Wednesday, May 9, 2012

@Vancity credit union election results: biased by info control

Insiders on the Vancity board have successfully used their control of information flowing to Vancity members, to tighten their grip on power over the credit union.

The board-appointed nomination committee recommended five director candidates, who competed in the election with eight other members running independently. Not only were the chosen five listed first on the ballot, but their names were in bold face, with the word "recommended".

Making it even harder for challengers to distinguish themselves, Vancity election rules severely restrict other information from reaching voters. Candidates are prohibited from saying who has endorsed them, from criticizing Vancity policies, and from saying what policies they would advocate if elected. I quoted the specific rules in this earlier post.

Sure enough, the five anointed candidates finished in the top five spots -- see election results here.

Members who took the time to understand what is happening have been speaking out against this slide toward oligarchy. Some of us spoke from the floor at the AGM yesterday. Others have been commenting online -- e.g. see these Georgia Straight links: April 12 and May 4.

But unfortunately, most Vancity voters are busy people who do not take the time to investigate beyond the information most readily available. So information control can sway the majority of votes, and effective member democracy will not kick in unless some spectacular crisis gets everyone's attention.

The Vancity board claims that members are more satisfied with the new voter information system. This claim is based on responses to surveys administered under board supervision. As any pollster knows, survey results too can be biased by how they are worded and what information the respondents have.

Fortunately however, the board seems to be listening to member complaints, and will hopefully be willing to return Vancity to real democratic member control, living up to the fundamental co-op principles.

I think the best way forward is an open, information-rich election system, as I described earlier. As a first step, at the AGM I suggested that we should have an open online member forum on the Vancity website.

I'll write more on this going forward. Meanwhile, your comments are welcomed!

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