Friday, September 18, 2015

Revise the BC Credit Union Act to Reclaim Member Democracy

British Columbia's Credit Union Incorporation Act gets reviewed every 10 years, along with the Financial Institutions Act. That time has come, so the review process was launched on June 2, 2015.

It's an important opportunity to improve credit union governance. On this blog I have advocated for reviving democratic member control, to reduce the risks and costs of self-serving behaviour by insiders -- credit union boards and their payees (senior staff, consultants etc) -- with Coast Capital and Vancity as specific examples.

So I've submitted this comment letter on the legislative review. My main recommendation is to require each credit union to host a year-round online member forum to facilitate member sharing of information -- mainly to reduce board control of voter info during director elections. See also this comment letter by Bruce Batchelor, who advocates a wider range of democratic reforms.

As I highlighted in my similar comment letter to FICOM in 2013:
It is natural for directors and their payees to say: "To improve governance, we should give more power to directors." But instead, we should strengthen our democratic checks and balances. Self-serving behaviour is natural for humans, as it is for foxes, so I mean no offence to either when I say: Please don't let the foxes design the hen house.
Fortunately, this time the deputy minister has warned that they "may" publish comment submissions on the Ministry of Finance website. That would be a great way of exposing insiders' recommendations to the sunlight of public scrutiny.

Watch out for comments that advocate weakening credit union members' right to submit resolutions to a vote. There's a striking contrast between the BC Credit Union Act (Section 77) and the BC Co-op Act. The CU Act guarantees that with 300 member signatures, a resolution must be submitted to a vote of all members even if the board opposes it. The Co-op Act has no such guarantee.

Then contrast what has happened with members' resolutions at Coast Capital CU versus at Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). When Coast Capital members found out that their board had raised its own pay to more than double the Vancity CU board's pay, they put a resolution on the ballot and passed it by a 79% majority, against the board's advice to vote no. At MEC however, the board persuaded members to approve a rules change "modernization" that included (if you click through to read the details) letting the board reject any member resolution for any reason. The existing CU Act prevents boards from pulling that one.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#CIRAelection: Why I'm voting for Moll, Geist, Sandiford and maybe Finckelstein

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is holding its annual board election. I'm voting for these candidates:
Members' Slate:
- Marita Moll

Nomination Committee Slate:
- Michael Geist
- Bill Sandiford
- Konrad von Finckelstein (maybe?)
If you're a CIRA member, you can vote Sept 16 - 23 (deadline: noon Pacific time Sept 23). You'll need your Voter ID and PIN from the email CIRA sent you today (Sept 16). Anyone with a .ca domain can join CIRA for free at and vote next year.

How I choose who to vote for:

My research is not very deep, but there seems to be a lack of candidate assessments available online, so I'm trying to help fill that gap.

I try to guess which candidates are more likely to advocate in the broad public interest, rather than for the interests of industry or themselves or their friends. I also look for some knowledge of internet issues, including privacy, technology, security, economics, business, politics etc.

My sources include the candidates' statements and résumés (linked from, the election campaign forum, perspectives from (internet public interest advocacy organization), a former CIRA board member, and various others.

I'm uncertain about my third choice on the nom-com slate. Konrad von Finckelstein is former chair of the CRTC, so has a wealth of relevant experience. Could he be too much of an insider? Hard to guess. Here are two perspectives on him, pro and con:

Pro --

Con --

What do you think? Comments welcomed! 

How to improve CIRA's election process:

There is not enough voter engagement, nor enough sources of insightful assessments of the candidates. I have recommended various improvements to CIRA, so instead of repeating them I'll link to them:

1. The latter half of this blog post.

2. The paper We Want Our Co-ops Back.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Who I'm voting for in Vancity Credit Union election

Vancity Credit Union is having its annual election for board of directors. 3 seats are to be filled.

I'm voting for:
  • I haven't taken the time research the candidates in detail this year. If you know of any useful online reviews, please let me know.
  • I avoid the recommended candidates because recommendations entrench the controlling clique, as explained in this earlier post.
  • I have worked with Lisa Barrett on democratic reform, and think highly of her -- an easy first choice.
  • I like Man-kit Kwan's straightforward emphasis on the community of members as owners.
  • I like Vittoria DeMichina's personal history of pulling herself up by hard work.
Other info:
New independent website -- Vancity2015 Collaborative Democracy Wiki -- for sharing info on election candidates. Looks promising but still evolving towards being useful and convenient.
Vote by April 24 on Vancity website

Friday, March 20, 2015

@MEC ramps up suppression of member #democracy

Is Mountain Equipment "Co-op" still a co-op?

