Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gary Mar unrepentant on improper membership sales.

Gary Mar is above the rules, but he isn't doing it for himself, he is doing it for the good of democracy.

What a guy.

PCAA leadership candidate Gary Mar said his campaign volunteers did nothing wrong by selling party memberships within 50 metres of an Edmonton polling station. Adding that his supporters were only trying to help people who can't speak English. "Within the polling station, the advance polling station, you could buy a membership from the party," Mar said. "Except that there's no one at the party table that speaks three different dialects of Chinese."

So there you go. Even though selling memberships within 50 meters of a polling location is totally against PCAA rules, Gary doesn't care and claims that his volunteers did nothing wrong. Rules and ethics are for others I guess (which might just explain how this happened back in 2001-2004 while Mar was the Minister of Health)  

When he entered the race for leader Mar signed an agreement with the PCAA to follow the rules of the leadership contest, not just the rules he liked or agreed with, but all of the rules. I guess a signature on an agreement doesn't mean as much as it used to.(ud)

Honestly, is this the type of person that you want to lead our province? If this type of stuff happens during a leadership campaign can you imagine how a Mar led government would operate.


On the bright side at least no volunteers were blamed or scapegoated today; although campaign spokesman Mark Kastner might not feel that way as it was yesterday when Kastner blamed the improper membership sales on "overzealous supporters" only to have his boss say today that nothing was wrong with those very same sales. Ouch.

Update: A scrutineer from the advanced vote says that she "spoke with at least 3 volunteers who were acting as interpreters and always available."

Why does this not surprise me.

Another bad day for Team Gary Mar.

"If you can't run the campaign with integrity, then how can you promise integrity after?" PCAA leadership candidate Doug Griffiths.

Yesterday was advanced voting day for the PCAA leadership race here in Alberta, and as it turns out, it was also another bad day for team Gary Mar.

Representatives from Gary Mar's leadership campaign were seen breaking party rules Tuesday by selling Progressive Conservative memberships outside an Edmonton advance polling station.
Mar membership sellers were also shooed away from the Calgary polling station on Tuesday.

Team Mar's response, which seems to be the norm of late, was to blame volunteers: "Mar campaign spokesman Mark Kastner blamed the membership sales on "overzealous supporters"

You might think that after the free membership fiasco where Team Mar also laid blame on a hapless volunteer that they would have tried to be a bit more careful and made sure that ALL of their people were properly trained and following the rules to the letter. But after yesterday it appears that neither of these were that high on their priority list, making me wonder how this bunch would ever run a government if they can't even properly train their volunteers in a leadership campaign on the basic rules.

Team Mar wasn't done yet as they went old school by busing in elderly supporters to the advanced poll. (Something that I oddly happened to write about yesterday morning. See 2nd last paragraph)

Gary Mar bus parked within 50 meters of polling place.    Photo Credit: P. Pilarski 

Now busing in supporters is not against the rules per se as Team Mar were quick to point out: Mar campaign spokesman Mark Kastner said the busing is allowed under party rules, and Gary Mar said "I'm not going to apologize because we are better organized than other campaigns", but it is definitely bad optics and reeks of good ol' boy politics that have turned so many away from politics in the past.

How Team Mar managed to find 100's of elderly supporters in both Edmonton and Calgary who all just happened to not be able to vote in the regular poll this coming Saturday (rules state the voters must sign a form saying that they are unable to vote in the regular polls to be able to vote in the advance poll) remains a mystery, but being the ethical bunch they are I am sure that there is a very logical explanation for this mathematical odds defying event.

More on Team Mar's bad day can be found here at Global Edmonton.

"I'm disappointed to hear this today because that sort of conduct, I think, speaks to a pretty cynical approach to politics," PCAA leadership candidate Alison Redford.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Free memberships and the PCAA. The real elephant in the room.

My first post on Team Mar giving away free memberships can be read here.  My second post which contains an audio clip of a volunteer stating "a donor is paying for student memberships" can be found here.

