://briandell.blogspot.com/ by a guy named Brian Dell, whom I have never met.  As you can see, Brian is a like-minded blogger.  I would like to thank Brian for agreeing to be a guest blogger on PCinYYC.

 

Much of what I blog about is based on well research facts – Brian presents some of these facts in his blog.  Now that I have your attention, I hope that you enjoy the continued education …. PP

 

Brian’s blog starts here ….

 

Section 29 of the Alberta Labour Relations Code explicitly allows unions to demand collective agreements whereby “all the employees… are required to be members of a trade union.” Only employees who convince the Labour Relations Board that their “religious belief” prohibits them from being a union member are exempt from this coercion, in which case an employee could potentially get his or her union dues directed to a charity instead of the union.

 

When Edmonton McClung introduced its motion to bar unions from forcing Albertans to pay dues that are then used for political purposes, the constituency association noted that Alberta is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that denies individual employees the right to opt out of having to pay mandatory union dues that are then used for political messaging.

 

In early 2008, in the lead up to the March 3 provincial election, an outfit calling itself “Albertans for Change” but in fact run by union bosses ran a series of TV and radio attack ads paid for by forced union dues. When the Merit Contractors Association and the National Citizens’ Coalition called attention to the fact that this astroturf group was using mandatory dues for activities unrelated to the core union activities of collective bargaining and grievance administration, the Alberta Federation of Labour responded saying Merit Contractors and the NCC were “simply trying to further their union busting agenda” and cited a 1991 Supreme Court of Canada case, Lavigne v. OPSEU. However, Mr Lavigne was not a member of and not required to join a union, unlike the case in Alberta where union membership is often forced. Indeed, when the Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened in the case to support the union position, the CCLA concluded that “Lavigne’s protection is in his right to join or not to join” a union. Remove that protection and the Lavigne case is distinguishable.

 

Alberta Union of Public Employees spokesman David Climenhaga trotted out the “but the courts say” argument on his personal blog after the Wildrose Alliance AGM earlier this year to contend that passing a particular “right to work” law would be “a pointless gesture.” The McClung members who proposed the motion here anticipated this sort of retort, however, by attaching a legal opinion solicited by Merit Contractors from a Calgary law firm.

 

I might add that, in specific response to blogger Ken Chapman’s claims that the facts cited by the motion’s supporters were “unsubstantiated” and in need of “proof,” the union practices at issue here are prohibited in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and the 47 countries of the Council of Europe. While far left Canadian judges like Claire L’Heureux-Dubé have held that freedom of association implies no freedom to not associate, Article 20(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly affirms that negative right: “No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”

 

The European Council of Human Rights, perhaps the most famous of the Council of Europe’s bodies, ruled in 1981 by an 11 to 3 vote that a 1975 agreement between British Rail and three trade unions requiring union membership as a condition of employment violated Section 11 (freedom of association) of the European Convention on Human Rights (to which all Council members are a party). The 2006 case Sørensen & Rasmussen v. Denmark made it clear that a “closed shop” is still in violation even if it were made clear to a prospective job applicant in advance that union membership would be a condition of employment. “[T]here is little support in the Contracting States for the maintenance of closed shop agreements,” the Court added. The 2007 decision Evaldsson et al v. Sweden prohibited the use of union dues from non-members for non-bargaining (ie political) purposes, with the Court disapprovingly noting that “they had to pay the fees against their will to an organization with a political agenda.”

 

Although it is currently the case that in the United States unions can spend a member’s dues on politics, members have the right to opt out, a right that is currently denied in Alberta. Unions are currently in a panic about Republican gains in elections tomorrow because of fears that the GOP will change the obscure opt out procedure to an opt in requirement for dues union leaders want to spend on politics.

 

At this weekend’s PC Alberta AGM, union supporters tried to shout down opponents. When the vote was taken, it appeared close enough that some called for a count, a contention supported by the Edmonton Journal which described the margin as “narrow”, but the moderator dismissed a count as unnecessary and the union supporters declared victory. According to CTV, “[d]ozens of people, apparently union members, bought party memberships specifically for that vote and defeated the motion much to the dismay of many long-time party members.” The number of “Ten Minute Tories” might well have been significantly higher. In 2006, the Journal reported that a coalition of unions “apparently plans to buy as many as 10,000 Tory memberships” to get their man into the premier’s chair. As it is, the current chair of the government caucus, Robin Campbell, is a former union boss. South of the border in New Jersey, the AFL-CIO spends a quarter million per year running a “candidate school” to get their (Manchurian) candidates elected, and with considerable success given that this union school “has groomed more than 160 current officeholders.”

