My open letter to Jim Prentice about the state of the PC Party

Dear Jim,

Can I call you Jim? I feel like you’re the kind of guy that would want me to call you Jim.

I don’t know if you remember me. I volunteered for you back when you were a federal MP – actually one afternoon during a membership drive in Frank Hickey’s office I met the love of my life. That’s a long story though, but I do hope to tell you in person one day. If you don’t remember me, that’s ok, just know that I still support you, and I support our Party. I’m a concerned Party supporter, and I have been for some time.

I know you’re really busy right now. There is a lot to do and people are expecting big things in the next two weeks. I’m excited; I get the sense you’re committed to the change in government people want to see.

Albertans are waiting – and Albertans are important to convince of the change. But I’m writing today to ask you to please not forget about the change our Party members are also waiting to see.

You see Jim, our last leader forgot about that. When our last leader had the political clout to come in and really shake things up at the party level she didn’t. Right now, you have the clout to ruffle feathers and get our ship in order. A ship we need in order to fight by-elections, and regular elections.

Our Party has served for over 40 years because of its strong grassroots. I remember being a teenager on Calgary-Shaw and being so excited to truly know that my voice mattered. I had incredible political mentors on that board, including the MLA, Cindy Ady, that encouraged me to always stand up for what I believe in, challenge the things that I didn’t, and to always push our Party to be the best it could be. As a board I believe we did that.

We have a grassroots problem Jim. Our grassroots don’t feel that excitement anymore because that’s missing.

I believe the culture of an organization changes as soon as a new leader shows up. It changes by their example.

After your example (which at this point I don’t think is an issue) it is important for you to show that you understand that there is a problem in our Party right now. I think you understand that and more importantly I think you will be committed to that. But please don’t wait too long to show your commitment.

Great leadership attracts other great leaders, that’s great. But I also believe that great leaders need to start by proactively recruiting other great leaders. We need a great team. And a great team doesn’t mean people that have surrounded this Party for years, and are loyal soldiers, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they have specific government experience. A great team for our Party means a group of people with complimentary skill-sets, passion, and experience. And I’m not talking about our caucus team (I believe you’re already dealing with that), I’m talking about our PCAA team including the positions in our Party office and on our Party Board of Directors. These positions shouldn’t be rewards or favors, they should be based on who can best do the job that we need them to do.

And I think we both know that the job we need them to do over the next 2 years is a big job. Volunteer or full time staff – both of these will be stretched to their maximum potential and that has to be what they expect. And they have to be excited about that … and willing to get their hands dirty. We don’t need more people telling us what to do, we need more people just doing it. And if they are excited that will trickle down and re-excite the grassroots.

Personally I don’t want the loyal soldier type at the top of our grassroots organization. I want people who are willing to ask questions, challenge, and push us in a new direction.

Jim, I’m going to be honest, that’s not happening right now. I’ve chatted with many, and have my own examples, but when the grassroots speaks up … speaks up with the purpose of bettering our Party … we’re told we’re hurting our Party, we don’t understand our Party, and we’re against our Party. Jim, if we were against our Party we’d be gone already to either the left or the right.

Something has kept us here – waiting – wanting change. Maybe it’s because we know that the culture of fear and punishment isn’t really what our Party is based on and that we were just waiting for a new leader to set a new example.

There are some important dates coming up that I’m sure your talented transition team has in mind, but I thought I’d remind you. I believe you can use these dates to start setting an example …. and a direction for our Party.

September 20 is our next PCAA Board of Directors meeting. This will be exciting – I wish I could be a fly on the wall. I hope that you will discuss the following and ensure that the Board communicates it in a public way back to the grassroots:

