Most Albertans couldn’t be bothered much by the goings on at a political party AGM. It probably sounds like a snooze fest to the less engaged.
But for the leaders of the political parties, AGM weekends can be angst-ridden.
Premiers Kenney, Redford, Stelmach and Klein have all had notable rough rides at AGMs that effectively led to their ousting. Similarly, Premiers Kenney and Notley have had to manage and then message embarrassing policy debates.
The United Conservative Party’s upcoming AGM on Nov. 3–4 could bring fireworks. Smith is not up for a leadership review, but some policy resolutions could be difficult to manage.
The UCP is touting the event as one of the largest political conventions ever held in Canada. Expected turnout has skyrocketed into the thousands and organizers have had to change venues to house everyone.
But the reason for the high turnout may be the exact reason why this event could become Smith’s quagmire.
Undoubtedly, numbers are being run up because of the work of the political advocacy group Take Back Alberta (TBA).
“For too long, Alberta’s ruling elite have taken advantage of everyday people, thriving on political apathy, censoring those with the courage to speak out, and exploiting the power of big government to restrict our freedoms,” says TBA’s website.
“It’s your province. Take it back.”
TBA rose to prominence fighting against COVID lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccinations. They take credit for ousting Jason Kenney as leader and for electing Danielle Smith as the new leader. Last year they overwhelmed the UCP AGM and swept the board elections, taking over half of the board of director positions. This year they plan to sweep the rest.
The party’s board of directors don’t control the premier, but it has significant sway. If the policy debates don’t bite Smith, managing the board afterwards might.
TBA is a divisive group and does not enjoy unanimous support within the UCP—keep in mind that the votes on Kenney’s and Smith’s leadership essentially ended as 50-50 votes—but their ability to mobilize support is tremendous.
The lightning rod for TBA’s controversy is its leader and founder David Parker. Here are some choice quotes and tweets from Parker:
- “Hate speech doesn’t exist, it is a made up term to police YOUR speech. They want to control what you can or can not say. That’s the beginning of any totalitarian nightmare.”
- “Dear Leadership of Alberta Health Services: We are coming for you, and we will not rest until your evil communist ideology is eradicated from the face of this province.”
- “We will drive this toxic ideology out of our schools if we have to fire every principal in the province to do it.” (on Pride in schools)
- “The Red Deer County Catholic School Board will be replaced in the next municipal election. Every single trustee will be removed from office, except Monique. Then, we will fire the superintendent. This will happen in every school board across this province until this woke ideology is eradicated from any decision making role in our schools.” (on trustee Monique LaGrange)
- “Dear Public Educators: You work for us, earning our tax dollars, and if you keep up this indoctrination bulls***. We will fire you.”
The AGM is considering policy resolutions that would introduce school vouchers to fully fund private schools, expand conscience and thought rights, create a parents’ bill of rights, ban school resources deemed to be sexual in nature, and restrict students from confidentially using different names or pronouns in schools.
Given the messaging and tone from the leadership of TBA, the results of votes on these issues are bound to create problems for Smith.
She will be sure to say that the board doesn’t direct the actions of the government and that party policy positions are not automatically the position of the government.
But still, the outcomes will tie the premier in knots, and that will have an impact on how she governs. We will need to watch it carefully. ❚
ATA News Editor-in-Chief