 

I nonetheless take some comfort in the fact a few grassroots PC members came to the AGM prepared to get their battle on against this economic phenomenon known as a labour supply monopoly or, in popular parlance, a union.

 

 

At the Wildrose Alliance AGM during the summer, there was essentially no floor battle to speak of since the unions had, in effect, pulled off an inside job. After cordial meetings with Alberta unions during the months leading up to the AGM, floor-crossing MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth spent essentially all of their microphone time on the convention floor lobbying for closed shops and the killing of party planks like the one that protected “the democratic right to a secret ballot,” thus precluding the need for more transparently union-affiliated speakers to make the case. Party leader Danielle Smith, who had previously had her own tête à tête with AUPE’s boss (photo above at right), told media outside the convention room that the union coddling constituted a display of “sophistication.”

 

I relate the disturbing ties between the Wildrose caucus and union lobbyists in order to note that apparently every elected politician is either running scared from the unions or in their pocket. In the US, the Associated Builders and Contractors (a merit shop coalition) noted a study last year that found that union slush funds had contributed more than $1 billion to contract bidding schemes that increased the cost of construction projects for taxpayers. The equivalent slush funds in Alberta, known as MERFs or “Stab funds, were finally targeted by the Alberta government in 2008 by Bill 26, which also aimed to put a stop to the union practice of “salting” (having their people respond to hiring ads and then, after having been hired just in time to vote to unionize, walking off the job to leave the employer both short manpower and unionized). The schemes Bill 26 corrected were so outrageous the union bosses knew they could not organize popular protests against the bill, but provincial lawmakers were still so afraid of union muscle they passed the bill as the very last measure of the spring 2008 sitting and at 3:15 AM in the morning. Legislature personnel were furthermore so intimidated that security guards at the Leg were placed on high alert.

 

There are four major political parties in the province (five if you include the Alberta Party) and the leadership and/or caucus of none of them seems prepared to make an issue out of the fact that Alberta tolerates closed shops where Europeans do not, and that provincial legislation adds insult to injury by allowing unions to pile mandatory dues to be used for political lobbying on top of mandatory membership. The PC members who voted against the McClung proposal giving workers a right to opt out of having mandatory dues used to fund leftist causes are ultimately traitors when you consider the fact that in 2008 such money was used to fund a media assault on the PC Party, but “traitor” implies an allegiance that can be betrayed.

 

Albertans are entitled to a political alternative. The NDP accordingly has a good excuse for, say, not supporting the 29 Old Dutch employees whom the UFCW union and the Alberta Labour Relations Board say should be fired for refusing to pay union dues. For 38 years the UFCW and Old Dutch collective bargaining agreement provided for a voluntary dues check off. In the wake of a lengthy labour dispute, however, UFCW demanded that the dues be made mandatory.

 

Even though mandatory dues are virtually cost free to employers, Old Dutch did not agree. The obvious solution in the union’s view then became getting the government to step in and amend the Alberta Labour Code. This summer, the Stelmach government indicated that it would side against the 29 workers. Perhaps the Wildrose Alliance could have said something about this instead of going on about legal disputes in other provinces.

 

Infiltration, Intimidation & Union Democracy

I start this blog by saying that I don’t think that everyone in a union is a bad person.  But I do think that, like some religious institutions, unions are a vehicle for extremely partisan and morally corrupt people to impose their divisive views on society.  And these individuals are smart and organized.  They make bold statements about how democratic they are.  They talk about how they want to participate in a constructive way.  But they are, in fact, out to undermine the very values they claim to protect.  Don’t be fooled my friends.  Unionism is about power, profit and control.

The good news is that they are losing.  True democracy WILL win in the end.  They can’t possibly hold back the power of the people.  Just like the weight of the collective voiced broke down the socialist block in Europe, the truth continues to expose the dishonesty and corruption of the power players in the union movement.