  •  A clear review of electronic voting: we aren’t asking for a review of the outcome, we need a review of the process. We need to learn from the blunders now so that we can do better next time. We need to show that we care that there were blunders in order to start healing the relationship with the thousands of people who wanted to participate and couldn’t. It’s not enough to say next time we’ll do better. Let’s do it now so we aren’t in a rush to do it when we need to. I hear there is a petition circulating asking for this to but has not been received by our Board well.
  • A clear review of the Leadership Election Committee: it’s not about reviewing who was on it but more the skillsets that were. What key roles did we miss and how can we ensure we have those next time? Let’s create a process surrounding this committee and set it in stone at the AGM. Let’s give the grassroots a reason to have confidence in our Party.
  • Staffing: time to have an honest discussion about who does what at the Party office. We have some true champions there, but we are missing skillsets. We need to have an honest conversation about who fills what roles. We need a leader in the office with a background in non-profits or associations with a board structure. We don’t need someone with a government background, or inexperienced folks with Party loyalties. We need qualified individuals. We need an open competition for some roles, and we need your leadership and connections to help make recommendations to the Board for others.
  • The Board: I hope you’ll have an honest conversation with the Board about their own roles. I know you’re having those conversations with caucus – who goes, who stays, who represents the future, who has the skills we need to be successful, who needs to move aside for the next generation (not necessarily younger, but fresher)? I love that you’re having those conversations, that shows you are the leader we need. Please ask those same questions of those that stood, or want to stand, for election of our PC Board. The directors in place are as important as our caucus team if we want to continue to be successful.

Speaking of the Board that’s the other important date, September 26 is the deadline to submit a nomination for the 2014/2015 PCAA Executive Board. This date seems to be flying under the radar. But Jim, we need good people to run for these roles. And not good as in nice, but good as in strong, charismatic, skilled, experienced, passionate, that bring both strategy and the ability to execute the strategy to the table. These people are volunteers, yes, but they need to be committed to YOUR vision for our Party, and they need to be people the grassroots can count on to question, challenge, encourage, and empower.

Empower … this is the big one.

Our Party engine hasn’t been empowering volunteers. But you can change that.

Empower the grassroots by asking those you feel are qualified to step up and run in the executive races. Some may say that those who want to run will just run, but it’s my experience with volunteer management that you really do have to ask. It means a lot when you ask someone, and have a conversation with them, about a position you’d like them to take on. They take it seriously, and it creates accountability. And if you are leading by that example they will act the same – they will in turn empower those around them by asking them to do small (or large) meaningful tasks to help our Party.

We need to get back to that. Many hands make for light work – and there is a lot of work.

Please empower us. Empower our Party and don’t forget to set the example and start shifting the way our Party has been doing business.

Please ask people – ask people to do things – if you do it will make us stronger, and it will help the grassroots to realize how important it actually is. Set the example so we can get back to being excited about asking questions and making our Party better.

Please don’t forget to not only shake up government, caucus, and cabinet, but shake up your Party.

I’ll be watching with anticipation.
CP

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Meet our Friend Matt

The New Year got me thinking … we have a ton of new MLAs (can we still call them new?) sitting in the Alberta Legislature … we don’t necessarily know a lot about them … which leads to my excuse for a new series (hopefully) of blogs. A New Year featuring New MLAs.

First on the list? Our friend Matt.

Peter and I met Matt Jeneroux, Alberta’s MLA of Edmonton-Southwest, before the 2012 provincial election. He attended the nomination workshop we were hosting on behalf of the PC Party. He stood out in the room. I remember standing at the front of the room looking at those that were learning about the process and wondering who might go on to become MLAs. Matt was an excellent choice by the constituents of Edmonton-Southwest.

Since that day Peter and I have gotten to know Matt and consider him a friend. He is strategic, dedicated, hard working  … and thoughtful. Peter and I received the loveliest (“official”) letter from Matt after we got married – I must admit that the inner political geek in me was quite excited about having something like that grace our mailbox but the words written and sentiment behind it truly demonstrate the type of individual Matt is – gracious, kind-hearted, and, like I said, thoughtful! Perhaps a side of a MLA you don’t often hear about or get to see.

Matt always seems to be up to something new. Give him a follow on Twitter or check out his website. He has quite an impressive schedule. My favourite of his posts? The photos of him visiting schools and students in his constituency – making a positive impact on Alberta’s next generation. He’s quite active online – keeping Albertans posted on his goings-on, tweeting directly with those that have concerns, and sharing information not only about government but the things that matter to his community. Like this one from yesterday:

We asked Matt a few questions to start off 2014 so Albertans could get to know him better. His answers are in italics.

Why did you choose to get involved in politics?
It was a decision I made after a lot of thought & consideration. I have 2 young daughters and I want to ensure they have every opportunity to grow up in a remarkable Alberta like I was able to do. I want them and their generation to have pride in a province that is quite simply the envy of the world. I want them to be able to say, “I’m from Alberta” anywhere in the world and be proud to say it!

What did you do before you were a MLA?
I worked for the Federal Government as a Policy Advisor.