Co-ops are democratic organizations controlled by their members (see fundamental principles of co-ops). Look at the evidence that MEC has become an undemocratic organization controlled by its entrenched board:

In 2012, the board persuaded unsuspecting MEC members to give it the power to disqualify any member from running in board elections. Supposedly this was to improve the quality of candidates, but that excuse can easily be used to eliminate candidates that challenge the board.

In 2013, the board used that power to prevent former MEC board member Anders Ourom from running. Anders has often spoken up in past MEC AGMs. It's notable that in 2015, when Anders did not put his name forward to run, board experience is now considered sufficient to qualify: "...the minimum qualifications (experience sitting on a board or ...)".

In 2014, 27 MEC members wanted to run in the board election. The board blocked 2 of them, and the board chair claimed that this power increased the board's accountability to members (on page 2 of the minutes).

This year, 23 MEC members wanted to run, and the board blocked 7 of them.

As the notoriously corrupt Boss Tweed used to say: “I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.”

With such a censored ballot, it's no wonder that MEC's voter turnout remains below 1/10 of 1%. Russell Brand was right on target in this video: “It's not that I'm not voting out of apathy. I'm not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class”.

Of course, Russell was talking about UK national politics. But don't look to MEC for democratic governance.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

@Coast_Capital credit union members could set Board pay by median vote

In April 2013, Coast Capital Savings Credit Union members approved by 79.7% majority a special resolution that “...the members of Coast Capital establish the remuneration for the directors of the credit union...” The resolution, put forward by a group of members called Compensation Watch, did not specify a process for members to do that.

In April 2014, Compensation Watch and the Coast Capital Board put forward two duelling resolutions to specify how Board pay would be determined. However, neither resolution got the 2/3 member voting approval required for implementation. Details are in my previous blog post and in this Victoria Times-Colonist article: "Credit union votes fail to resolve board pay dispute".

So I am proposing another way that we Coast Capital members could determine our Board's pay: Vote using a menu of possible total Board pay pay levels, and set pay at the median voted amount. For example, we could submit it to member vote like this:
How much should we Coast Capital members pay our Board, as annual total compensation?
□ $200,000
□ $300,000
□ $400,000
□ $500,000
□ $600,000
□ $700,000
□ $800,000
I've fleshed out the proposal, with an example, in this 3-page pdf.

I emailed it to the Board on May 8, and promptly got this reply: "Your email has been received and will be forwarded to the Board of Directors. Please expect a response in due course." No further response yet, but when it comes I'll post an update in this blog.

Friday, May 2, 2014

@Coast_Capital vote results: Board oligarchy maintains its power

At the Coast Capital Savings Credit Union Annual General Meeting on Wednesday April 30, results were announced for the member votes in the director election and on the 8 special resolutions. Unfortunately, none of the democratic reform candidates were elected, and the 4 member resolutions did not get the 2/3 vote required. The Board used its control of information sent to members, to maintain its grip on power for a while longer. On the plus side, the Board's 4 undemocratic resolutions also failed to get 2/3 voting approval. Details are in these links:
- Director election results

- Resolution vote results

- Compensation Watch post: A sad day for democracy

- Times-Colonist article: Credit union votes fail to resolve board pay dispute

- Coast Capital news release

- My previous summary post: Vote for Member #Democracy @Coast_Capital Credit Union
Coast Capital members will continue to work for democratic reform. I will still be involved, but perhaps not as vocal on this blog and twitter; so to hear what's going on, I recommend the Compensation Watch blog. You can "Follow" them to get an email when they post something.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hear @Coast_Capital vote results at AGM Wed April 30

Coast Capital Savings Credit Union's Annual General Meeting of members is this week:
DATE: Wednesday April 30.

TIME: Registration & refreshments from 4:30pm. Meeting starts 5pm. Cutoff to register 5:15pm, but members can still enter the meeting.

PLACE: Sheraton Guildford Hotel, 15269 – 104 Avenue, Surrey. Free parking for members attending AGM.

WEBCAST: Live at this link.
It should be an exciting AGM this year, because we'll hear the results of the battle for the hearts and minds of Coast Capital members, between the incumbent Board and some challengers (whom I support). You can see what it's all about in my March 16 blog post.

See you there!