Again, this blog isn’t about the individual people who work in a unionized environment – in so many cases these people don’t have a choice … or voice; it’s about the corruption of the institution itself.  And it’s about how the leaders hide behind “principles” to impose their views.

Yesterday at the #pcagm, I had the honor and privilege of witnessing union democracy at its finest.  I had spent the entire day at the AGM listening to open discussion, thought sharing, agreement and disagreement.  There were so many idea s shared by so many grassroots Albertans.  It was engaging, encouraging and exciting.  The positive energy was contagious and inspirational.

But the session about elevating employee rights by limiting union dues was a black eye of the conference.  It was an absolute disgrace to the conference and a disgrace to true democracy.  And it was a clear demonstration of how “union democracy” works.  There were a lot of witnesses in that room who spoke to me after the session who could not believe what had happened.  The lesson learned is that the PC party is open and democratic and sometimes people try to take advantage of our genuine nature.  That stops here!   If it’s the last thing I ever do, I will fight to keep my party – the PC party – truly democratic.

I am so proud to belong to an institution where democracy costs five dollars.  That’s what it takes to be a PC member.  Of course, attending conferences costs money and making political contributions is part of the process.  But the cost of belonging to the PC Party of Alberta is very low compared to the forced contribution individuals who work in unionized environments have to make towards supporting their corrupt bosses’ agendas.

I digress …. My previous blogs get into the details of the resolution … this is about “union democracy”

At the policy session yesterday, organized labour showed up to defeat the resolution.  I don’t have a problem with them paying and coming to vote against a policy they disagree with.   They showed up wearing their union lapel pins proudly displayed on their jackets and that’s ok too.  Most of them were only at the conference for a short time and they came only to vote against this resolution.  I don’t have a problem with that either.

What I do have a problem with is their dishonest undemocratic tactics.  I have a problem with unions deducting wages from their members to support the political agendas of the organizers.  And I have a problem with how they bruised the spirit of democracy that so vibrantly shined throughout the rest of the conference.

The pro-union pc “members” who showed up to defeat the resolution got into the room early – they got almost every seat in the room – they were able to get the seats because the other PC members were busy attending previous sessions.  The members who came to the entire conference had to stand in the back and along the sides of the room.  But they came in droves too!  Unfortunately, there were several other sessions happening concurrently so all party members couldn’t be there.  If this resolution was presented to the entire conference I am very confident it would have passed without much controversy.

So the room was very full and the energy was tense.  The discussion started and the room got loud.  By the time closing argument got started, the pro-union pc “members” were yelling “out of order” and “CLAC attack” so loudly that the speaker’s voice was completely silenced.  It got completely out of control and the session moderator didn’t do anything to stop it.  This is how the voices of dissent are silenced during union meetings – union democracy at its finest!  But they still claim to be one of the most democratic institutions in the world.

In fact, the moderator was one of them.  I’m not going to expose the moderator’s name because I don’t know him or his involvement in this.  I can take a guess and I will be discussing it with the Party.  But a person came up to me after the session to tell me he went to talk to the moderator to express his disappointment about how this resolution transpired and noticed he was wearing a union lapel pin!  Further investigation confirmed his union affiliation.

That’s the challenge of being a completely open and grassroots democratic party – sometimes you get infiltrated by people who have selfish and impure motivations.  You got to give it to union organizers …. They are organized!

The moderator called the last speaker out of order … I would love for him to explain why!  He called the question regarding the resolution and the vote took place.  I was sitting in the front of the room and was looking back and watching.  It looked to me like a close 50/50 split in the room so I called a division.  Several other people were calling for a division as well.  The pro-union PC members were yelling and making a mockery of the process.  I expected the moderator to count the votes – that’s how true democracy takes place and what took place at all of the other sessions.  The vote of every person needs to be counted and the voices of the speakers NEED to be heard.  It didn’t happen.  The moderator said the motion was defeated and that was the end of it.

The resolution was defeated and the pro-union members left the room – they didn’t care to be there for anything else.  I watched them walk straight out of the conference centre and leave the AGM.

I’m glad this happened.  I’m happy that so many #PCAGM members got to experience “union democracy” at its finest.  Especially in light of the real grassroots and organic experience they had during the rest of the conference.  It really showed me what it looks like when corrupt individuals abuse democracy to advance their interests.  It proved to me that my beliefs about “union democracy” are right!

