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post #46 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 03:17 PM Thread Starter
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At this website:
http://votermedia.blogspot.ca/2012/0...-mountain.html
Mark Latham has posted an important contribution to this debate. Though I don't agree with all of his conclusions, he has done some critical research. For instance, his proposal to have a team of bloggers cover MEC elections has the problem of who selects the bloggers. If the board selected them, this would amount to the board choosing who gets elected.

Mainly, he emailed each of the candidates for the MEC board, and asked them where they stood on the special resolution to allow the sitting board to decide who can be elected to the board. Along the way, he ran into some remarkable communication issues.

12 of the 13 candidates replied to his email.

Robert Campbell has not replied.

Every response through MEC's email system automatically appended a statement that the contents were not for public use (!). Asked about this, the responses included:

"...we are very limited in our ability to say what we want and to whom we want - this is very clearly outlined in the rules for candidates. Our email is also audited by MEC staff."

"As candidates, we were asked to abide with rules on how to communicate with members, which include using this MEC address."

"...the MEC elections team is asking that we do not share all our communications with the other candidates..."

"You may share my reply, but not to other candidates."


7 of the 11 responding candidates allowed reproduction of their responses. There are no MEC Rules limiting behaviour of MEC directors. They do, however, have to be mindful of the Rule added a few years ago that a 2/3 majority of directors can kick any director off the board.

Now, directors are supposed to show vision and leadership. It sounds more like schoolchildren agreeing to follow classroom rules. I would love to know how these explicit restrictions on directors and candidates have developed, and who did it.

While I was on the board, there was pressure to conform. The argument was that any division apparent in the board made the board look weak an ineffectual to the employees, the members, and the public. So there were some vague principles that an individual director should not speak to the media without checking with the board first. But nothing like what sounds like is going on now.

Here's an obvious problem. Say the board does something really dumb, such as proposing a special resolution that offends well-informed members. An incumbent director standing for reelection will be associated with that proposal even if they are strongly against it. If they were prevented from saying anything about the matter, they could lose the election. That would be unfair, but in a sense it would be deserved because they lacked the fortitude to resist being bullied and stand up for what is right.

Here's how the candidates who responded, and allowed their responses to be made public, felt about the special resolution:

Blair Hammond: opposed (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blair...19493241402043)

He went on to say: "This email address, and its formatting, is provided to us by MEC for the purposes of the campaign. Once the campaign is over, it disappears. All of the communications on it are monitored by the MEC communications team, for as I understand it they want to ensure that we're not spamming folks, providing inaccurate information, or misrepresenting ourselves as representatives of the Co-op etc."

"The caveat is that the MEC elections team is asking that we do not share all our communications with the other candidates,"

Well, at least that explains why so many of the responses looked alike - they're using a template provided by MEC. Now that's showing leadership!

Morrie Schneiderman: opposed

Geoffrey White: in favour (www.VoteforGeoff.com)

Shawn Mitchell: didn't say whether he opposed or favoured the resolution

"We took steps to create a new role at the senior staff level (Senior Manager, Governance) and began fine-tuning existing board processes, etc. to lay the foundation for board members to truly govern and lead from a strategic and generative point of view, not just fiduciary oversight."

"all candidates are advised that their email responses are automatically cc'ed to the Governance team to ensure our compliance with the campaign rules."

Dale Mills: in favour

Richard Novek: in favour (www.magrich.ca)

"As well, we are very limited in our ability to say what we want and to whom we want - this is very clearly outlined in the rules for candidates. Our email is also audited by MEC staff. It does at first glance seem quite restrictive but the idea here is to ensure that all candidates are on a level playing field and that email exchangers do not make personal attacks or unsubstantiated claims about the Coop."

Chris Wagner: in favour

Presumably, Carole Dobson, David Chamberlain, Anders Ourom, Mike Wearing, and Drew Anderson did not give permission for Mark Latham to post their responses.

----------

A comment on the restrictions on candidates and directors:

Here's the picture: MEC's board has a strict code of conduct that directors obey or risk being kicked off the board. This code is policed by MEC staff. Apparently also there is a "Senior Manager, Governance". It would be really interesting to know if these people report to the board or to the management. If they report to the management, then we have a situation where MEC's board is substantially controlled by the management. If so, this is utterly unacceptable.
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post #47 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 03:57 PM
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Not strictly on topic, but a strange move for MEC. The latest MEC listens questionnaire indicates they are thinking about starting an "adventure travel company" as part of MEC. Almost a Walmart experience to dominate the market in just about everything you can.
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post #48 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 06:15 PM
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of the 46 replies to this post SgRant, 23 are yours.
what dog do you have in this fight?

