CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
A little over a year ago I launched our unity campaign by signing a Grassroots Guarantee, stating that “A new united party will only be created if approved by a clear majority of grassroots party members in a fair and open referendum.”
Ten days ago we held that referendum, with 95% of both PC and Wildrose members voting to create Alberta’s new United Conservative Party.
Promise made. Promise kept.
Today I signed a new Grassroots Guarantee – that “the policies of the UCP must be developed democratically by its grassroots members, not imposed by the Leader.”
We must develop policy the same way that we created the new party – democratically, with the grassroots members in charge. We must get the democratic horse in front of the policy cart.
Our conservative coalition fractured in recent years partly because Leaders began telling people what to think, rather than listening to them. We must not repeat that mistake. We’ve had enough arrogant, top-down leadership. We need servant leadership that empowers grassroots Albertans, instead of dictating our new party’s policies to them.
I have clear, consistent convictions, and a proven track record of implementing conservative policy reforms. I don’t flinch when I’m under attack. I will continue to answer policy questions with my own views on the whole range of issues, just as I’ve done at over 700 events in the past year, and in hundreds of interviews. And I will certainly offer my thoughts on key issues – like repealing the carbon tax, balancing the budget, and defending school choice. But I believe it is a mistake to run a Presidential-style leadership campaign with a detailed policy platform before our members can even be consulted.
I also believe it is imprudent for leadership candidates to start making certain specific commitments for an election two years from now. For example, I obviously want a UCP government to balance the budget and cut taxes, but we have no idea how bad the deficit and debt will be under this NDP government two years from now. As a former Minister of the two largest government departments in Canada, I know from experience that we cannot credibly commit to specific budget plans for the year 2020 right now. To pretend otherwise is to put political gimmicks ahead of sober decision-making. Albertans will see through that approach.
Hilariously, the pundits and critics are attacking our new party for not having comprehensive policies, even though we are barely a week old. These are the same folks who have taken shots at the unity movement since day one. But we were right to pursue unity in a deliberate, democratic fashion. And we should develop our policies in exactly the same way, based on the fourteen founding principles of the UCP, which reflect the values and aspirations of the vast majority of Albertans.
A year ago, I laid out our Five Point Unity Plan. In it, I proposed holding our founding policy convention before the leadership election. That’s because I wanted to empower the membership to set the policy direction and develop our constitution, rather than leadership candidates. Unfortunately, at the end of the Unity Agreement negotiations, I had to concede to demands to elect a Leader before members could be consulted on policy or the party constitution.
So today I am proposing a Five Point Plan for Grassroots Policy. If I am elected Leader, I will work collaboratively with the UCP Policy Committee, the Interim Board, and the Caucus, to:
1. Organize regional policy workshops, inviting all members to participate in open, informed debate to generate ideas for local policy resolutions.
2. Encourage constituency associations to hold local policy meetings, where grassroots resolutions can be proposed and voted on.
3. Allow all members to comment on and rank preferred resolutions, using a secure online platform.
4. Debate, amendment, and adoption of resolutions at the founding UCP Convention to form a Policy Declaration.
5. Appoint a Platform Committee made up of UCP members and MLAs to consult Albertans of all backgrounds and refine the Founding Principles and Policy Declaration into an election platform.
At the end of this process, we will present Albertans with a well-thought out, detailed, positive vision for the future of Alberta that is informed by extensive input from our grassroots members, and regular Albertans. It will be a blueprint for renewing the Alberta Advantage, pointing the way to an opportunity society that is animated by a conservatism of the heart.
If this new party is to succeed, we need a lot less “I” and “me”, and a lot more “us” and “we.” It’s time to park the egos, and that begins with putting the members first on policy development.