Both of those posts caused quite a stir and I must admit that it was entertaining watching Team Mar try to spin their way out of a 'problem', although having myself accused of fabricating the entire thing or being a partisan hack was not, but here is the rub; there are absolutely NO rules ( according to the PCAA who I called to clarify before Fridays blog post and now also verified by the Edmonton Sun) as to anyone, including the candidates, buying or paying for the memberships of others!

Yes it is true. Giving away 'free memberships' breaks absolutely no rules what so ever within the PCAA and if a donor paying for student memberships the PCAA has no problem what so ever with them doing so as long as they get their 5 bucks. Honestly I was shocked to hear this, as I am sure most of you are as well, and that is why I never wrote or made the accusation that Team Mar was breaking the rules as some have claimed, because the sad reality is that they had not.

It makes more sense now as to why my emails to some of the other candidates campaigns on this subject went unanswered. It makes you wonder just how wide spread a practice this is. ( BTW: For the record only the Doug Griffiths campaign responded to my questions and condemned the practice)

The reasons that this practice is wrong are numerous. First off the optics are terrible. Not only does it lead people to believe that the entire process is corrupt, it brings back visions of the 'old days' when some good ol' boys would load up buses with people they found on the street, handing them $5 to buy a membership to vote for their guy.  More serious than the optics is the very real possibility of someone just buying the leadership (and the Premiers office!). In theory with 250k of donated money someone could buy 50,000 memberships and pass them out to people, and 50,000 votes would have been more than enough to win the PCAA leadership on the first ballot in 2006. Sure it would not be an easy task to do for the average candidate but what about if that candidate had the backing of a large union/s (for example) where finding 50,000 people might not be that difficult of a task. The PCAA, and the Premiers job could be bought for a relatively small amount of cash and NOBODY could stop them!

This type of crap is not allowed in the Conservative Party at the federal level for good reason and looking towards Alberta, the Wildrose Alliance Party's constitution is very clear on this:

3.1.2 indicate their intention to join the Party by personally authorizing an application for membership in the Party...
3.2.1 have paid the prescribed membership fee, personally or through an immediate family member;  (PDF)

So why is it allowed in the PCAA?

You know this entire thing stinks; it is absolute nonsense on so many levels but it is something that I have come to expect as of late from the PCAA. Antiquated rules for an antiquated party.

What happens now?

I guess the candidates have a couple of options. Call out this unethical practice for what it is and promise to make changes to the rules so this embarrassment never happens again, or go grab the cheque book, pass out memberships, and rent the buses for Saturday.

Now that the elephant in the room has been revealed and everyone now knows that paying for memberships is not against the rules, your guess is as good as mine as to what will happen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Team Mar volunteer: " ...a donor is paying for student memberships"

We get letters (and emails), lot and lots of letters...  And look what showed up in one of them.

  " a donor is paying for student memberships"      

Spin that.

Audio clip taken from a video taken Sept 7, 2011 at that very same Gary Mar table at the U of A where this picture was taken.  I decided to use audio only and not full video because the identity of this hard working volunteer is not important and I am not here to toss her under a bus. Team Mar seems to be doing a good enough job of that already.

Background: Last Friday I posted a picture of the Team Gary Mar table at the University of Alberta where it was quite obvious that they were giving away free memberships.

The response was quick from Mar spinners and supporters: "Complete fabrication guys." was the first, but seeing that the free membership sign was so prominently displayed in the photo, that line was going to go nowhere. Next up came what would become the main spin from Team Mar: "it was a mistake by a volunteer, nobody was instructed to do this. Problem was corrected right away."  Which was to be repeated, almost word for word many more times throughout the day. They were in the 'nothing to see here' mode and were only too happy to blame one poor volunteer ( there were at least 3 volunteers there, all of which could see the sign on the table and NONE doing anything about it )  hoping it would all go away. Honestly I have lost more respect for Team Mar over how they tried to spin their way out than I did about some 'free memberships' that were given out.

So what do you think?

An improperly trained volunteer, who knew enough about the memberships to say that they normally cost $5, who on the spur of the moment just happened to come up with this 'donor paying for student memberships' idea on her own, or perhaps is there is more to the story than what Team Mar is telling us? Personally I think that there is more to the story*, but given what we have already seen from Team Mar, I don't expect that we will really ever find out the full story and all I expect to see is more spin and damage control.