That’s how I saw it and I really didn’t like it!

For another perspective read the Edmonton Journal Article: Provincial Tories … Pass Resolutions. Thoughts on this particular session start about a third of the way through the article.

I’m expecting a series of predictable responses to this blog from union bosses.  But I challenge these individuals to share this blog with ALL union members and let THEM respond.  But be transparent about it – don’t share selectively – share it with your entire membership and prove that you did so.  Let the true voices be heard.  That’s what the #PCAGM was about and that is what democracy is about.

Union members – share your “union democracy” stories with me – I will keep your identity hidden and let your true voice be heard! #PCAGM delegates who attended the session – let me know what you thought about it.

And please don’t get discouraged when we get several pro-union voices calling us out – they are highly organized and strategic and will make sure the voices of union bosses are heard.  They won’t share this will all individual members – I’m certain of it.  But have a long-term approach when it comes to advancing real democracy. Yesterday’s complete disregard for the process only got me started!

PP

#PCAGM

This blog has been co-written by Christina and Peter.  Christina’s words are in regular font and Peter’s have been italicized.  We hope you like it!

As I write this you can find me sitting at the Ramsey Lounge at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel enjoying an extra spicy Caesar … an @crontynen standard. I’d never complain if you ordered me one. I’m at the Travel Alberta industry conference enjoying their theme “Power of Engagement” and all the social media buzz here. But my heart is of course in yyc thinking about our new mayor and aldermen being sworn in for their terms as our city’s representatives.

The Travel Alberta theme resonates for #yycvote … the Power of Engagement. It still gets me excited to think about the level of engagement Calgarians were putting into the municipal election; not just online but offline too. To me that’s what matters; when those engaged online get off their computers and become engaged offline. It excites me and it clearly excited this city.

I’m spending the week in Ottawa on business.  I have seen firsthand how the provincial government’s policies have negatively affected the economy here.  People in Ontario tell me they are so proud that Alberta is an energy leader and are very objective and supportive about some of the environmental issues we face as a province.  The people I spoke to are not stupid and they understand how important this industry is to Canada’s prosperity.  Many of them don’t understand why Albertans are not more united against the environmentalists who are trying to ruin Alberta’s image.  They gave me the sense that Canadians are much more behind Alberta and the energy industry than others suggest.  I was encouraged to keep blogging about the PC Party and @premierstelmach.  I thank all of my new friends for their strong vote of confidence!

I believe that #yycvote showed us that there is something different about the people of Calgary – they are ready to get involved, they are passionate, and they don’t let anything stand in their way when they believe in something. When they start talking online it almost always goes viral. Even at this conference I’m at! The hashtag us twitter nerds (only about 60) are using is #taic and to our surprise it started trending in Canada earlier today (Monday). When we get excited about something in Calgary … in Alberta …. You can’t shut us up.

I see this potential in the PC Party. A new voice is starting to be recognized. Communication (on and offline) is ramping up and party members … those that have been around since Premier Lougheed and those that  are just coming on board as a result of #yycvote (which are quite a few. They want to lend their voices and give a helping hand to a cause they believe in … the PCAA). There is a buzz online about the Party and I’m seeing the spark offline during board meetings, events, and even over beers with friends. The sleeping bear has been woken! The PC Party is alive and well and is ready to rough up the sheets.

I can definitely see the excitement about the Party ramping up.  As a constituency President, I can tell you that I’ve had several people approach me over the past few weeks asking to get involved with the board; two youth and several slightly older but still youthful and vibrant Albertans from all walks of life.  I can also see how the Party is trying to engage its volunteers, and based on feedback I received, members appreciate being listened to.  The level of two way communication between the Party and the grassroots is both impressive and exciting.  I love people and that is what the PC Party is about!

That’s why I’m extra excited for PC AGM and convention this year! We are energized, the city is energized, and whatever is starting to smoke is about to be catch fire!

The theme this year is focused on the people of the party … a reminder of our grassroots history and ongoing strength. We will celebrate and fortify “Team PC” over the course of the weekend convention. I’m encouraging all who tweet, and those that still don’t, to raise their voices online and tell the weekend’s story loud and proud. Share the progress we make with the world using the #pcagm hashtag. Blog, update your Facebook statuses and write Facebook notes, post pictures and videos, text and tweet, tweet, tweet! Tell your story and share your experiences. Individuals are what make this party great. The individuals are what make this Party strong and viable. Share what you’re learning, what you’re loving, and what you’re livid about.

