Comment: MCA board challenges democratic rights of farmers

Whether you agree with them or not, these resolutions should have been tabled at the annual meeting

I am writing this because I believe that Manitoba farmers must be able to have input into our organizations outside of being elected and that our voice is crucial.

What I am going to express showcases key examples of what can happen when boards decide that they know better and lawyers are used as an excuse for propping up bad decisions. I am honestly sad that this issue has gone this far… but you all need to know, it’s your organization.

This past year I, along with two seconders, submitted three resolutions to the new Manitoba Crop Alliance (MCA) board by the Nov. 30 deadline that got denied debate at the 2021 AGM.

The resolutions in question ask for changes to the resolution deadlines and the clarification of the procedural rules.

Whether you agree with them or not, I hope you’ll find that the right to have them discussed at an AGM should not have been in question. Here they are in a nutshell as I described them to the board in a followup letter after learning the board had effectively vetoed them:

  • Allowing resolutions closer to the general meeting – The current deadline for resolutions is Nov. 30. This is 2-1/2 months ahead of the AGM. That distance is unnecessary and encourages a lack of participation. The resolution asks for a two-week deadline for general resolutions as is a similar standard for the Manitoba Canola Growers. This exact time could be adjusted by members through an amendment. (J. Dueck seconder)
  • Referring resolutions at the general meeting – This would allow members to submit a resolution at the AGM if allowed by two-thirds of the membership. MWBGA allowed something like this and it was fine. Because the deadline is currently Nov. 30, a lot can happen between then and the AGM. There are several reasons why members should have the right to come forward with an emergency resolution, for instance. They may even learn something new at a meeting that could deserve debate. (J. Dueck seconder)
  • To match subsidiary motions with Roberts Rules. – This resolution seeks to clarify some definitions and use for “Lay on the Table”; the allowing of debate on a postponement motion; and that “calling the question” requires a two-thirds vote, as is standard when using Roberts Rules. The last two years “tabling” has been used to restrict a resolution without debate on what should have been a postponement motion at the MWBGA and that has always been an “out of order” motion. This was ignored. It would be a stain on the new organization to allow the continuance of those faulty standards. This clarifies these discrepancies and any uncertainty for all members for the foreseeable future. (L. Bohdanovich seconder)

I hope you can see how the denial of debating and discussing these issues at the 2021 AGM was completely ridiculous.

It is not right for any board to deny members the opportunity to debate and bring forward issues related to their organization, including procedural ones. I have asked them to renege on their position but instead there has been a desire to ‘dig in their heels.’

It should be a concern that enough members of the board believe that these asks were unacceptable or ‘too soon,’ as I was told. As though a member couldn’t bring forward a resolution on changes to bylaws or procedures during any single year’s AGM or that the board somehow is the sole overseer with a lock and key.

What is ‘too soon’ is the amount of power an amalgamated board of multiple organizations is deciding it should have over the farmers’ democratic process in the organization. This was one concern of those who voted against amalgamation. That’s a done deal now, but power moves cannot be taken lightly. Resolution submissions are the best processes for checks and balances members have and they are being denied. It’s our money. It’s our organization. The AGM is for the members and not the board.

It is crucial that the board be able to adapt or change to the will of members. Farmers’ actions today and before each AGM have the ability to influence that. It’s our right.

Dean Harder is a Lowe Farm-area farmer and was an elected director for four years with the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.

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