Fri Jun 11 16:08:18 MST 2010

The following is a summary of, and commentary on, the key points raised by people discussing the constitutional change by email on June 10th.

  1. A lot of people are repeating the idea that the new constitution is somehow not real - a flexible document designed to form the basis for future discussion.

    This is implied in the VM1 note, but is not true. The motion introducing the constitutional change package says:

    The members of the Executive Committee, Caucus, and the Constituency Association of Mill Creek move that this set of Bylaws replace the current Bylaws:

    There is no delay here, no "next year" - the changes, if passed, take effect when this AGM ends; immediately and not next year, not after further discussion or wordsmithing, and not after member consultations.

    If this thing passes any future discussions will take it, not the current constitution, as the starting point.

  2. A lot of people are repeating the idea that we need change - but none of the people crying to "get er done" have been able to say either what specifically needs to be done or how the proposed draft meets the need.

    An astonishing number of those who in one way or another are arguing this view have not read the new constitution. In one case a person making an argument along these lines based it on an unrelated, and largely innocuous, constitutional amendment proposed completely independently of the current process, while many others simply appeal to authority: arguing that the changes must be necessary and appropriate because its proponents say so.

  3. A lot of people are repeating the idea that this draft is better than what we have and will make us more likely to win more seats in the next election - but, so far, I've seen only three arguments supporting this:

    1. a general claim, usually citing the urgency created by an impending election, that we need strong, top down, leadership;

    2. a general claim that Mr. Marchiano knows what's best and must be supported (an argument usually supported by personal attacks on my integrity, motivation, ancestry, use of language, etc); and,

    3. Mr. Marchiano's rather astonishing disquisition on costs -reproduced below:

      >From: Vitor Marciano []
      >Sent: June 10, 2010 1:47 PM
      >Subject: RE: draft constitutional change review
      >I want to thank Rudy for highlighting one of the best examples of how
      >the current Constitution is unworkable.
      >The "SHALL BE PROVIDED TO" clause.
      >Constitutional fundamentalists will say that means we have to mail every
      >member every constitutional and policy proposal.
      >So photocopying each page would be 3.5 cents times 200 pages for $7.00
      >plus another $10.00 in postage plus $0.75 for the oversize envelope for
      >a total of $17.75 per member plus GST.** Multiply that by over 15,000
      >members equals: $280,000 to mail the AGM notices.
      >Oh, by the way that would mean that the party would lose $13.64 per
      >member ($10 revenue less $5 sent to CA and $18.64 of AGM notice
      >Even if the fundamentalists allowed us to mail one package per household
      >and it would cost us $205,000.
      >Now the Party, the Leader and the Executive Committee chose to mail
      >everyone the internet link to the documents at a cost of around $10,000.
      >Oh by the way, the number of members who called the office, or wrote the
      >office, asking for the resolutions or complaining that they could not
      >get them because they did not have internet: ZERO. Not one. Now our
      >members call and write to complain about all sorts of things, all the
      >time - some of them major, some minor. But not a single one of the
      >15,000 plus active members called about this issue. It is not a concern
      >for them.
      >I think changing "shall be provided to" to shall be "made available to"
      >to be completely reasonable and practical and in keeping with a Party
      >that will end the year with 30,000 membership and not 1100.
      >I am deeply committed to the grassroots and to the members. Enough so
      >that I know exactly what almost all of them would say had I made the
      >Constitutional fundamentalists happy and mailed them 200 pages in an
      >envelope with $10 of postage!
      >**You can go to to confirm (200 pages weigh about 4

      To which I responded:

      Actually no. There are low cost ways of meeting the requirement - for example distributing to members through the CAs adds human contact to the process and costs very little.

      Similarly the printing cost issue is vastly over-stated. The current document is 168 pages in PDF form, but the draft listing the resolutions was only 32 page images. Double that to account for listing the affected policies and you get a booklet with 64 page images on 34 sheets. Order 12,000 on long timelines and this will cost less than a penny a page - about what the Herald pays to print its glossy SWerve magazine.

      Meeting the party's constitutional requirements for this could, in other words, have cost rather less than the $10,000 he cites for the mailout. (Including the 17 late resolutions, the AGM schedule, and the Constitutional amendments would have produced an 80 page booklet. With ordinary paper covers this would have cost about $7,600 for 12,000 copies. Distribution via CAs and regional directors might have added $2,000 to that.)

      The bottom line on this "rebuttal", however, is the same as for the constitution redraft itself: it does not build credibility for anyone. On the contrary, almost everything in it is wrong: from personal animus to the absurd printing method and the pathetic footnote there's just nothing remotely professional about it.

    There are, of course some bits in the new version that are clearer than they were in the old - one particularly wry example being the one word change made in the eponymously numbered paragraph i.i of section VII which, in the original, says:

    (i) The Executive Committee may:

    (i) appoint an executive director who shall report to and be accountable to the Executive Committee and shall approve any staff positions as required for the organization and administration of the business of the Party,

    (Ok, I'm sorry about that "eponymously" -self referential naming- crack, but the change here added the word "who" before the second "shall" and the fact that this occured in subsection i.i just cracks me up.)


    Rather to my surprise nobody has yet raised the credibility issue; viz: if the existing constitution can be ignored and/or mis-represented now, why would we think that the same people will hold themselves to a higher standard with respect to their new constitution?

    For example, the existing requirement is that constitutional change proposals be provided to members at least 60 days in advance of the AGM. This was not done - so this motion is clearly inappropriate, but is being presented anyway. Similarly there's nothing in the Constitution to disallow nominations from the floor - but those nominations are being barred, supposedly on constitutional grounds.

    What we're seeing throughout these issues is what I think of as slick and manipulative wording. I cannot speak to intent, but the effect of many of the things being said and done by the proponents of these changes seems to be to mislead members into believing things that simply aren't true.

    It is literally true, for example, that the constitution does not allow for nominations from the floor -but only because the constitution makes no mention of this at all. Thus the conclusion any normal reader would jump to, that the constitution forbids floor nominations, is the opposite of the truth because the standard applicable here is that what isn't barred, is allowed.

    In that same vein the VM notes in the document consistently downplay change - and VM1, for example, along with the many emails pushing it, seems designed to mislead members into thinking this thing is a draft for further discussions when, in reality, this motion, once passed, affects complete change in the orientation of the party from bottom up to top down.

    Consider too how the web availability of this draft was announced about 25 days after the deadline for delivery of the actual text to members had passed - as one point among three in an email from "webmaster" sent at 11:10 AM on May 21st:

    There was a problem with the link to the Constitutional amendment resolutions. Go to to see the resolutions. Our apologies.

    I find it hard to read this without thinking something like "oh, ok, it's probably been there for awhile, somebody just made a mistake in the link" - except that the actual document is internally dated to 4:38PM the evening before the email went out, and no other email from the party was received during the intervening night or early morning.

    So what to do?

    I like Blaine Maller's suggestion: create a task force to rewrite the party constitution - and want to add that if this is done openly, with direct member input from across the party, and run by someone with a clear knowledge of the issues and a track record of honest dealing (i.e. Link Byfield), I'll personally volunteer to do all the tech work and whatever else I can to make it work.

    Step one, however, will be to table the current redraft as nothing more than a draft for discussion by massively voting it down at the AGM.

    The page reference for the comparison

    For a comparison between the current Wildrose Alliance constitution and the proposed replacement, please click here.