Almost two months ago we had our Annual General Meeting (AGM), and the election process ended up in a big fiasco that undermined the integrity of the entire arrangements used by the management company to organize the election on behalf of The Board, and shape the final figures used to declare one of the two contestants as the winner.
When the management company was accused of preventing scrutineers from having access to critical documents needed to eliminate double voters, a lawyer emailed the accuser a letter mostly designed to intimidate The Alliance and convince those making the allegations that there was nothing wrong with the process used by the management company.
If we use the existing standards of “The Condo industry”, we may label the argument of the lawyer as valid. If we use the standards of “Elections Ontario”, the chronological development of events paving the way for the victory of The Board supported election winner are unethical.
The Minister in charge of protecting Condo owners in Ontario was contacted to put an end to the mockery of democracy that characterizes Board elections during AGMs. The Minister did not even bother to acknowledge the reception of the letter up until April 09, 2017 the day this article was published. After reading the letter reproduced in full below this text, you decide how much the politicians of this province are dedicated to protecting your most valuable asset-your condominium.
Attn: Minister Tracey MacCharles,
The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
6th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2
February 19, 2017
Currently, The Ministry of Consumer Services is gathering input from the public about “The Protecting Condominium Owners Act, 2015” (PCOA) that received Royal Assent on December 3, 2015, marking the first overhaul of the province's condo law in over 16 years.
If protecting the “Condominium Owner” is the key target of PCOA, I can guarantee you the same abuses perpetrated against owners under “The Condominium Act, 1998” will persevere, simply because the new and the old Acts indicate that Board elections must be held, but nowhere there are any references or details outlining how elections should take place, what kind of safeguards should exist to protect the integrity of Board elections, and what kind of ethical standards should prevail if the end result of an election is challenged.
In hundreds of condominiums across the province, after every Board election condominium owners repeat the following saying many historians attribute to The Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin:
“Those who cast the vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything.”
Allow me to explain why condominium owners are so overwhelmed by cynicism, and a powerlessness to put an end to a travesty of justice and a mockery of what democracy should be by The Fourth Level of Government in our country, a.k.a. The Board of Directors of a Condominium Corporation.
A Condominium Management Company prepares elections in a condominium on behalf of the ruling Board. During The Annual General Meeting (AGM) two volunteer scrutineers are selected by the lawyer of The Corporation chairing the meeting. Without providing any instructions, or advising the scrutineers on the discrepancies they should look for when reviewing the figures, the lawyer directs the two volunteers to a table where documents prepared by the management company are displayed. Volunteers are expected to buy at face value the figures provided by The Management Company. If they extend the scope of their scrutiny to documents critical to the integrity of the process but unavailable for a close evaluation, the lawyer interrupts his activities at the head table, and joins the Management Team to reinforce the message that there is nothing wrong in the figures/numbers submitted by The Management Company.
If a gross violation of basic rules of logic is discerned by the two volunteers, such as a mismatch between the number of owners attending physically the annual meeting and the number of ballots casted and counted, the lawyer is quick to point out that many owners joined the meeting late, some voted others refrained and there is no time to review every detail. Needless to mention that the entire process enjoys so much integrity that all the ballots are destroyed at the end of the AGM to eliminate permanently the possibility of a recount, and insure that no candidate who opposes the policies of The Board emerges victorious from an election designed to be and remains thus far a mockery of democracy. The Board is treated as a “Private Club” where membership is by invitation only.
The tragedy detailed in the previous paragraphs was conveyed to legislators 2 years ago, at a time when Onatrio as a Province had accumulated more than a century of democratic tradition. Legislators assumed, albeit naively, that without any explicit instructions management companies will adhere to election integrity rules, clearly outlined by “Elections Ontario”, to organize elections at The Board level. The assumptions made by legislators were wrong, and the lack of specifics kept the gates wide open for all forms, shades and grades, of abuses designed to protect corporate vested interests at the expense of condo owners.
If decision makers do not clearly underline in the new Act (PCOA) the pivotal role of conforming with the legal/ethical standards of “Elections Ontario”, the voting process in the majority of condominiums of Ontario will remain a mockery that comes closer to elections held in dictatorships such as the defunct Soviet Union, and subsequently our elected politicians should remove from the website of “Elections Ontario” the following statement:
“Voting turns the idea of democracy into reality. It is the basis of any free society.”
Central to the whole issue of electoral integrity at the level of the Fourth Government, The Board of Directors of a Condominium Corporation, are the following facts:
 Verifiability/auditability: voting results can be verified after the initial count.
 Transparency: the process is open to outside scrutiny.
 Neutrality: electoral procedures or materials do not favor one candidate or party over another.
 The organizing party carries the burden of proof. Every document used to tally numbers should be submitted to a full review without excuses or obstacles erected to hide unethical means used to favor Board supported candidates.
Allow me to highlight also the importance of defining “Ethical behavior” or what ethical standards should be in all matters of governance. Canadian courts and more specifically court decisions reached in Ontario, British Columbia, and Newfoundland have pointed out that ethical behavior in a dispute “… goes beyond the application of the letter of the laws and rules, and relies on an internal set of values (temperance, courage, justice, fairness, transparency…) that push an individual to serve the “Common Good” without any explicit instructions from the laws to do so.”
For the last 13 years I have monitored closely the AGM elections, in our own building and other condominiums in The GTA, which are an integral part of a political discourse between a governing body (The Board), with the authority to collect and spend millions of Dollars, and subjects (unit owners) who have a legal obligation to comply with any decision imposed on the group. The way The Board is handling the AGM elections has lost its moral structure and purpose, and has been converted into an affair of group interest and personal ambitions, under the lame justification that Board elections are not elections for provincial or federal public offices, and No Board in Ontario has any legal obligation to follow standards promoted by “Elections Ontario”, and complying with the standard practices of “The Condominium Industry” is more than adequate to run Board elections.
Here, I find it very appropriate to quote Mohandas Gandhi who, in attempt to discredit the “standard practices” of the colonial ruling elite of India, argued that “An error does not become a truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.”
With all due respect Madam, you cannot protect and shape a new future for the more than one million condominium owners in Ontario by maintaining extremely flawed practices from the past. And based on the previous statement I hope you will issue the proper instructions to your staff and the review committee currently gathering proposals, to include one vital phrase to the Condo Board Governance section dealing with votes: “Board elections must be based on the ethical and legal principles promoted by “Elections Ontario”.
Failure to adopt such an important measure, will remind us and the rest of the world that, from 2002 to 2011 we sacrificed 158 men and women of our Armed Forces to save Afghanistan from the clutches of religious fanaticism, and to spread a democracy entrusted with the vision of building a brighter future for that nation, while ironically we allowed the growth, in our own midst, of a local brand of corporate fanaticism that knows no boundaries in its quest to safeguard its greed and vested interests.
Name Removed-An Alliance Member
As a condo owner, if you are convinced that Minister Tracey MacCharles should do more to protect the integrity of Board elections, contact her directly by using one of the following options:
Constituency Office300 Kingston Road, Unit 7