Sunday, 31 July 2016

Direct Democracy

Last week I had the privilege and pleasure to exchange with a gentleman named Tom LePage FRI, CPM, RCM, ARP, emails centering on the issue of transparency in condo governance, the mockery of democracy that takes place very casually every year during annual general meetings, where lawyers chairing meetings exploit loopholes in The Condominium Act to argue that it is legal to destroy ballots at the end of the meeting, and The Board is fully entitled to shroud numbers in total secrecy and refuse to announce the number of votes obtained by each candidate,…

For those who are not familiar with the professional background of Mr. Lepage, his exposure to The Condominium Industry started back in 1982, and during the last 34 years he acquired a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and wisdom that promote the central argument that condominium governance should be based on the principles of Swiss style direct democracy, meaning a stronger participation of unit owners in the decisions shaped by The Board, the highest level of transparency in publishing budgets and spending, and last but not least elections procedures that rest on the standards used in municipal, provincial, and federal elections, in other words Boards should follow the Golden Rules set by Elections Canada instead of improvising elections rules that enhance their solid grasp of power.
The following is an excerpt from the first email I addressed to Mr. LePage on July 24, 2016:

Dear Sir,
You are one of the rare voices of sanity that advocates direct Swiss style democracy in an industry (The Condo Industry) where greed reigns supreme, and where the key actors (developers, builders, management companies, lawyers) sacrifice casually on the altar of greed every sacred principle promoted by democracy, from accountability, to transparency of elections, to…
I am convinced, based on the years of experience you have had in the industry, that you endorse the view that the existing big picture in almost every condominium in the province is nothing but a travesty of democracy…
Do you have any practical advice on how owners can liberate their units from the clutches of an industry determined to destroy democracy, one principle at a time, to satisfy its greed no matter how much damage it inflicts on the common good.
Any advice you might be able to provide will be highly appreciated.

Here are the comments made by Mr. LePage in an reply dated July 24, 2016:

After reading your email and checking out your blog, there is no doubt we are on the exact same page with one major exception; I am not in agreement with your statement "almost every condominium in the province is nothing but a travesty of democracy". Every single condo corp. I managed was governed as a Direct Democracy regardless of what the ACT stated; I know there must be many condo corps. and managers similar.
Solving the issues which you have mentioned can only be done by owners directly creating practical and easy to understand general (governance) by-law. A link to an article of mine "Holy Grail Explanation for Poor Condo Docs."
FYI - I have attached my Standing Committee Re: Bill 106 presentation handout which you find interesting. 
Once again, thanks for getting in touch.
Tom LePage FRI, CPM, RCM, ARP.
LePage Condominium Consulting
Founder of Condo-Ology®
For our readers, I would like to highlight the following portion of Tom’s reply:
“Every single condo corp. I managed was governed as a Direct Democracy regardless of what the ACT stated; I know there must be many condo corps. and managers similar.”
This clearly means that in The Province of Ontario two categories of Board of Directors exist: A) The ones that exploit loopholes to stay in power and run the show based on questionable ethical principles. B) The ones who adhere to the highest standards of ethical governance and remain loyal to the letter and the spirit of the law, and the democratic heritage of the province where The Condominium Act was passed by democratically elected law makers.
Many unit owners have accused me of being extremely biased against the practices of The Board and the management company that provides the technical assistance to enforce the will of The Board. Often those same unit owners have stood up during annual meetings and praised the “Excellent” work done by The Board and the management company, and according to their wisdom, both parties should be above any form of reproach.

Any person familiar with the basic rules of logical reasoning, will agree that when someone claims that he/she is getting an Excellent service from a management company, it unavoidably means that the claimant was exposed to a minimum of two different management companies, and one is bad or mediocre and the other one is excellent. In the case of our complex, the current management company was selected by the builder when construction was completed, and ever since, Boards for a number of considerations, stayed with the same management company. Had we relied on the services of another company, with proper merits we could have said company X failed to provide adequate service for approx. $330.000 (current amount paid by the complex for the three full time employees of the management company), and company Y did an Excellent job. As a possibility we all know well that other management companies do exist in The Condo Industry that may do a better work for less than $330.000. But since the current management company has enjoyed the exclusive right to service the complex since 1999, we don’t have any other source of reference, and owners/cheerleaders of The Board before announcing a value judgement such as Excellent, Very Good, Impressive should ask themselves Excellent compared to what, Very Good compared to which competitor,…

I strongly encourage all unit owners to visit Mr. Tom LePage’s web site ( ) and familiarize themselves with the high ethical values and principles he advocates that every Board and management company should adopt.

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