In February 2012, the MEC Board proposed a rule change to let its appointees screen all director nominations. In the voter information leaflet mailed to members, this was described as placing "responsibility on the Committee for identifying and presenting a qualified, diverse ballot of candidates to the membership each year ... so members have a positive voting experience." (Full text at votermedia.blogspot.ca/2012/04/mountain-equipment-co-op-agm-democracy.html.)
A few members dug into the details, realized that such a loss of democratic rights would be hard to reverse, and tried to alert others. However, the Board's information control not only monopolized convenient access to members' attention, but also opened the polls for voting as soon as the board's message reached voters, with no prior public debate on the rule change. It passed easily.
In the hope that MEC's Board was well-intentioned, and might correct these problems if they were pointed out, last September I sent them a critique entitled We Want Our Co-ops Back. The resulting correspondence is summarized and linked in this recent post. Its impact can perhaps be inferred from the 2013 voting process, which began on February 21 as the voter information leaflet arrived in member mailboxes.
A positive change from the MEC Board this year, is the creation of an online forum for discussing resolutions proposed for member vote. A positive change from MEC members is that two of the three resolutions came from members, not from the Board. (The Board is opposing both member resolutions.)
Unfortunately though, the benefits of an online forum are undermined by continuing the policies of opening the polls for voting before discussion can start, and prominent placement of the board's spin, compared to inconvenient access to the forum. To find the forum, you have to navigate to mec.ca/election, then click on "RESOLUTIONS", then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Facebook discussion". Apparently, members must have Facebook accounts to participate.
As for the board's proposed resolution, it would shift even more power from members to directors. The references below compare rule numbers in the proposed [P] rules with those in the existing [E] rules.
Regarding member resolutions, the proposed changes would:
(a) Increase the number of members required for submitting a resolution, from 5 to 500 [P 8.02 vs E 8.01b].Regarding the board-appointed nominations committee, which already in 2012 took over the members' power to nominate director candidates, the proposed changes would:
(b) Let the board reject any member resolution for any reason [P 8.03b], no longer limited to the few reasons specified in [E 8.02].
(c) Let the board choose any record date for deciding which members can vote on a resolution [P 8.08], rather than a fixed 16 weeks prior [E 8.06].
(d) Let the board choose a time period [P 8.07] and modes (mail, electronic, at AGM) [P 8.09] for voting on a resolution. Existing rules [E 8] did not specify these, so until now they have been the same as for voting in the election.
(e) Restrict the range of resolutions that would be binding [P 8.12]. Those classified as non-binding could then be ignored by the board.
(a) Transfer the power to reject candidates, from the nom-com to the board itself. [P13.03 vs E 11.02] and [P 13.06 vs E 11.03]This concentration of power in the board is promoted to MEC members as "modernization," at the top of the resolutions information page, near the "VOTE NOW" button. The board also claims that their resolution ensures compliance with BC co-op legislation. Some voters might infer that the current rules violate the law, and thus think they must vote in favour. But the claim is then diluted to "out of step with the law." This language is being used to justify raising the requirement for submitting a resolution from 5 members to 500 members.
(b) Prevent the nom-com from acting independently of the board, by including these phrases:
- [P 13.02b] "only to the extent deemed necessary by the directors acting in their sole discretion"
- [P 13.04, 13.08 & 13.09] "Under the guidance of the directors ..."
I agree that 5 members is too few, but 500 is too many. 50 would be a reasonable requirement, and BC co-op legislation does not require any increase. Only those few voters who take the time to click through and read carefully will discover, that the "out of step" claim is based on a clause in the Act about calling special meetings, not about submitting resolutions. (See MEC Governance staff reply in the discussion forum: "... uses the BC Co-op Act's special meeting threshold as a guide." Or search the Act for "500".) And even that clause sets a maximum for the required number of members; so the Act allows lower thresholds.
As for the current MEC director election "campaign," like last year it is being conducted in public silence. Each member can only ask candidates questions via the candidates' MEC-controlled email accounts, and those questions and answers are not shared with other members. I blogged last year about how MEC election rules hamper informed voting -- see votermedia.blogspot.ca/2012/03/how-i-plan-to-vote-in-mountain.html.
Thus MEC is maintaining a facade of democracy without the practical substance. That is, unless we can alert enough members to vote "NO" on Resolution #1 at mec.ca/election. Voting is from February 21 to March 28.
Even if this disempowering resolution passes, there are ways for members to regain democratic control. See future posts...