November 15, 2021
Annual general meetings (AGMs) for political parties are typically snoozefests as far as the public is concerned. Party insiders gather to rub shoulders, drink excessively, and gossip for a weekend. After the first night’s libations, members nurse hangovers and settle in for a day or two of bland party housekeeping. Policy wonks deliberate and debate over minor points of order in the party policy book and members vote to select a board that nobody has heard of. Some seminars are held and some speeches delivered and then members part ways for another year.
This weekend’s AGM for the struggling Alberta UCP will be different. The meeting is going to be anything but dull as Premier Jason Kenney finds himself fighting for his political life.
The UCP bylaws have a clause to invoke a special general meeting (SGM) if a quarter of the party’s constituency associations sign identical motions calling for one.
A letter signed by the presidents of 22 constituency associations calling for an SGM has now been presented to the UCP ‘s central president. The SGM is explicitly designed to force a leadership review of Kenney, a kind of inner-party recall if you will.
The Premier’s Office has been playing some political brinkmanship in hopes of stopping this rebellion in its tracks. At this weekend’s AGM at the Grey Eagle Casino in Calgary a very unusual rule will be in place.
It states: “No resolutions other than the Special Resolutions and Resolutions approved by the Board will be considered, with the exception of those proposed by the leader.”
This unprecedented rule essentially puts the entire agenda of the AGM into the hands of the one man: Kenney. At this one annual gathering where members may have a direct impact upon the direction of the party, that ability has been taken away from them. This will not be well received by the grassroots. Rather than defanging members who are malcontent, Kenney’s move will likely infuriate them.
Responding to a question from the Western Standard, UCP constituency presidents leading the Recall Kenney motion said that it was a highly suspect move for a party that is supposed to be grassroots, and for a leader who was made party boss on a pledge of the “Grassroots Guarantee”.
The constituency of Edmonton-North West has managed to get a motion approved to be presented to the members at the AGM. It will be calling for the bar to be raised from 22 constituency associations to 29 constituency associations in order for an SGM to be invoked. It should be noted Edmonton-North West is essentially a dead constituency to the UCP with very few members, but a president who happens to be employed by the party.
The motion to expand the requisite number of constituency associations would require an amendment to the party bylaws in order for it to pass. This is not a minor motion and the collected members will not take this amendment lightly. Especially when it’s such a clear power grab with the goal of undercutting the right of members to recall leaders and force SGMs. Why have protections and empowerment of the members when the leader can just game the system at an AGM at will?
An unofficial leadership race has already begun thanks to Brian Jean’s pursuit of a nomination in his old (but redrawn) constituency of Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche. Jean has made no secret of his intention to help push Jason Kenney out of the leadership, role nor his intention to run to fill that role once it’s vacant. Jean and his supporters will be campaigning heavily on the conference floor all weekend against Kenney.