A council which still doesn't listen to its membership
Sir Winston Churchill once famously said, "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Alienation and resentment inevitably result when people feel their governors are not representing their interests or addressing the issues important to them. Why are the members of PEO so disengaged that seven-eighths of them don't vote? Not voting is how people express their alienation and frustration. Read my article in the Kingston Whig-Standard here about voter alienation.
The problem with our council is three-fold, in my opinion:
(1) Many of its members feel that there somehow is a conflict between protecting the public interest and serving the 80,000 members of the profession. (That is complete and utter nonsense.) They falsely say we are becoming "a members' club".
(2) Councillors feel the membership is not as wise and well-informed as they are, and hence, the membership's wishes should be secondary to the councillors' thinking, and
(3) Council does not believe it is there to represent the membership.
I heard these absurd arguments when I was last on council twenty years ago, and only a large dose of grass-roots democracy finally corrected them.
There is no conflict whatsoever between serving the public interest and operating a vibrant, member-directed profession! In fact, we members know engineering better than any politician or lay appointee. That is the very principle behind a self-governing profession, and it is why government, in 1922 granted us self-regulation! We have never, ever, been accused of shirking our responsibilities. I have never suggested PEO should be advocating for Ontario engineers. That's OSPE's job!
Recent councils, in my opinion, have not demonstrated the wisdom or management skills we expect of them. When Councillor Mike Hogan was purged from Council in April of 2012, the rule-book was swept aside, in what I think was a vindictive and shameful pursuit. In the end, it cost him a legal bill estimated at thirty thousand dollars. Hogan should not have behaved the way he did. He deserved punishment. But I think he was voicing the frustration and despair of the membership which elected him. His behaviour, however, did not justify our council holding secret ballots, rejecting certain marked ballots, ignoring requests for a recorded vote, and, ultimately, removing a member who had been democratically elected by us. Those irregularities triggered a hugely costly and divisive court challenge, which benefitted no one. During my current term as Councillor-at-Large, the rules of order were used on several occasions not to facilitate open debate, but to suppress it, by blocking my motions even from being considered!
As for managing the affairs and finances of the Association, well. . . Council quietly got the government to change the Act, so that it no longer needs members' approval to increase fees or make other major changes. Last year, it abused this power to push through a 20 % fee increase, specifically rejecting holding a membership referendum. No government has ever cured a spending addiction by increasing taxes, and no democratic organization can remain so by eliminating checks and balances on its power!
Membership motions too often are shuffled off into bureaucratic oblivion. My own motion at the 2011 AGMthat changes to our governance be suspended until approved by the membership in a referendumwas not debated because we "ran out of time". It was forwarded to Council, where nothing further was done about it. My AGM motion in 2019 to investigate election anomalies was hijacked and framed as a return to archaic technology instead of as a valid question about fair voting. It was voted down. Membership resolutions, in any case, seem to have little influence on our council.
The mistaken notion that Council is not there to serve our 80,000 members has grown over the last decade. Posters have been put up on the walls of the council chamber saying, "REGULATOR OR ASSOCIATION", when they actually should say, "REGULATOR AND ASSOCIATION". We are told "PEO is not a members' club". I say, "PEO is not an oligarchs' club"! The government itself has granted us self-regulation. It is confident that our membership knows what is best for the profession. Our council's role is to serve that profession, consistent with offering the highest degree of protection to the public.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to contact me.