Friday, February 8, 2008

Paul Hinman: Wildrose Party founders were "underhanded" and "deceptive"

"Underhanded", "deceptive", and "weird". These are the adjectives employed by Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman in describing the registration drive strategies used by the Wildrose Party's founding members. Hinman's verbal assault can be found in a story that appeared in the November 8, 2007 edition of the Fast Forward Weekly:

In a video on the party’s website, staff advise party members against talking about or even mentioning the party when collecting signatures. “It’s extremely weird,” says Paul Hinman, leader of the rival Alberta Alliance party. “I’m just flabbergasted at the way they’re doing it.” ...

... The Wildrose approach is “underhanded” and “deceptive,” [Hinman] says. “I don’t think you should be able to gather signatures if people don’t know.”
The video mentioned in the article featured two prominent founders of the Wildrose Party: (i) the first Executive Director, Link Byfield (currently running for the Wildrose Alliance in the riding of Whitecourt-Ste. Anne), and (ii) the first VP Membership, Sharon Maclise (currently running for the Wildrose Alliance in Leduc-Beaumont-Devon). The video is no longer available, but the article describes it thus:
On the Wildrose video, vice-president of membership Sharon Maclise instructs members on how to collect signatures using a method with “an 80 to 90 per cent effective rate.” To demonstrate, she does a mock cold-call at the door of party vice-president of communications Link Byfield. She begins by telling Byfield that she’s “registering a new political party here in Alberta.” When Byfield asks Maclise what the party stands for, she replies: “I can stand here at the door and tell you all about what the party stands for, and it really doesn’t do us — you and I — any good at this point. We’re just still trying to get the party registered.”

The video reminds members they’re not selling memberships — “you certainly won’t be able to do that,” says Byfield — and instructs members to focus on apartment buildings instead of residential streets, because apartments generally have younger residents. “Younger people are more open to things,” says Maclise on the video. “They’re more inviting. Sometimes as we get older we get a little more crotchety and difficult.” She then gives suggestions on how to get access to locked apartment buildings.
So, while it is likely true that Paul Hinman's description of the video applies to all those involved in the formation of the Wildrose Party, it is also clear that he was singling out the two Wildrosers who had starring roles in the video - Link Byfield, and Sharon Maclise.

Now, those of you who have been following my blogging may recall that I wrote about the Wildrose Party's bizarre registration tactics in The Wildrose Report. I confess that I likened the registration drive to "a sleazy, door to door, vacuum cleaner sales pitch", described it as "a comedy of errors", chastised the techniques used as "manipulative", and accused the Wildrose leaders of "duping the membership".

What you readers are not aware of is that after I wrote these posts, I second-guessed myself. I pondered whether I had been a little too harsh in my choice of words. While I make no bones about that fact that I am oppositional to the right wing federalists, angry braying and personal attacks are certainly not part of my repertoire.

However, now that I see the bitterness and vindictiveness in Paul Hinman's rhetorical onslaught, I must say that any concerns I had about my own writing seem trivial.

The best I could manage in impugning the registration drive was a metaphor about vacuum cleaner sales pitches. Paul Hinman blows his stack and levels a ripping attack aimed directly at the personal integrity of people who are close enough to him politically that they are now running for the party he leads.

Wow! Hinman is harder on his political friends, than I am on my political enemies. I feel like a wuss.

If I'm going to run with this crowd, I'd better learn to crank things up a notch.