EDMONTON – Delegates to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ convention bade an emotional farewell to President Dan MacLennan this morning.

Nine years after the former Correctional Officer was first elected as AUPE’s president, MacLennan formally said good-bye during the opening session of the union’s 30th Annual Convention.

“Brothers and sisters I want to thank you for letting me talk to you for probably the last time as president,” MacLennan told delegates. “It’s been with honour and pride that I’ve had this job. I’ve always said — and you’ve heard me — that it’s the best temporary job in the world.

“I’ve always known it’s temporary, so I’ve treated it like that. I didn’t turn it into one of those ‘Put your feet up on the desk you’re here forever’ jobs,” he said.

MacLennan, who has resigned to take a senior position in the private sector, praised AUPE’s membership for its involvement at all levels of the union, especially at the grassroots in worksites across the province.

“I leave this union knowing that I’ve met heroes,” said MacLennan, referring in part to members who work in long-term care for Alberta seniors despite inadequate funding and staffing levels.

Their efforts have borne results, in public awareness of the issue of long-term care and movement toward better policy and funding, MacLennan said. “We didn’t just attack the government. We were talking about the impact of under-staffing and under-funding in health care. Albertans care about union issues when you make them their issues.”

But he warned that when oil prices fall and Alberta’s economic boom ends, AUPE members must be on guard. “As soon as that price goes down, they turn on people, and the people they turn on first are public employees.”

Elected as president for the first time on Oct. 18, 1997, the man fondly known as “Buff” to many recalled identifying a few priorities that would become his calling cards over the next nine years.

“I wanted to have more members involved in the union, and I wanted to ensure there was increased communication,” he remembered. “Even though, at that time, our union had a reputation for infighting and politics and attacking management, I thought there was potential for growth and that we could have conventions of more than 380 delegates for 38,000 members. …

“So you guys are like a dream come true for me,” MacLennan said, looking out over more than 650 delegates.

MacLennan then asked the large number of delegates at their first AUPE Convention to stand and be recognized, drawing loud applause from the Convention floor.

“I always wanted to involve new people,” he said. “Unions are dying… they’re stagnating. It’s the same people all the time. So, when I saw the long list of new delegates yesterday, I was extremely pleased.”

Referring to his new job in the private sector, MacLennan drew laughs from delegates when he described a recent discussion he had with new colleagues.

“When I started my new job a month ago, at least three women came up to me and said ‘Is there pizza here today?’ MacLennan joked, who has become synonymous with attending pizza lunches at AUPE worksites around the province during his tenure. “Anyone can have a legacy of union activism. Mine will always include pizza!”

Delegates shouted back: “We love you, Buff!”

MacLennan also thanked his former colleagues in Local 003, AUPE staff and his family and friends who were present for his farewell speech.

“If I’m driving through Claresholm, Medicine Hat or Fort McMurray, I’ll continue to stop by and visit those members.

“I’m really proud of the members. Anything I did, was a result of their involvement.”

Executive Secretary-Treasurer Bill Dechant thanked MacLennan for his unwavering commitment to the union.

“Many of us knew this day was coming, and to our president best known as ‘Dan the Man,’ we have been very fortunate to have you, Dan, as our president for all of these years. I personally feel you’re the best president we’ve ever had.”

MacLennan was also honoured with a Life Membership.

MacLennan concluded, telling the delegates: “The luckiest person here today is me, for having known you.”

Photo: Outgoing AUPE President Dan MacLennan gave a spirited farewell to delegates at the union’s annual convention in Edmonton today.