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

Friday, April 27, 2012

@Vancity credit union election: Links to news & blogs @CarlitoPablo @BillTieleman @SunCivicLee @DonCayo

Voting ends today in Vancity's director election. Here are links to election coverage -- endorsements of candidates, and critiques of the voter information process (recommendations, gag rules etc). For priority reading I'd suggest the 2012-04-12 piece (& comments!) and my 2012-04-15 blog post:

NWDLC endorsed Yaron, O'Brien, McDade.

Ivan Doumenc interviewed & endorsed Greg McDade.

BCGEU endorsed McDade, O'Brien, Yaron

Wilson Parasiuk criticized voter info process with recommendations on ballot. Many interesting comments.

Kim Griffith (former director) endorsed Holm & Barrett; criticized voter info process with recommendations on ballot.

I endorsed Barrett, Yaron, Holm; criticized voter info process with recommendations on ballot & restricted speech; proposed reforms.

Bill Tieleman endorsed Yaron, O'Brien, McDade. Some interesting comments.

Jeff Lee criticized voter info process with recommendations on ballot.

Comments in response to 2012-04-12 article.

Vancity gag rules prevent director Bob Williams from expressing his opinions.

Don Cayo criticized Vancity's gag rules that prevent candidates from campaigning on policy issues.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mountain Equipment Co-op AGM: Democracy slipping away @MEC

Democracy took another hit at Mountain Equipment Co-op's Annual General Meeting yesterday. Intentionally or not, MEC's board has deceived MEC members into voting for a resolution that shifts power from the members to the board. This is bad governance, harmful to the members, and harmful to MEC.

The board proposed a Special Resolution, and approved the following description of it in the election booklet mailed to every member:
"Specifically, the changes would place responsibility on the Committee for identifying and presenting a qualified, diverse ballot of candidates to the membership each year. In essence, the changes result in:
  • Better communicating board skill and knowledge needs so we can clearly identify qualified candidates and inform members of the same;
  • Ensuring we present a qualified and balanced election ballot each year so members have a positive voting experience;"
[full text here]

Whether by intention or by accident, the above language is deceptive. It does not make clear what power we members would give up if we approve the resolution. Most MEC voters wouldn't have taken the time to click through the two levels on MEC's website to read the actual text of the resolution. Those few of us who did found this passage:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

@Vancity credit union election: Who I plan to vote for & why


I plan to vote for LISA BARRETT, GIL YARON and WENDY HOLM.

My main reason: strengthening the connection between our board and us Vancity members. I am concerned that our system of election rules shifts power from us members to whatever group currently dominates on the board. We should change those rules to make the board more accountable to members. I think Lisa, Gil and Wendy are the most likely to help us do that, as well as being highly qualified candidates.

[BTW I hope to learn more in the next week or so, and may yet change my voting plans & update this post.]