Saturday, April 28, 2012

Keep Canada's internet democratic: Oppose #CIRA insiders' power grab proposal @OpenMedia_ca

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority's board is proposing to eliminate CIRA members' right to nominate directors. Instead, the board-appointed Nomination Committee would decide which candidates would be on the ballot. I'm amazed to see such an anti-democratic move. It's like what we just saw at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

Fortunately, CIRA is inviting advance comment on the board's proposal, via email to before May 2, 2012. Detailed info is at, especially page 3 of this document. I'm emailing them this blog post:

Thank you for requesting member feedback on this important governance proposal. I especially appreciate your advance notice to members, which lets us discuss the issue well in advance of voting on it. This contrasts with the recent move by Mountain Equipment Co-op's board -- see my post-mortem blog post at

I hope you drop this proposal. But if you do submit it to CIRA members for a vote, I strongly urge you to open an online members' forum where we can discuss it with each other well in advance. And I urge you to include a link/reference to the members' discussion from the ballot and from any voting info you circulate.

As I read the proposal, it seems that you are proposing that we members should give up our right to nominate board candidates without screening by a board-appointed nomination committee. I think that's a very bad idea, so I would oppose it.

I think this proposal would concentrate too much power in the incumbent board (or rather, whatever majority currently dominates the board), thus disempowering CIRA members and making the board less accountable to members. Accountability to members is the best way I know to ensure that CIRA is run in the best interests of Canadians generally.

Lack of accountability of elected leaders (in governments and in corporations) is the main root cause of our recent financial crisis. So it is clearer than ever that we should strengthen accountability, not weaken it by letting incumbents control the nomination of their own successors.

There are better ways to make sure we get excellent people onto the CIRA board, while simplifying the process and improving accountability to members. I would suggest we do something like this:

- Continue to let both the nominating committee and the general membership nominate board candidates.

- Don't separate the nominees into two slates as we are doing now.

- Expand the online election candidate forum to enable us members to communicate with each other as well as with the candidates.

- Let the nominating committee express their opinions on candidates in the online forum, but not on the ballot. Let all of us members express our opinions on candidates in the online forum.

- Change the ballot to a preferential one where we rank our favoured candidates 1, 2, 3 etc. Determine the winners by Single Transferable Vote. This would ensure a broad representation of various member interests, while reducing vote-splitting, wasted votes, and the need for strategic voting.

- Ensure free speech for all candidates and directors, especially for those who criticize CIRA's current policies. We members need this for accountability.

- To help voters process info about candidates, let voters allocate at least $10,000 per election among blogs competing to provide insightful coverage of the candidates. The effectiveness of this "votermedia" system is described in these two blog posts, along with the reasons for similar reform proposals at MEC and Vancity:

As I'm sure you know, other CIRA members also strongly oppose this proposal -- see for example

I'm posting this email on my blog at

Feel free to contact me to discuss any of this. Again, thank you for your work on this important issue!

Mark Latham


Mark Latham said...

Canadian internet expert Michael Geist strongly opposes this CIRA board proposal. See his article today: Canada's Domain Name Agency to the Public: We Don’t Trust You

Mark Latham said...

2011 Board of Directors election candidate Kevin McArthur has posted some insightful proposals for democratic governance reform at CIRA:

Mark Latham said...

Support from Mike Toscano for keeping CIRA democratic: CIRA Bylaw and Governance Changes

Mark Latham said...

Good news: the CIRA board has backed off of this "power grab proposal":

"Based on the feedback received from .CA Members, CIRA has decided to proceed only with the changes necessary to transition to the new legislation." -- See

The CIRA board chair Paul Andersen blogged about these developments here.

Anonymous said...

Mark: I'm a big fan of constructive dialogue. Do you think using terms like "insider power grabs" is constructive in the least?



Mark Latham said...

Thanks Paul for the feedback. Yes, I think it's constructive because there is a lack of engagement between CIRA and most of its members, and this eye-catching title helps to get members' attention and highlight an issue I think should concern them.

I agree constructive dialogue is a great way to go, and that inflammatory rhetoric tends to make constructive dialogue more difficult. I guess you're saying "insiders' power grab" is inflammatory and detrimental to discussion.

I thought about this tradeoff several times before going with that title. Since I don't have the resources of CIRA ($13 million of fee revenue plus the members' contact list) and since I'm not being paid for the work I do to serve CIRA members' interests, my resources for reaching the members are minimal.

I try to balance my rhetoric with diplomatic communication. For example, after making a critical comment on Paul Andersen's 2012-05-01 post, I led off with an appreciative comment on his 2012-08-08 post.

I welcome discussion of these issues via comments here or email to mark[at]