Bad news for Provincial Green Party’s in Canada.

GPNSLogoWhat a depressing story I just read. Apparently, according to the Edmonton Journal,  the Green Party of Alberta is about to get decertified. This comes on top of the recent news from Nova Scotia, where according to the CBC,  the GPNS is purported to be at the brink of decertification.

What the hell is going on here? I can sort of understand the Nova Scotia greens. They have a miniscule membership, and despite the public funding they received last year, are pretty small potato’s. There isn’t much of a Federal organisation to piggy back on, and despite Elizabeth May’s heavily funded Central Nova campaign, there just isn’t much on the ball there. Clearly they don’t have anybody hanging around who can prepare a basic set of financials. While it looks like there’s a chance to avoid de-certification now, it’s still touch and go.

ABGREENS_Logo1Now what about Alberta Greens? In the past, the Alberta Greens have done a lot of things right. The Province has a real wealth of political talent for the Greens, and the Green activists have been as effective as anybody in Canada. The GPC has approximately 1,000 members in the Province, and that is despite a certain level of hostility to Elizabeth May, our current national leader. In Alberta, the need for a credible provincial voice for the environment is really important. The Conservatives have been running the fiefdom on behalf of the Oil patch for several generations now, and with an increasingly diverse population, people need a clear choice on election day to voice their displeasure.

I know that this blog is primarily about the federal Green Party of Canada, but this one-two punch is relevant to the GPC’s fortunes. I have posted often on the importance of organising in between elections. The bare truth though is that the resources available outside an election period are a tiny fraction of what happens during an election. The entire electorate gets galvanized, and starts to actually pay attention to politics. For the GPC, this has meant that many thousands of people come to our website under their own steam, and join, donate, volunteer, take signs, and attend our events. The funds raised, and more importantly, the big spike in membership numbers is a huge fillip to the GPC organisers everywhere.

What is true Federally is also true Provincially. Every Provincial election is an opportunity for the Provincial unit to draw in thousands of new members, volunteers, donors, etc. In Ontario, where I live, the GPC and the GPO have an awful lot of informal attachments. If you look at the websites of the most succesful Riding Associations, you will find that the Federal, and Provincial executives are often mirror images, with roles swapped, but the names being the same. When supporters are identified, then obviously the sister organisation benefits at the same time. Electoral skills are honed by fighting more elections. ID’d supporters lists grow in leaps and bounds with every election, Federal or Provincial. Donor lists can be worked in rotation, depending on when the next election is. Oh, there are all kinds of ways in which they re-inforce each other.

With the loss of Alberta Greens, this mutual re-inforcement is gone in Alberta. It’s not only that, there’s the big loss of credibility with the electorate. All of you GPC activists out there can expect a few embarrasing moments as a result of this news. Expect to be buttonholed at the office by gleeful colleagues asking you about the joke Party you belong to.

I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done. For some reason, the GPC has been a little bit hostile to some of the Provincial Party’s, where they should be recognising the dynamic I have written of here. Certainly the best and strongest EDA’s in the country understand full well what I am saying. It cannot be a surprise to the GPC’s paid organisers that their greatest successes have been where there is a strong Provincial organisation to backstop the GPC organisers. Should not the GPC lend a helping hand?

Well irrespective of whether the GPC should formally help out or not, I encourage all my readers who have contacts in Nova Scotia, or especially in Alberta to get on the phone, or email, or smoke signal, or however you like to communicate, and get in touch with them. This matters to us all, and every bit of pressure we can bring to bear to resolve these farcical issues should be brought to bear. For the Alberta Greens, bury the goddam hatchet for an hour, and file the goddam returns. I have no interest whatsoever in the merits of the dispute, or who did what to whom. The failure to file, and the withholding of statements is inexcusable, and worthy of a kindergarten class, not grown ups.  Resolve the issue, then continue with your bun fight if you still feel so inclined.

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7 Responses

  1. To be clear, I believe Joe Anglin is misrepresenting what has taken place with the Alberta party. He and his colleagues were given the full financial documentation in a timely manner. They chose to not handle that documentation well, failing to provide it to their accountant who could have produced all the necessary reporting with it.

    David Crowe, the previous party CFO, has documented what went on with the party finances:
    http://davidcrowe.ca/Green/notgoodtobegreen.html

    and I have documented much of what occurred that resulted in Joe Anglin and his associates taking control of the party:
    http://green.grantneufeld.ca/2008agm-GrantCommentary.html

    What has occurred comes across to me as not a dispute among Greens, but the intervention of a non-Green group of people with the purpose of disrupting the Green Party in Alberta.