What can you tweet? When can you?
There are lots of opportunities:

– the Constituencies Reception on Friday night – Who are you hanging out with? Have you met some new friends? What’s the topic of conversation? How’s the mood and the food?

– the Leader’s Address – What is he saying? What do you think? What are people saying about the speech? Why are the issues he is bringing up important?

– the MLA Variety Show on Saturday morning – this is sure to be a riot … I am sure tweets will come naturally.

– the Plenary Session – What are the topics? Who is taking part in the discussions? What are you excited about?

– the Morning and Afternoon Sessions on Saturday –these sessions are most important to tweet from so we can keep our fellow PC’ers up to date on what is happening in the sessions they are not at. An exchange of ideas and information so that even though you have chosen to attend one discussion, you’ll know what is going on at another.

– Q&A with Premier Stelmach and his Caucus Colleagues – What questions are being asked? What are the answers? What would you like to ask? How was lunch? Who’s around?

– PCYA AGM – Youth members, let the PCAA know what’s going on in your AGM!

– Banquet on Saturday night – Who’s there? Who’s speaking? What’s on the menu? What is the discussion like at your table? What are your thoughts from the day?

And, of course, the best conversations at AGM happen with friends. These conversations often spark great ideas, new strategies, and encourage future leaders. People are always buzzing at night after the official program for the day has concluded. Everyone wants to interact and swap ideas and challenge one another after a day of debate, education, and networking. These conversations are when engagement begins. These “after-parties” are where the power of engagement becomes evident.

PCinYYC is an advocator of political engagement – so we are encouraging tweeps to find some time to come, hang out, meet your fellow PC tweeters, debrief the weekend and get excited about what’s next. How’s Saturday night? Let’s stay in touch on #pcagm … Engage with u soon!

My (our) excitement is known to be contagious so I’m sure you are just itching to get going and sharing your PC experience right now!

CR and PP

To upgrade or not to upgrade; that is the question!

An important debate has been taking place in Alberta’s coffee shops, boardrooms and online meeting places between those who believe we should export our raw bitumen and those who would like to upgrade this resource before sending it to other markets.  At the upcoming PC AGM, Alberta’s sharpest Progressive Conservative minds will come together to provide our political leaders with direction and support on this very topic.

In fact, the grassroots of the Alberta PC party has brought forward four (4) separate resolutions supporting more upgrading in Alberta and the Party has organized a bear pit session that will deal specifically with this issue.

The resolutions brought forward by various constituency associations include:

  • Edmonton Whitemud (A) Resolution – Upgrading of Bitumen in Alberta
  • Strathcona (A) Resolution – Increasing Canadian Content in Oil Sand Construction
  • Edmonton McClung (B) Resolution – Bitumen Extraction In Alberta
  • Calgary Shaw (B) Resolution – Encourage Further investment in Alberta’s Petroleum & Petrochemical Industries

Click here for the complete book of PCAGM Policy Resolutions.

Alberta needs to refine this resource if the province is to continue to be an energy superpower.  Sending downstream revenues to other markets through a pipeline in perpetuity is not a viable option.  Having said this, there is also a need to build a pipeline to the west coast that will export energy products to new Asian and Indian markets.  The two concepts are not mutually exclusive – in fact, moving forward with a two pronged approach is the best way for the Alberta Government to ensure Albertans retain the same quality of life they expect in the years and decades ahead.

There are those, however, who for reasons of political gain will argue that the government should not be in the energy business and should let the market decide whether upgraders are built locally.  I disagree with this opinion and agree wholeheartedly with Athabasca – Redwater MLA, Jeff Johnson’s conclusion that “our greatest risk is doing nothing”.  You can read his compelling arguments  in his discussion paper titled, Upgrading Alberta’s Future – Securing long-term economic opportunities through adding value to bitumen.  This conclusion is most succinctly supported by Wilf Golbert, Chair of Calgary Economic Development and Energy Analyst, who said “the export of Canadian bitumen rather than higher quality upgraded oil could become the greatest loss of economic value for any country in world history.”

