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.

1 comment:

Joshua Sweatt said...

I am especially proud because credit unions are not-for-profit organization that exists to serve their membership rather than shareholders (ahem banks) whom seek maximize profit through fees and services. I just love my local Canada Credit Unions