  2. As I said above, this needs to get settled. I guess it’s too late, but if the bookkeeping software was kept up to date, why not simply print out the statements, supporting reports, and send the pdf’s off to the new executive? Provide the auditor with the bank statements to verify, and get on with it? The whole thing seems pretty stupid to me, and has gone one step beyond sleazy politics. I don’t care who did what to whom. Two people could have averted these ridiculous consequences had they swallowed their pride, sat down in a room for 15 min. and prepared the requisite statements. If the former executive wanted to prove their case, then a final set of statements printed in the local newspaper would have established the veracity of their claims.

  3. I’m the former CFO of Alberta Greens. There is no specific set of files that can be printed out to do the books. Accounting software allows you to do the reports the way you want. You might want to export the customer list into an Excel spreadsheet for example and do a mail merge. Maybe you prefer tab delimited, maybe you’ll just do a query and do the tax receipts by hand from what’s printed on the screen. And besides, no matter how many reports are produced, there’s always the need for ad hoc queries.

    The facts are that 1) I gave the new executive all paper and electronic documentation (and some documents I created specifically for this) including the full MYOB accounting database. 2) They sent only some of these documents to the accountant NOT including the accounting file. 3) I taped a conversation with their accountant who verified that he did NOT receive the accounting file, that he DID receive at least one file that was found in the same ZIP archive and that he COULD have produced the financial reports and tax receipts if given the accounting file. Finally, 4) they only contacted me once and that was for a user name/password I had neglected to provide. It was not necessary for the annual report and it was provided the same day it was requested.

    The assumption that when there is a dispute that blame can be apportioned 50:50 is naive and unsupported in this case. The new executive either has no understanding of paperless accounting (and were too arrogant to ask for help) or they deliberately withheld information from their own accountant so they could destroy the party and blame it on me. Nobody has yet come up with a plausible third possibility. Either way I’m not sure what I could have done differently.

    For more information, including the taped conversation, see: http://davidcrowe.ca/Green/notgoodtobegreen.html

  4. If an outside group took over the Alberta Greens, that isn’t the problem. The problem is that their organization and constitutional structure didn’t forsee this possibility and left them open to it.

    I have noticed for years and years that people in the Greens think constitutional issues are not worth paying any attention to, and anyone who does think about them is just a jerk who wastes the leaders valuable time.

    Oh well—.

  5. I’ll add a practical point to what the CFO said above.

    Viz what BGB suggested, it is not really feasible to unwind a set of books that has been seriously botched, and/or which two parties have had their hands on and are in conflict.

    It would take forensic work to come to a reasonably certain reconstruction of what really happened. This is not likely to be a matter for the police or Elections Alberta… and who else would have the money or will to pay for this? [And a privately hired investigator would take longer still if either party refused to cooperate- either out of peeve/malice or simply being fed up.]

    Realistically speaking, once a non-profit has reached a certain point of internal acrimony, unwinding financial blame becomes impossible. And by the sounds of it the AGP reached that tipping point some time before the inevitable definitive end.

  6. I have certainly heard about some Green constitutional things that strike me as having understandable reasons for existing, but throw up complications that make snarls and/or blow-ups more likely.

    Let alone the point too few people pay attention. [Mind you while it MAY be a smaller percentage in the Green parties… its quite a minority in any party.]

    All that said, the best designed Constitution and/or by-laws is not going to save the day when things turn nasty. All structures have plenty of ‘handles’ for stacking, gaming, sandbagging, and taking revenge.

    A structure designed wih the always existing potential for fatal animosity only gives a CHANCE that it is effectively more difficult for people to game the structure than they want to get into.

  7. In response to Ken, I have a lot of recent experience in having to recreate financial statements for an eco-business for which I was a board member. I’ve also had to recreate statements from a political campaign that went badly wrong. It is always possible to go back to source documents, provided that original invoices, and bank statements etc. were preserved. In this case, the most important data is on the donations side, and a good paper trail is essential. Unfortunately, I see that IATS was the credit card processor used by the AB Greens. IATS is very convenient, and inexpensive to use. My last experience with them was a disaster though. When you batch a number of transactions with IATS, they report them as a single transaction, net of fees. There is no way to go back and recover the individual donations and transactions from IATS. Unless you have been very meticulous about documenting the donors, $ amounts, Card data, and personal info for every donor, you will not be able to reconstruct statements.
    Bill is correct that the constitution was obviously flawed, although the ultimate test of that will come out in the courts i guess.
    This whole imbroglio represents a political failure. That the parties in conflict didn’t think through the implications of their actions is obvious. It is a fundamental political skill to be able to sit down with so called enemies, and work out a modus operandi. This is a very common failing in the GPC too. ‘Take no prisoners’ seems to be the watchword in too many factional tussles. It stinks, and has inflicted damage on the Party again and again since i first got involved 5 years ago.

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