What is your favourite part about being an MLA? 
The opportunity to have a voice for our generation, specifically opportunities like being on Treasury Board. Also being the youngest government caucus member, I often get to provide a viewpoint from our generation and add insight as a single dad raising a young family. It’s a tough balance sometimes where I have to bring my two daughters to a number of meetings but I’m hopeful hard work and sacrifice will help to give us a voice at the decision making tables.

What is the number 1 issue you are passionate about in our constituency? 
A few issues have really stood out for me. As of recently, being able to speak about and provide insight on our changing interprovincial and international relations has been quite interesting. I have a very forward thinking constituency with a lot of young families who are passionate about Alberta’s place in the world. I’ve been able to bring a proactive and forward thinking discussion about our future to the table on a variety of topics which I’ve had the luxury of chatting with my constituents about again and again!

Oh, and of course the continued growth pressures and the high demands for increased infrastructure i.e. New Schools

And, any New Year resolutions?
Hopefully avoid the stigma of overweight & unhealthy politicians and continue to go to the gym often… even if it means at 11:30pm after evening sittings!

Good luck in 2014 Matt! We’re watching (especially that 2014 resolution) and looking forward to all you’ll accomplish as government’s youngest member (which is an accomplishment in itself) … thanks for representing your constituents, our generation, and most of all for your friendship.

– CP

A PC Party Make Work Project

I am a card carrying PC – you know that – and most of you know I’ve been one for years. I’ve held plenty of positions within the Party including my most recent stint as the Deputy Campaign Manager during the general election. I love my Party. I’m dedicated to its principles and core values. I’m a true Progressive Conservative.

Many of you will also remember that I am a true champion for #changefromwithin in the PC Party. What does this mean? It means renewal. It means doing things differently to ensure everyone is engaged – and by everyone I’m including brand spanking new PCs. #changefromwithin means communicating and including. It means transparency and ensuring there is a seat at the table for all PC Party members before a decision is made and a motion is passed.

I volunteered (along with @ppilarski) as Alison Redford’s GOTV Chair on her leadership campaign because I believe she was the healthy change this party needed. I took a leave of absence from my day job during the campaign to work on the PC campaign’s core team. Proud accomplishments of mine for many reasons – including the fact that I saw #changefromwithin become a reality in both circumstances. I remain a proud PC because of our strong leader and our strong roster of true, PC candidates that were elected this past April.

Do I like what Premier Redford is doing in Alberta? You bet! Family Care Clinics, public consultation, long term plans, quick action on previously ignored files (like Highway 63), no fear in doing things differently … all things I’m proud of. All things I believe represent a modern day Alberta and modern day Albertans. Changes necessary to move our province forward.

Do I believe #changefromwithin is alive and well in our Party? It’s getting there … but the fight is not over.

The PC Party’s latest “make work” project is the perfect example of my continued frustration over the Party’s focus.

Formal documentation of our Party’s political roots? What?! This sounds like a good MA thesis for a passionate young conservative … not a project you pay a consultant to do. Maybe a cool project for the PCYA wing of our Party as well not something we spend resources on. Let’s practice fiscal responsibility.

Did we not just fight the hardest election battle since 1993 in this province? We were victorious but we have plenty of lessons to learn as a Party that shouldn’t include prioritizing the documentation of our history.

What does need to be documented?
How about a debrief from the election campaign that involves all stakeholders and constituencies? Let’s learn the lessons of our political battles from the people who were on the frontlines of the campaign. Priorities should be already preparing for the next election, considering a four year strategy and learning from the mistakes of the past 4 years. Now, I expect the powers that be will tell me that they ARE doing these things. That’s wonderful – but if no one knows about it then does it really matter? Are you operating in your silos (something Redford has been passionate about breaking down in government)? Are you engaging your membership (all those campaign managers, cluster coaches, regional desks?)? How can you expect to strategize if you aren’t including the membership who fought the battle?

Now you’ll say “but Christina, they are engaging members in this project”. Let’s engage members by asking how to be battle ready and how to better represent the people of this province … and communicate that we actually are. Let’s ask them for a debrief of the election this year. Let’s engage them in fundraising, membership drives, etc. And what about engaging the thousands of new PCs our party gained after the leadership and after the 2012 election – this latest project is certainly not one they can buy into. Finally, let’s engage the PCYA in this project if it is really deemed as something that needs to be completed in the interim.

I’m disappointed. Not because we are documenting our history and asking members to get involved. I too have warm and fuzzy stories I can add to the collection – stories I’m proud of and stories that have kept me engaged as a member. I’m disappointed that this project has taken center stage and is what the party is currently highlighting.

What about the governance review? What about constitutional review? What about fundraising (some boards are in major need of support after the election)? What about board support (new MLAs, new volunteers that need backing … not to mention some serious communication breakdowns that need to be addressed in a number of boards across this province)? What about connecting the various constituency association executives so we can start collaborating? What about learning to communicate as an association – not just sharing what government is doing? Or just communicating in general?

I’m angry – I’m ranting. But most importantly I’m still waiting for #changefromwithin in the PCAA.

Because by pushing out make work projects we continually show Albertans we aren’t listening as a Party.

The leader (I’m so very proud to support) and our (capable, smart, next generation) caucus members need to stand up and get the PCAA train back on the tracks. Another 40 years is ours … but only if we learn from past mistakes and move Alberta into the future – not spend our resources and money on documenting the past and further glorifying it.

Take a step back – what do you think the average Albertan cares about? Long term planning or a historical document of how great we used to be? I stand by Premier Redford because she campaigned on stable, long term planning for our province – let’s take a hint and do the same for the party. Remember when the tables turned in the election – when Albertans started to realize Wildrose wanted to move Alberta backwards and that the PCs were capable of moving Alberta forwards. Let’s not lose that mandate. You may remember a few of my tweets during the election … “never trust a party that offers you the past” …

Thank goodness government is listening – hoping for a trickledown effect asap.

And, yes, these are qualities I will be looking for in the next PC President. The race is on. Who represents the face of #changefromwithin?

CR

Top Ten Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code

The Alberta Labour Relations Code was written in 1988 and has remained virtually untouched since that time.  Over the coming months, I will be writing a new blog series titled “Top Ten Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code” in an effort to initiate an online discussion about the need to update this antiquated (cold-war era) legislation.

Much has happened in the world since 1988, including significant labour legislation changes in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, as well as Europe, the USA and most developed countries throughout the world.  The time has come to update this 23 year old piece of legislation in Alberta.

The governments of British Columbia and Saskatchewan have responded with labour code changes that made their workforces more nimble, fair and competitive.  As a result, these provinces have created a labour relations environment that is more conducive to attracting investment to their provinces.

In response to these changing circumstances in western Canada and around the world, a group of construction leaders formed a coalition to find ways to combat Alberta’s increasingly uncompetitive construction sector.  The group is called the Construction Competitiveness Coalition and its participants operate in both union and non-union environments.  Most of their recommendations are based on labour code changes that have already taken place in other provinces and jurisdictions around the world.  I will write a detailed blog about each of the recommendations in the coming months.

The opportunities for Alberta to become more competitive through Labour Code amendments generally fall into three (3) categories:

  • Creating economic advantages though cost and schedule certainty;
  • Creating bargaining structures for today’s workplaces; and
  • Improving fairness for employees and employers.

The top ten reasons to amend the Alberta Labour Code are:

Recommendation 1:   Amend Division 8 to address potential issues under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Recommendation 2:   Adopt legislation similar to that in British Columbia, which allows for the continuation of collective agreements in situations where a union becomes the bargaining agent for a workforce and there is an existing collective agreement in place for that workforce.

Recommendation 3:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to allow contractors to complete existing work under the labour obligations that existed prior to certification.

Recommendation 4:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to allow for certificates in the construction industry that cover all of the employees working for an employer.

Recommendation 5:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to put into law a provision that allows for early renewal of collective agreements when all parties are in agreement and employees consent.

Recommendation 6:   Maintain the current approach to the “build up principle” in construction.

Recommendation 7:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to prohibit unions from fining workers for the crime of working with an employer not affiliated with the union.

Recommendation 8:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to prohibit unions from using union dues to support activities other than fulfilling the union’s obligations under the Code unless the union obtains prior consent of the employee.

Recommendation 9:   Improve Alberta Labour Code provisions that address market enhancement recovery fund (“MERFs”), which are illegal bid subsidy schemes.

Recommendation 10: Amend the Alberta Labour Code to clarify limits on the use of picket lines.

If you are still reading, you must be wondering what much of this means!  These are complicated but critically important matters.  Many of these policy recommendations have been implemented throughout the country and around the world and despite fierce opposition from union leadership, they have resulted in better, more competitive workplaces and happier workers.

I look forward to diving into each of these recommendations over the coming months and engaging in this important dialogue.

PP