Political Annual General Meetings (AGMs) are often dull affairs. They are usually gatherings of the party loyal spending a weekend arguing over minutaie in policy or governance proposals sprinked with speeches and sessions to try and keep members awake before voting on board positions. Sometimes fireworks erupt as competing interest groups in a party try to take over the governance through executive committee elections. The 2023 UCP AGM hit the balance between being a tedious affair and a potentially divisive event as it successfully navigated the weekend with an astounding number of attendees. Premier Danielle Smith opened her speech with mentioning that 3,792 delegates were in attendance making it the largest provincial political convention in Canadian history. It is a striking and significant number. Prices to attend the AGM ranged from $99 for students to $325 for members who missed the early-bird deadline. Having nearly 4,000 Albertans spending that kind of money and time to take part in an AGM is unprecedented and demonstrates a solid base of support. Smith's speech was a relatively short 20 minutes and she made a point of unapologetically touching upon points of prime concern for conservative minded citizens. She garnered an enthusiastic standing ovation when she reiterated her support for parents as the primary caregivers and authority over their children. While this shouldn't be controversial, the usual suspects on the left are indignantly howling that she was pandering to the extreme. There is nothing extreme about parental rights and Smith is making it clear she won't be frightened away from speaking up for them. Speeches are often full of non-committal weasel words as leaders shy away from anything that may be considered controversial. Smith's wasn't like that as she called out socialists and unions while reminding them "we won". The speech wasn't rally style though and not crafted to fire up the room. It was solid and carefully written to cover key points. In past AGMs when leading the Wildrose Party, when Smith would head to the stage, music would be blaring, noisemakers would be handed out, and she would be escorted through the crowd in a rock star sort of atmosphere. At the UCP AGM her appearance came after a short introduction with no lightshow or balloons dropping from the ceiling. It was mercifully right on time as well. The AGM was tightly organized and for the most part appeared to have run like clockwork. Policy discussions allowed for points to be made on each side while votes where quickly tabulated. No groups of people angrily stormed from the room when they didn't get their way and no angry exchanges ensued. With thousands of people in attendance, this is an amazing feat. Political wonks will be chewing over the policies chosen and the executive board members elected for week as they try to interpret what it means for the party. I will let you in on a little political secret. It doesn't mean much. Party policies serve as broad guidelines for the leader and caucus. There is no real obligation for the leader or party to implement those policies into bills within the legislature and they often won't. It's not to say that party policies aren't important, but people put way too much stock into them at times. Likewise, the executive committee of the party is important in the governance of the party itself, but they really don't have as much influence upon the elected members of the legislature as some people may think. When party nominations come though, the executive committee does carry quite a bit of weight. In the end though, only the leader can sign a nomination for a candidate for the party. Most of the public will completely forget the AGM and it's policy choices within a few weeks as they get ready for the holidays. The members of the party who attended the AGM won't forget it though. They took part in a mass bonding exercise and came out unified as a party. This is important when considering the division that has plagued conservative politics in Alberta for years. The party demonstrated it could bring out and engage thousands of citizens in a relatively dry event. No other party can even come close to putting on such a show of strength and organization and while the NDP won't admit it, the UCP AGM surely made them sweat. Opponents of the UCP have been hoping internal strife may take Premier Smith down when the general election couldn't. Those hopes are dashed now. The thousands who came out to the AGM are the workers, the donors and the prime supporters of the party. If respected, they will be the ones on the ground in the next election and they will be tough to beat. In a time of perilous and divisive politics, the UCP AGM could have easily become a disaster. Instead, it demonstrated the party is a well oiled and unified machine with a huge base of active supporters. Premier Smith must be sleeping well these days.