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 cira.ca/membership 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 cira.ca/election), the election campaign forum, perspectives from OpenMedia.ca (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 -- openmedia.ca/node/3548

Con -- rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/openmediaca/2014/07/has-crtc-really-changed-will-they-listen-to-canadians-or-telecom-

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:
Reasons:
  • 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.