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49th Alberta-Northwest Territories convention

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Delegates stick with established structure

Change wasn’t in the works when delegates met in Lethbridge for the 49th Alberta-Northwest Territories Command Convention June 12-14, as several attempts to restructure the executive were defeated.

The votes, by 257 delegates, put an end to an ambitious restructuring of command which was presented at the 2013 convention and then tabled until this year’s convention.

It all happened quickly on the first morning of business. Past President Darrel Jones started by formally asking to withdraw the proposal that had been tabled in 2013.

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Chris Strong is installed as president.
Tom MacGregor

Much of the plan, which called for the elimination of one vice-president position and replacement of the treasurer with a financial committee, was already in place. One vice-president had resigned mid-term for personal reasons. Mark Barham, who had been elected treasurer in 2013, resigned after being elected dominion treasurer at the dominion convention in Edmonton in 2014.

Separate resolutions were then presented to eliminate the two positions. First Vice Chris Strong presented the resolution to drop the vice-president position, explaining that each of the three vice-presidents had looked after three of the command’s nine districts. With the resignation of one vice-president, he had assumed responsibility for the vice-president’s three districts while a district commander had taken over as chair of the committee assigned to the vice-president.

Some delegates wanted to know how much money would be saved by eliminating the position. Strong explained that the savings was in the per diem and travel expenses. Former command president Bob Hannah quoted the command’s bylaws, saying that the command had an obligation to elect another vice-president from the members of the Provincial Executive Council.

When the question was finally called, the resolution was clearly defeated.

Next up was a resolution to replace the treasurer with a financial committee. Delegates said there always was a financial committee in the past and that it was chaired by the treasurer. Again they voted down the concurred resolution.

The convention was not all without change. A new format had been adopted, running the convention from Friday to Sunday with Friday devoted to workshops and opening ceremonies. The formal part of the convention began Friday evening with a parade of Legionnaires and the provincial ladies auxiliary, which was holding its convention at the same time. As the parade to Gen. Stewart Branch got started, clouds turned black with a storm brewing. A sigh of relief was felt as the dignified parade ended and all went inside just as the storm started.

Inside, a short remembrance service and wreath-placing service was held. Dominion Vice-President Ed Pigeau, Alberta-Northwest Territories Command President Wayne Donner and Gen. Stewart Branch President Kent Perry placed a wreath on behalf of the Legion, while Alberta-N.W.T. Ladies Auxiliary President Ellen Mastel placed one on behalf of the L.A. After officials presented greetings, Second World War veteran Stan Dean declared the convention officially open.

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Dominion Vice-President Ed Pigeau (left) and Alberta-Northwest Territories Command President Wayne Donner salute.
Tom MacGregor
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Legionnaires and ladies auxiliary members march together.
Tom MacGregor
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Bobbi McCoy is elected first vice.
Tom MacGregor

Business began the next morning at the Lethbridge Lodge Hotel and Convention Centre.

In his president’s report, Donner said, “The Royal Canadian Legion functions smoothly mainly because of the dedication of so many valuable volunteers.” He noted highlights of his term, which included the opening of a new branch in Okotoks, now with 178 members.

Debate started with the first resolution presented at the convention. It called for an end to the practice of the command paying the expenses of past presidents to attend convention, exempting past presidents prior to 2015. Instead, command would pay the expenses for one convention after the person completed his or her term as immediate past president.

Former president John Poynter challenged the resolution, saying, “Command presidents work very hard.

Everyone who has been in that position knows of which I speak. The cost is not that much. Why pick on immediate and future past presidents?”

Donner replied that Legion members have been asked to reduce costs in their branches and at Dominion Command, so the provincial command had to make some cuts as well. In the end, the resolution carried.

Another concurred resolution would have created three categories of life membership: ordinary, associate and affiliate. After one delegate said, “A life member is a life member is a life member,” the resolution was defeated.

A non-concurred resolution was brought back to the floor, asking that computer-generated entries be accepted in the poster contest at the senior level only. Poppy Committee Chair Bobbi McCoy said command would like to try a pilot project before accepting the resolution.

Chairman Wayne Freestone then tried to withdraw the resolution, but was challenged from the floor by a delegate pointing out that only the branch that brought the resolution back could withdraw it. Freestone agreed. The resolution was put to a vote but was defeated.

Pigeau said Dominion Command had received a message at the dominion convention in Edmonton and had made several changes. “We are within $100,000 of a balanced budget this year and will have a balanced budget by the next dominion convention,” he said. “Further, we have passed a resolution never to bring forward a deficit budget again.”

He highlighted the new membership system that Dominion Command had invested in, which would simplify the paperwork of the current system.

Convention heard from Liz Taylor, associate dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta. She described some of the programs that the faculty is working on to help soldiers, including a new leadership program and work with prosthetics.

Taylor was followed by the University of Alberta Military Rehabilitation Chair Dr. Ibolja Cernak, whose position is sponsored by the command. She explained that she is working on science for soldiers’ sake. Much of her research is into establishing evidence of the injuries caused by blasts. “The exposure causes the brain to age faster than someone who has not experienced a blast,” she said.

Cernak has been studying a group of 160 soldiers from Edmonton and Shilo, Man., since 2013. Saliva and urine samples have been studied to see how they change during the course of the military career. She said about 50 per cent of the group was exposed to blasts during their service. “They performed well but 30 per cent of them were close to the breaking point,” she said.

Once the resolutions concerning the number of vice-presidents and the treasurer had been settled, Poynter acted as elections chair.

First Vice Chris Strong of Innisfail Branch and Vice-President Barry Lazorak of Rycroft Branch ran for president with Strong being elected. Lazorak then dropped down and ran against Vice-President Bobbi McCoy of Red Deer Branch for first vice with McCoy being elected.

Eight candidates ran for the three positions of vice-president, including Lazorak, Charles Ryan of Athabasca Branch, Audrey Ferguson of Kingsway Branch in Edmonton, Wayne Freestone of Field Marshall Alexander Branch in Vermilion, Rosalind Larose of Stettler Branch, Malcolm Hughes of Okotoks Branch, Jim Stewart of Sylvan Lake Branch and Karen Shaw of Redcliff Branch. Elected were Lazorak, Ryan and Hughes.

Three candidates ran for the position of treasurer, including Stewart, Ken Farrer of Robertson Memorial Branch in Medicine Hat and Lee Holman of Stettler Branch with Holman elected. Freestone was challenged for re-election by Dave Horrocks of Centennial Branch in Calgary and Larry Keddie of Drumheller Branch with Horrocks winning.

Throughout the convention, the Local Arrangements Committee, chaired by Gary Maclean, provided transportation and entertainment, including a barbecue on the Saturday night, at Gen. Stewart Branch. 


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