Saturday, July 7, 2012

An Open Letter to the Chair of the UNA

The rules that elections operate under are critical to ensure democratic practice.  An ongoing puzzle with the UNA has been a history of changing election procedures and a reluctance to publicly post and share past election practices.  In the lead up to the current UNA Board elections it has become apparent that new rules might be on the way, rules that would seriously change the playing field in favour of incumbents.  I hope this is not correct.  However, the UNA Board Members package for the upcoming July 10th meeting has an agenda item for new election rules but now details in the package!  If new rules are coming why has the UNA not had a full open and public discussion?  Perhaps the staff are overworked - that is always a possibility.  Nonetheless, democratic practice must rely upon openness.  Openness around elections are critical.

The following is a letter that I have sent to the UNA Chair, Prod Laquain.
Dear Prod,

I have just reviewed the current posted UNA Board Members meeting package to review the proposed election guidelines for the fall.  However, all that I can find in the current package (as of today’s date) is an item listed under the agenda heading of “C. New Business,2. UNA Election Campaign Rules, Mankee Mah.”  The package does not  have any of the proposed rules  included in it.

I will first say, to be clear and open, that I am planning to run for a seat as an elected director and have made my intentions known publicly since early May posting via twitter, my own blog, email lists, and face to face to people that I know and meet in our community.  I will also be cooperating with two other candidates in this election.

My concern is that the UNA is not providing any public consultation or advanced notice of the UNA plans in terms of campaign rules.  That being the case, and in the principle of fairness, I will assume that there will be no significant changes to any of the procedures for this election.  Any changes from past practice at this point and without having notified all members would further erode confidence in the democratic function and capacity of the UNA.

Through out the nearly two decades that I have lived in what we now call the University Town I have advocated for open and transparent democratic practice in our governance systems.  A core principle of democratic practice involves acting in a way that does not give rise to perceptions of conflict of interest.  A second is the concept of inclusivity.  One of the best ways to ensure that these two principles are upheld is to ensure that rules around elections are clear, open, and public.  Ideally elections are governed by arms-length agencies not under the direct influence of elected officials.  At the very least any plans or proposals should be developed openly and prior to the UNA board making a decision that might alter past practice.  All residents have the right to know what these proposed regulations are prior to them being enacted.

Our UNA Bylaws stipulate that notification of the general meeting at which the election of directors will take place needs to be communicated to members in written form at least 60 days prior to the meeting – that would be July 26th at the latest for a notice to go our, if my understanding is correct that September 26th is the date of the election and AGM.  

Given that there are at least four or five declared candidates now in the race for UNA Board of Director positions it seems that the only appropriate action for the UNA board to take at this time is to reaffirm the rules used in the past and not introduce any new rules or make any significant changes to the historical precedents that have governed UNA elections up to this date.  To do otherwise would raise questions of unfair practice.

With warm regards,

Charles Menzies
Declared Candidate for Elected UNA Director

No comments: