Disclaimer

I’ve tried to be careful here in how I present what I’m saying. This document contains a mixture of facts and opinions. To distinguish them, I have tried to be careful to use “weasel words” when presenting my opinions (“it seems that”, “I believe that”, etc.) whereas facts are presented without caveat (“M. Smith stated…”, “A meeting was held.”, etc.).

I have tried to be comprehensive in what I present here, erring on the side of inclusion as I believe it is better for everyone to have as much information available as possible. As a result, some of what I present here may be contradictory and incomplete, as well as including conjectures and rumours. Not all information presented here should be taken to be correct, and I have tried to be explicit when presenting information that I cannot establish the veracity of (“it is rumoured that”, “one possibility is”, “it has been suggested that”, etc.).

This document has no official standing. I am writing it as an independent individual and am solely responsible for its content. I do not have any official role in the organization beyond being a regular member. I have been involved in some of the events described here, and definitely have biases (as can be said of everyone else involved). So, please keep these caveats in mind when reviewing the material here.

Reference

Constitution

Constitution of the Alberta Greens

Principles

From section IV. of the party constitution “GREEN PRINCIPLES AND PHILOSOPHY”:

Principles of the organization include:
  1. An ecologically sustainable lifestyle and economy
  2. Social responsibility
  3. Non-violent conflict resolution
  4. Public process toward improved decision making
  5. Preservation and restoration of ecosystem diversity
  6. Responsible and responsive government

See also the Global Greens Charter.

Lead up to the AGM

I’ll start with the background on the events leading up to the AGM.

Back in late spring, early summer, members from the Central Alberta area recommended Morningside as the site for the AGM. Reasons given included that it is in the riding that received the highest percentage of votes for a Green candidate in the last provincial election, and it is fairly central, relative to Edmonton and Calgary. There was also willingness on the part of members in the area to do the hosting work needed (securing a hall, preparing food, etc.).

Once the federal election was announced in early September, concerns were raised about the AGM being held in the middle of the campaign. A not insignificant portion of the provincial party’s membership are also active in federal politics and wanted to devote the time to the federal election. The executive consulted with the Morningside hosts who were intensely adamant that there be no postponement.

I don’t have enough information to accurately answer the question of why there were no mail-in ballots. My best guess is that the party executive were convinced (by whom I cannot rightly say) in the summer that mail-in would not be necessary for this AGM — since there have not been notably contentious votes at our previous AGMs. I suspect that by the time it became clear that this AGM was shaping up to be potentially quite contentious, it was too late to implement a mail-in.

It became clear in the week prior to the AGM that an effort was underway to significantly alter the course of the party. From what I have personally seen and heard, and from what has been relayed to me by trusted acquaintances, it seemed that a group headed by Mr. Joe Anglin were undertaking an attempt to take over the party and fundamentally transform it into a virtually new party by replacing the leadership and executive with themselves, substituting an entirely new party constitution (without retaining the Green principles), and changing the name of the party (I have heard an unsubstantiated rumour that their intended name would be “The Progress Party”).

As someone familiar with procedural matters and the history of the party (particularly in my role as past president), I was asked to look into the legitimacy of some of the proposals coming forward and the process for handling them — especially in light of any potential threat to the principles of the party.

Constitutional motion for leadership review

The most immediately apparent aspect of the situation was the constitutional motion submitted by Edwin Erickson just prior to the deadline for submissions. It seems to me that the timing of the submission served to minimize the opportunity to inform and engage the membership and take measures to counter it. (Text of the motion.)

While the motion may come across as not unreasonable in calling for leadership reviews (although the party already has a two-year “fixed-election” cycle of voting for the party leadership), it seems to me that the motion was specifically crafted to create an opportunity to immediately remove and replace the existing party leader, George Read.

Let’s break it down:

This is, in my view, evidence that the intention behind the motion was to create an opportunity to immediately replace George Read as leader of the party without the normal nomination period and in the absence of the many members who would not be in attendance (undoubtedly the significant majority of the party’s membership).

An email from Edwin Erickson

That one motion alone was enough to raise significant concern, but a far more compelling cause for concern came in the form of an email from Mr. Erickson the day before the AGM. I do not know who all of the recipients of the email were, but I was forwarded copies from multiple sources. (Text of the email.)

Frankly, I find quite ridiculous the notion stated in the email that: “Alberta Greens are politically challenged by our own name.” At a time when it seems that most political parties and corporations are trying to paint themselves “Green”, and when we were the only party other than the governing Conservatives to grow our vote in the last provincial election, I fail to see how our name is an impediment.

A couple more points of concern

Further adding to the concerns leading up to the AGM, some press coverage prior to the meeting pointed to the likely intention to try to change the party leadership and possibly the name. This further fuelled concerns of those of us who saw this as a threat to the principles of the party.

Finally, rumours (which proved to be accurate) were pointing to a significant turn-out of Mr. Anglin’s supporters to the AGM, served well by the meeting being held in his constituency. Though members had been asked to pre-register with the party, only a tiny fraction of those who attended did so. I’m told that the constituency hosts did informally relay to the party executive that they had many people set to attend, but the hosts did not forward any registration info to the executive that I am aware of. Before going to the meeting on September 27, some members of the executive and myself were certain we would be facing what would effectively be a room “stacked” with Mr. Anglin’s supporters who could be expected to support whatever motions his group put forward and, by force of numbers, ensure their passing.

So…

The question arises, “If the membership passes the motions, isn’t that democratic?” The answer would be yes, if it were truly “the membership” in a meaningful sense. The room of people who were to be at that meeting would not have fairly represented the membership of the party — the majority of whom would not be, and could not reasonably be expected to be, in attendance.

Green values include grassroots participatory democracy. A relatively small, non-representative, group of people making decisions that would significantly impact everyone in the party without effective opportunity for meaningful participation of all members in those decisions runs absolutely counter to Green values. In my view, in order to protect the principles of the party and the interests of the full membership, it was the responsibility and obligation of the party executive, and those other members with the opportunity to do so, to try to prevent what appeared to be the intended actions of Mr. Anglin, Mr. Erickson, and their supporters, at the AGM.

Along with some of the members of the executive, I spent a good portion of the days leading up to the AGM pouring over the constitution and Robert’s Rules of Order to find ways we might prevent the passage or enactment of the aforementioned motions at the AGM.

We eventually came up with a strong case for delaying the constitutional motions based on the constitution, specifically the requirement to follow Robert’s Rules (which specifies some requirements around introduction of constitutional motions which had not been met by the motions coming to the AGM). I believe that that could have been fairly used to prevent the passage of the motions at the meeting. The motions would still carry forward for vote at the next General Meeting, but that would give time to engage the whole membership in addressing them instead of just the small number able to attend the meeting in Morningside.

However, that was not adequate to prevent what could have amounted to a takeover of the party. The party executive consists of 9 members: The four officers (Leader, President, CFO, Secretary), two deputy leaders, and three coordinators (Communications, Election Readiness, Membership). Even without replacing the leader, Mr. Anglin’s supporters could have gained a majority of the executive positions through the duly scheduled elections at the AGM. Although they would not have been able to secure 5 of the executive positions, the “none of the above” option that appears on all of our ballots would have allowed them to readily bring the number of sitting executives down to 7, leaving them with only 4 seats needed to form a majority (which they were in a position to achieve). Once they had that control of the executive, they could arrange subsequent General Meetings of the party to their liking to facilitate the rest of their intended changes.

Here’s the thing: The party’s constitution is not adequate to fully protect against such attempts by a relatively small group to completely redirect the party contrary to the interests of the broad membership. We are vulnerable, and it seems that a group of people were seeking to take advantage of that vulnerability to serve ends other than the Green principles. Biggest lesson from all of this: Tightening up the party constitution to protect the Green principles needs to be a top priority going forward.

The 1 Minute AGM

On the day of the AGM, we arrived at the hall in Morningside to find significantly more people in attendance than had ever been part of an Alberta Greens AGM (while I don’t have an actual head-count, some estimates would put the total at 4-5 times as many as at any previous AGM). Also concerning was the fact that the vast majority were unknown to the various long-time Greens with us (including most of the executive). Under normal circumstances this would have been cause for great excitement and enthusiasm. However, with the knowledge of at least part of the messaging that had been used to recruit participation of these people new to the party, we had clear cause for considerable concern.

In the end, a majority of the executive, including the four officers of the party, decided to not proceed with the meeting’s agenda in order to protect the interests of the full membership.

With that majority of the executive, including the officers, and more than a quorum of supportive members, the AGM was convened in the parking lot of the hall in Morningside. As soon as it was called to order, a motion to adjourn was raised. Under Robert’s Rules, such a motion has the highest precedence, superseding any other matters. The motion was duly seconded and carried by unanimous vote of the quorum present. So, the meeting was technically held, but all business was automatically tabled until the next General Meeting (which can only be convened after due notice per section VII, item C, of the party’s constitution).

Rather than engage Mr. Anglin and his supporters in the hall, an informal decision was made to leave Morningside. There was concern (rightly or wrongly) about possible tempers and confrontation that had some of those present worried about personal safety. While I don’t think there was actually much risk of physical confrontation, at the time there was enough nervousness and uncertainty (given the significant number of unfamiliar people) to warrant erring on the side of caution. One of our members did go into the hall and informed those of what had happened and that the meeting would not be proceeding further that day. Unfortunately, in the rush to wrap up, the wording used to make that announcement appears to have been a little confusing for some of those in the hall.

Holding the meeting in the parking lot and immediately adjourning it was a far from an ideal choice, but the alternative would have been much worse in my opinion. I still do not see any other way that we could have proceeded that would not have significantly jeopardized the principles of the party.

Mr. Anglin’s Meeting

After we left Morningside, Mr. Anglin reportedly convinced those present that they could convene their own meeting in the absence of the party officers and consider it as being the rightful AGM of the Alberta Greens. They conducted that meeting, reportedly officiated by Sean Maw (who held no position with the executive of the party at that time) [Clarification: Sean Maw has contacted me by email and expressed a desire to make clear that “I was not allied with Mr. Anglin at the meeting. I am not allied with him now. Nor do I ever expect to be.”]. At that meeting the business that Mr. Anglin and his associates wanted to see move forward was apparently conducted. Mr. Anglin subsequently issued a press release as well as an email sent to the members of the party. (I do not know how he came to have a list of members contact information and am concerned about the possible violation of privacy and confidentiality that may represent.) In the press release and email, Mr. Anglin identified himself as the newly elected “interim leader of the Alberta Greens”, along with a number of changes to those elected to the party executive.

Notably, the new executive members who Mr. Anglin claims were elected would result in a majority (five) of the seats being held by people considered to be directly affiliated with, and supportive of, Mr. Anglin, including Connie Jensen, Edwin Erickson, Will Munsey, Midge Lambert and Mr. Anglin himself as leader.

It should be mentioned that Mr. Anglin’s messaging has not included any mention of a name change for the party, and I do not know to what extent — if any — that was discussed at the meeting they held. It is pure supposition on my part to speculate that they might have felt it best to delay any action on changing the party’s name until after ensuring that they had secured control of the party.

You can read the text of Mr. Anglin’s email.

Where to from here

It remains my considered opinion that the final arbiter in these matters should be the full membership of the party (and not just those who, in this geographically challenging province, are able to make it to a physical meeting).

To my view, this means we need to constitute a General Meeting of the party, based on the constitution as it stood prior to September 27, 2008, addressing all the business that was to be on the agenda of the AGM, and that the full membership of the party should have an opportunity to vote via mail-in ballot on all matters requiring a vote at that meeting. Additionally, any new or motions or amendments to be introduced at the meeting should have their votes deferred to a subsequent meeting to allow for mail-in ballots on those matters.

If Mr. Anglin can convince a sufficient majority of the full membership to support his efforts through that process, then he should win out. If not, then the party should proceed on the path it was on prior to September 27, 2008, until such time as the membership directs otherwise. Anything more or less would be counter to the democratic principles of the party.