what is the real story here?
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post #49 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 06:53 PM
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I'm not speaking for Steve (nor would he need me to) but I think he feels strongly about MEC keeping the values of a co-op. Since he is a long standing member he is well qualified to speak to the way things were intended to be run. I have to agree strongly with rejecting this resolution, essentially because it gives the board too much power, closer to an autocracy than a co-op. Since board members sit only for a year at a time, why would a board in good conscience want the power to dismiss a board member ? If that resolution were to be adopted, said person should have the right to some kind of arbitration or at least due process
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post #50 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 07:24 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by seawallrunner

of the 46 replies to this post SgRant, 23 are yours.
what dog do you have in this fight?

what is the real story here?
He heard about it, he did his research, he's very opposed, and he's willing to put some work in to help others get educated about it and he's interested in convincing people to his side.
Does one need a personal motive to get involved in a cause?
It sounds like he has a personal connection due to his history, but I have no trouble believing that's just given the strength to his opposition now.
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post #51 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 08:09 PM
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I don't oppose the research, or the passion - I am however surprised by the number and frequency of posts in this topic by one same person.
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post #52 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 08:42 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by seawallrunner

I don't oppose the research, or the passion - I am however surprised by the number and frequency of posts in this topic by one same person.
When then I guess I better posting more here too, 'cause I hate this resolution as much as Steve does.
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post #53 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 09:08 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by seawallrunner

of the 46 replies to this post SgRant, 23 are yours.
what dog do you have in this fight?

what is the real story here?
A fair question to ask.

You have no idea how much I wish my posts were in the minority. The greatest threat to member control of MEC is member disinterest. I sorely wish many other members were as familiar, or more familiar with MEC's "issues" than I am. I don't enjoy babysitting the welfare of the place, which is why I haven't been doing it for 20 years. The degree of alarm I feel about what this resolution signals to me, overcame my wish to keep out of it.

I think you have to agree that I know a thing or two about MEC, and maybe even have some worthwhile ideas. What has been missing in the past, and is still missing to a great degree, is a means to reach other members. So far, the board/MEC has had complete control of that, but that control is cracking.

And if anyone's wondering if this is preparation for a candidacy, I hope I never again serve on MEC's board. I'd rather beat myself on the head with a crowbar.

Edit: I forgot an important point. The websites others have set up, and the Georgia Straight article indicate I'm certainly not the only one very concerned about this subject.
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post #54 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by mick range

Since board members sit only for a year at a time, why would a board in good conscience want the power to dismiss a board member ? If that resolution were to be adopted, said person should have the right to some kind of arbitration or at least due process.
It has been the practice since at least 1980 that the board has 9 members. The term is 3 years. So ignoring cases where directors step down before their term expires, there are elections for three positions every three years. This helps ensure transfer of knowledge and skills over the years.

Members have had access to a grievance procedure, enshrined in MEC's Rules, since the place became a cooperative. However, my one experience with an MEC member grievance showed me that it can be gamed. I'd be happy to share the insights with anyone launching a grievance. MEC can always simply refuse to convene a grievance panel, which would leave the complainant with no alternative but to take MEC to court. And then you'll find MEC has unlimited funds to use one of the largest law firms in the country to deal with you. So basically how easy it is to fight MEC is up to the board.

At least, until there is a means for members to communicate with large numbers of other members.
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post #55 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2012, 09:46 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by mick range

why would a board in good conscience want the power to dismiss a board member ?
...at the risk of yet another post....

That's a very good question. I suppose a director could be acting as a mole for other business interests. I'd think there would be means other than a 2/3 majority of the board to kick said person off, to deal with this. The board has lawyers who would be happy to go after a director who would be so incredibly stupid as to be negligent, who steals, who acts for other interests etc.

If someone has unpopular proposals, they just don't get a majority vote on motions put before the board. Simple.

Because of the 3-year stepped turnover of directors, there's no way a slate of misguided candidates could capture control of the board. The concept is preposterous.

I was appalled when I saw the board had put this Rule change before the members, who, having no information to the contrary and no knowledge to doubt the board's advice, dutifully passed it. I have sat on MEC's board while it was very fractious, both as a member of an unwelcome minority, and as part of a majority having to deal with a very obstructive minority. Both situations were extremely difficult, but we dealt with them, and survived.

In the absence of an explanation otherwise, I'd have to view this rule as the product of fearful people who don't want to trust their fate to due process. Just what are they afraid of?

IF MEC members had a discussion site where they could talk to and about candidates, and discuss proposed resolutions, no one would dare run for improper reasons, and the board wouldn't dare put half-baked and misguided resolutions before the membership. Both would look stupid pretty quickly. Continuing MEC's affairs as a relatively closed shop is what allows the plot to be lost.

