Monday, October 17, 2016

Why I'm Voting NO on Coast Capital Savings Proposal to Go National

Coast Capital Savings is proposing to become a federal credit union. We members can vote from today through November 28, on paper ballots we receive in the mail, or by logging in at

I'm voting NO because the board's past behaviour gives me no confidence that they are acting in members' best interests. For example:

- Overpaying itself with members' funds – see:

- Confusing members with one-sided campaigns against members' resolutions – see:

The dangers of going national are well described at:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

CIRA Board Election: Who I'm voting for & why

Voting just started today in the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) board election. I currently plan to vote for these candidates:
Members' Slate:
- Frank Michlick

Nomination Committee Slate:
- Lee Dale
- Rowena Liang
- my third choice not decided yet
All candidates' info is linked from this CIRA page. Voting ends next Thursday (Sept 29) at noon Pacific time. I will update this post if I change my choices. If you're a CIRA member, you should receive an email from CIRA today with a link to their voting page.

As when I posted on last year's election: "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."

This year, my voting is based mainly on the online Campaign Forum, where some important issues were debated. I think accountability of the board to the membership and to the Canadian internet community is crucial, so I paid close attention to these two threads:

- CIRA as a Membership Based Organization

- Changing CIRA's Board Selection Process

I welcome your comments, advice, info etc!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

CIRA Election Forum

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is holding its annual board election. In the election campaign's online forum, there's an interesting thread on CIRA as a Membership Based Organization. Yesterday I posted a comment there; I'm reposting it below (with better links) followed by some further thoughts. So although the election forum will be closed to comments after tomorrow noon (Eastern Time) when voting starts, we can continue discussing here.

Great discussion on this important topic! Thank you paulandersen for launching it. I'm one of the few actively engaged CIRA members for the past five years – see my blog at As you can see from the tag cloud there, I've studied various membership organizations, with a focus on engagement and accountability.

Picking up on comments already made on this thread above:

I agree with Kerry Brown: "... having a large number of members is important, even if the vast majority do not engage. It provides a check in case something goes wrong."

I also agree with leedale and the "interested citizen who is not a .ca domain owner, that they were curious why this membership stipulation exists, particularly as CIRA continues to invest in other initiatives that impact them. They would like to participate as a member, but without a .ca domain name, can't. That's an interesting question to me as CIRA continues to build towards a better online Canada."

Indeed, CIRA affirms that "Proceeds from every .CA sold are reinvested directly into the Canadian Internet community through the Community Investment Program." As you can see from the CIP projects, they benefit all Canadians, not just domain registrants. So CIRA sees the Canadian Internet community as including all Canadians who use the internet. It would make sense to let any Canadian join CIRA, which would increase member engagement and accountability.

Good suggestion Rowena, to consider letting members vote on Community Investment projects. CIRA could take a first step in that direction by letting members vote to allocate a small budget among competing providers of voter information during the CIRA board election each year. That would help us choose the best director candidates, and increase voter turnout by reducing the amount of research each member must do to vote intelligently. I've outlined this idea in several places, including:



Discussions like this thread are too important to erase. We should enhance member information and engagement by keeping an online forum open year-round on any CIRA-related topics, with a special section for this election forum each year. It's often helpful to see what was said on a topic in the past, so we can build on it instead of reinventing it.

Lack of member involvement in this election forum is also not surprising because of its design flaws:

- Frank_Michlick above: "I do think the election site could use some improvements as well - I always find that I have to search for the timeline and details of the process and yet this isn't the first time I'm going through it."

- Rowena: "Do you find it a bit difficult to find this forum if you don't know exactly where to go? My link goes to the CIRA Home page but I need to search to get to the Forum..." Indeed, on CIRA's home page there is no mention of the election or this forum. Reminds me of the movie "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" :-)

- Once you get to the forum, you see the message "Get to know the final candidates!" But there's no link to the list of candidates and their candidate statements. If you got to the forum by a direct link (like from a CIRA email), good luck finding that important candidate info.

- Arriving at the forum for the first time, you can see "Log in to post new content in the forum." Click that and you find the instruction "Enter your Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) username." In the past 5 years I've been prompted to create several CIRA usernames, at,,, and So I tried them all, and they all failed. Then it occurred to me that the instruction should have said "You now have to create yet another CIRA username!" I'm persistent, but other members may not be.

Apologies for this lengthy post, but it all seems relevant. I look forward to your further discussion – too bad this forum closes in 2 days. Feel free to contact me:

The lack of members at the CIRA forum reminds me of a UBC student union election event I attended in January 2006. They had reserved the campus movie theatre for this in-person forum (not online). I don't think I saw any student there besides the candidates and the event chairperson. I was a non-student curious about the election process. They looked at each other and said "What are we doing here?" So they unplugged their mike and speakers, and moved the forum into the lounge area outside the theatre, where quite a few students were hanging out in easy chairs, eating, chatting and maybe studying.

Later that year I went to a student council meeting, and offered to sponsor a competition for reporters to cover their January 2007 election. That led to a multi-year implementation -- results described in the video How Votermedia Affects Election Campaigns and the report Experiments in Voter Funded Media.

As I've done in past years, I will soon post about who I'm voting for in the CIRA election and why.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How Canada Can Support Serious Journalism

Today I submitted this 3-page comment letter [updated version 2016-10-04] with a policy proposal to let Canadian voters allocate public funding to competing journalist teams. This would support more public interest journalism such as election coverage and watching out for corruption in government. I recommend testing it in municipal politics before implementing it nationally. Canada's federal government has commissioned a study and report on this topic from the Public Policy Forum.

It's not that people don't understand the need for [public interest journalism]. We just need an incentive-compatible way to pay for it.

Relevant links:

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