As I said in my original post: I guess ethics left the PCAA a long time ago.

*There may indeed be much more to the story but in the end it really doesn't matter; which is the real elephant in the room that nobody is yet talking about.

More on that elephant tomorrow.  (BTW and it isn't the 'donor'.)

UPDATE: More spin from Team Mar: 'campaign advisor Mark Kastner said the incident was a mistake.
“A new volunteer did put the sign down. It was corrected quickly and we don’t think any memberships were given away,” said Kastner in an email.'   To put it simply, BS!  Memberships WERE given away and in case there is doubt about this, there is a certain video...

Friday, September 09, 2011

Team Gary Mar gets caught giving away party memberships.

Can it really get any more blatant than this?  The following photo was taken September 7th on campus at the University of Alberta. In it you can clearly see members of Team Gary Mar openly offering anyone willing to fill out the paperwork a 'Free membership' in the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta; allowing them the opportunity to cast a vote for the next leader of the PCAA who will also be the next Premier of the Province of Alberta.

Now just get that demon dialer set up, give away* 20,000 memberships, and hope those free membership members all show up and vote.

*Not really a give away. Each membership does cost $5 and that must be paid to the PCAA, but all you need is just 1 big fat $100,000 donation to buy it pay for it and you get a great shot at the Premiers Office and all that goes with the job of leading the Province of Alberta.

A bargain at twice the price!

I guess ethics left the PCAA a long time ago.

Update Sept 10: Major update coming soon! Monday morning. 
And here is that update in a new post.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Incompetence at Edmonton City Hall.

It seems that the City Manager and the Transportation Department jumped the gun by not only ordering the new seasonal parking ban signs but by having city crews install them before City Council had made the decision to do so.

I wonder how many dollars that move will cost us?

Update: Councilor Bryan Anderson said it could be a waste of $600,000. If that number is accurate, transportation boss Bob Boutilier must be fired immediately and to use Boutilier's own words: "All I can say is, 'tough! I got no other way of saying it..." you cost the taxpayer $600,000, and you did so without the approval of the elected representatives of the citizens of Edmonton; you have to go. This is an embarrassment.

City Council has yet to make a final decision on the matter but according to news reports (and Councilor Don Iveson), as of right now the seasonal ban is on hold and all of those expensive installed signs are to be ignored.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Like a runaway train. Team Libby can't be stopped.

Okay; it may be a solar powered train at dusk but there is no denying that the ranks of Team Libby are growing!

Come join us won't you. You will be glad that you did.*

*Jack would have wanted it that way.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

City of Edmonton puts up seasonal parking ban signs but City Council has yet to approve the move.

I take it as a sign of an already done deal (just how do they know it is a done deal is a good question though) as City of Edmonton workers are all over the place putting up Seasonal Parking ban signs throughout  Edmonton. But the matter does NOT come before City Council for discussion until theTransportation & Infrastructure Committee meeting September 6th at 9:30 am at City Hall where these reports will be debated.

Previous news stories here here and here ALL seem to suggest that the City was looking at this, and that NO decision was going to be made. Wrong.

So what happened?

According to someone I spoke to at City Hall they are claiming that the City Manager made the call under Bylaw 5590, which is the all encompassing traffic bylaw, but strangely enough 5590 makes NO mention at all of a seasonal parking ban.

So I ask: Who authorized these signs to be produced? Who gave the go ahead for them to be put up?  Can Council reverse this or are they powerless against the moves of Transportation and the City Manager? And lastly: why bother having council discuss this stuff at all if the City Manager can just do as he pleases without any concern as to what the citizens of Edmonton have to say?

Not that Transportation boss Bob Boutilier cares about what you think as he is already on record saying: "All I can say is, 'tough!' i got no other way of saying it. The situation we run into is, we got to keep the system operating." when citizen concerns over the seasonal parking ban were brought up.

BTW: Edmonton has had the Snow Route Bylaw since the 1970's which they did NOT even bother to use at all the last few years ( How do they know that it doesn't work if they didn't even bother trying it?) before some unelected civil servant ran off and passed enacted this new seasonal ban.