IF MEC board meeting schedules, agendas, minutes and voting records were posted online, that would also work against any director being irresponsible.
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post #56 of (permalink) Old 03-21-2012, 01:07 PM Thread Starter
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In responses to questions posed to them, candidates for election to the board have made some interesting statements:

"...we are very limited in our ability to say what we want and to whom we want - this is very clearly outlined in the rules for candidates. Our email is also audited by MEC staff."

"As candidates, we were asked to abide with rules on how to communicate with members, which include using this MEC address."

"All of the communications on it are monitored by the MEC communications team"

"...the MEC elections team is asking that we do not share all our communications with the other candidates..."

"You may share my reply, but not to other candidates."


It seems clear candidates are required to use email to communicate with members, that goes through MEC only. This email appears to be read by MEC staff.

Restrictions such as these are outrageous. This isn't China. What happened to the separation between board and management?

So far as I know, these restrictions are not sanctioned by MEC's Rules, which means candidates are not bound by them. However, it also appears candidates lack whatever it takes to stand up to this sort of containment. This may explain why, with one exception I know about, candidates are not participating in discussions.

If the proposed special resolution to allow the board to remove candidates they don't like, the board could ban any candidate who violates the board's restrictions on campaign activities. What other restrictions are placed on candidates?
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post #57 of (permalink) Old 03-30-2012, 12:20 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by sgRant

What other restrictions are placed on candidates?
Well, the voting on the special resolution is now closed. We'll know the results at MEC's AGM on April 25.

I wonder what restrictions are placed on candidates now that voting has ended?

I'm puzzled as to why, on the various discussion sites, blogs, and web pages where this matter has been discussed, almost no one has voiced support for the resolution other than some of the candidates in the current board election. Given the normally hyper-critical treatment of issues online, and that the MEC board, who presumably are not crazy people, obviously support the resolution, why have so few expressed agreement with them?

Surely people aren't afraid to speak up. Surely the MEC board isn't so out of touch that no one agrees with them. It's at least plausible that a roughly $250 million per year business should have a certain level of business expertise on the board.

Or is there agreement that the board provides leadership and vision, while the managers are hired for business skill? That MEC governance is more like a citizen democracy than a business? Can a "lay" board successfully guide such an organization, just as "lay" citizens populate our governments? If it can't, how do you get enough business expertise on a coop board without violating democratic fundamentals? Does everyone think MEC has done well enough up to this point without this measure, and does this prove or disprove that it can continue to do so? Do people possibly think MEC's problem is that there is too much business influence on the board?

Or is it just the approach? Did members resent being given only one side of the story, as though they were being taken for dummies? Were even members who may agree with the resolution angered by the fact the most serious effect of the resolution appeared to have been deliberately omitted from clear and specific mention? Have members become increasingly concerned about the direction of MEC and the board and this was just a flashpoint?

Hopefully the minimum benefits to come out of this will be that uncritical acceptance of what MEC has to say will be a thing of the past and MEC members will be more engaged in the organization.
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post #58 of (permalink) Old 04-25-2012, 11:12 PM
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The Special Resolution passed with over 91% in favour of it.

The Ordinary Resolution that deals with Director remuneration (how much money the Directors get) passed ninety something in favour to eleven opposed.

The other Ordinary Resolution that proposed that MEC chnage its primary finanical institution to a credit union was defeated, thirty something in favour to sixty something opposed.

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post #59 of (permalink) Old 04-26-2012, 11:57 AM Thread Starter
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This indicates "social media" failed to even put a dent in MEC's ability to mail one-sided information to what appears to be a very gullible membership. If something as seriously offensive as the special resolution passes with so much support, the problem is far worse than I thought. This should not be surprising in a country capable of giving a majority government to the likes of Stephen Harper.

It would appear that reforming MEC's politics depends on the emergence of people with the clarity to fully understand what's wrong with MEC's democracy, the courage to tackle reforming MEC's politics, and the determination to stand fast in the face of opponents who have all the power and who continue to tighten their grip on that power.

Reformers' only tools are to run for election, and/or use the member grievance process to challenge anything they see as being wrong.
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post #60 of (permalink) Old 04-26-2012, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by sgRant

This indicates "social media" failed to even put a dent in MEC's ability to mail one-sided information to what appears to be a very gullible membership. If something as seriously offensive as the special resolution passes with so much support, the problem is far worse than I thought. This should not be surprising in a country capable of giving a majority government to the likes of Stephen Harper.

It would appear that reforming MEC's politics depends on the emergence of people with the clarity to fully understand what's wrong with MEC's democracy, the courage to tackle reforming MEC's politics, and the determination to stand fast in the face of opponents who have all the power and who continue to tighten their grip on that power.

Reformers' only tools are to run for election, and/or use the member grievance process to challenge anything they see as being wrong.
Or it could be that you are wrong. Instead you seem to be insulting everyone with a different view.
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