Every day we do nothing, we lose billions of dollars that could be used to fund hospital beds, long term care facilities, new schools, new roads, etc….  Albertans own these resources and the value margin of refined bitumen belongs to them.  We need to make decisions today that ensure the prosperity of this province tomorrow.

A quick glance at history proves that the Alberta government has always been and should continue to be in the energy business – particularly in the value added aspects of the sector.  Since the 1970s, the Alberta Government has facilitated the growth of companies that are now the backbone of our economy.  Companies such as Syncrude, Encana, Cenovus, Transcanada, Suncor and others have all had their start in partnership with government and would not have had such successful starts without Alberta’s integral role in their development.

The government’s role in the energy sector has always been that of a “growth facilitator”, looking for ways to maximize value and realize potential.  Key factors that have made these partnerships between industry and government successful include the government’s early involvement in the project, as well as the government’s eventual and timely exit from the partnership.  Furthermore, the Alberta Government is currently a shareholder in many major oil companies through over $1 billion in shares through the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.  Ensuring the continued success of the entire energy sector is therefore a direct benefit to Albertans and therefore good public policy.

There are many more arguments that support adding value to Alberta’s resources here at home.   The Alberta Government’s decision to move forward on the Bitumen Royalty In Kind (BRIK) strategy is based on these reasons.  BRIK will facilitate the development of an upgrader in the province of Alberta by using our resource ownership position to stimulate the creation of independent businesses.  I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the reasons to support upgrading in Alberta by reading MLA Jeff Johnson’s report.

This issue is of critical importance to the future of Alberta’s energy security, as well as the quality of life we can secure for our children and grandchildren.  I encourage all PC AGM delegates to participate in the discussions and to ultimately support these resolutions.

PP

Union Dues – it’s time for a Progressive Conservative approach – Part 2

Thank you very much for your comments on my original blog on union dues – I’m thrilled we can have this discussion and allow Albertans and Canadians to decide where they stand on this important public policy issue.

You ask whether shareholders should get rebates if they don’t support the political contributions made by the company they invest in.  The difference between being a shareholder in a company and a worker who is legally compelled to pay union dues is that a shareholder can choose to take their money out of one company and invest into another.  Union workers are compelled to pay these dues as a condition of their employment.

A shareholder has the opportunity to invest in any company and has the freedom to associate and support companies, organizations and causes that are in line with their political views.  My argument is that workers should have the option to either opt in or out of activities not related to collective bargaining and other core union activities.

With respect to citizens being able to opt out of paying a portion of taxes if they don’t agree with the direction their government takes on an issue, I suggest you make the highly erroneous assumption that unions should be afforded the same institutional recognition as governments.

Governments are responsible for providing public goods and services such as defence, monetary policy etc to all citizens. We cannot renounce being a citizen and our citizenship obligations. The issue here is that as a condition of employment people are compelled to pay union dues, which is akin to a tax. Since a union should not have the same institutional recognition as a government, is appropriate for a union to “tax” its members to support these causes? If a portion of these dues are being used to support causes, issues and political parties that the individual does not support, that individual should have the right to voluntarily opt in or opt out.   Unions are not governments – it’s very dangerous to make these types of parallels.

Your third argument is an interesting one given the actions of Albertans for Change during the last election and the Working Families Coalition in Ontario. No mention was made of labour law/collective bargaining in those ads. Rather, the advertising constituted an ideological attack against the Stelmach government. All employees that are forced to pay the portion of dues that support these ads are being compelled to associate with these ideological views.  While the Charter provides a freedom to associate, the flip side of that right is the freedom to disassociate.  Compelling employees to pay union dues to support such ideological attacks is therefore a violation of their right to disassociate.

I also got a few tweets on this blog and most people made the same arguments as above.  However, one was different and I want to address it.  @noleftandright tweeted “if union members want to control expenditures they should run for union office of whatever sorts and state their case”

My response is that if union bosses want the province to have labour legislation that is more closely aligned with their ideological views, they should run for MLA and state their case to the whole population.  Why should a worker who just wants to make a living and provide for his or her family be compelled to contribute to these causes through mandatory pay deductions?  If the worker is compelled to pay these dues as a condition of employment, why should it also be their responsibility to run for union office if they don’t like it?  The government has the responsibility to ensure legislation protects employee rights.  The employee should have the right to disassociate from their unions political view and current Canadian legislation doesn’t respect that right.

These are my arguments … I welcome yours!

PP

Union Dues – It’s time for a Progressive Conservative approach

As I prepare for the upcoming Alberta PC Annual General Meeting, I contemplate what it truly means to be a Progressive Conservative in the province of Alberta.  A quick look at the 2010 PCAA Constituency Resolution Book reaffirms that I belong to the right party – many policies in the booklet represent both a progressive and a conservative approach to the issues affecting our province.  One such policy is Edmonton McClung’s “A” resolution regarding the Labour Relations Code.

The resolution reads:  Be it resolved that, the Government of Alberta introduce amendments to the Labour Code to permit individual employees to opt out of contributing a portion of their union dues if their union dues are used to fund union activities which are unrelated to the core union activities of collective bargaining and grievance administration.

In simple terms, it’s reasonable that employees are forced to pay union dues for collective bargaining and core union activity, but should have the option to not pay into their union’s political activities.  Individual employees should have the right to put their hard earned money toward the political party of their choice or not at all.

People are usually surprised when I tell them how antiquated Canada’s Labour laws are.  The assumption is that Canada is on par with the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to the rules surrounding unionization.  The fact is, however, that Canada is behind the United States, as well as many European countries – most of which have long histories of socialist governments.

Interestingly, research indicates that Canadians clearly support reforming how union dues are collected and used.  A 2008 Nanos Research poll for the National Post and Global National on workplace issues found that only 16 per cent of working Canadians felt union dues should be used to make contributions to political parties.  Similarly, only 17 per cent of respondents felt union dues should be spent on partisan political advertizing campaigns.  Most respondents also felt that it would be fairer to pay lower dues to cover the costs of collective bargaining and agreement administration, but not be forced to pay for union activities relating to non-collective bargaining activities, such as supporting or opposing political parties and social causes.

Contrast this with what has happened with union dues that Canadians have been forced to pay.  As an example, during the Ontario provincial election in 2003, five construction union affiliates of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario joined three other unions to form the “Working Families Coalition”.  This group ran the $5 million dollar negative attack ads that helped bring down the ruling Progressive Conservative government.  Shortly thereafter, construction industry employees lost their right to a secret ballot in unionization elections.

Remember the “No Plan” ads that slammed Premier Stelmach and the PC government during the 2008 election?  Those were a result of monies largely collected through forced union dues by various Alberta Building Trade unions, who helped organize and fund the “Albertans for Change” group that spent more that $2 million on this advertizing.  To put this in context, this was more than the three opposition parties spent on advertizing; it even included spots that ran during the Super Bowl.

It is time for legislators to bring Canadian labour laws in line with the rest of the industrialized world.  What’s needed is a transparent and accountable structure that balances the rights of employees who support their union being politically active and want to contribute further to its political objectives, with the rights of employees who believe that money they are legally required to pay to a union should be limited strictly to negotiating and administering collective agreements.

To create this balance, unions should be prohibited from spending dues that are legislatively mandated for the purpose beyond what is needed to maintain a collective bargaining relationship with the employer.  Funds collected for these purposes should be accounted for separately and segregated from funds that may be collected and used for other purposes.

The rights of unions and union members to voluntarily engage in political activism or support political causes and parties should also be dealt with.  Most jurisdictions address this by requiring separate political action accounts from which all voluntary donations and expenditures are accounted for, reported on and audited.

The issues raised in this resolution are core to what it means to be a Progressive Conservative in the province of Alberta.  It is not my belief that unions have no place in our society, nor do I believe that unions should not participate in political activities.

However, one must ask:  Is it appropriate for unions to spend more on advertising than the political parties themselves during an election campaign?  Is it fair that the millions they spend to support political causes are being financed by working Canadians who are required by law to pay dues?

Being a Progressive Conservative in the province of Alberta is about balance, pragmatism and common sense.  The Edmonton McClung “A” resolution regarding the Labour Relations Code is about striking that balance.  At the upcoming AGM, I encourage all Progressive Conservatives to participate in this policy session and to support this resolution.  I will be providing the session details shortly.  Stay tuned!

PP