Friday, June 4, 2010

Peninsula Co-op's Election Invalidated due to "Bad Faith"

This story is a classic tale of what happens when a small group gathers too much power to itself and becomes unaccountable to those it is supposed to serve.

What happened last June at Peninsula Co-op's woefully undemocratic election is also a cautionary tale for all citizens who fail in their duty to be watchful of those they elect.

Arbitrator Jakob de Villiers QC, has ruled last June's Peninsula Co-op election invalid stating that the election at the AGM was conducted "contrary to the Respondent’s Memorandum of Association, in bad faith and in a manner that was oppressive to those members that were in opposition to the incumbent board’s and senior management’s land use plans". He didn't hesitate to use the word "scurrilous" to describe some of the tactics used to blacken the reputations of candidates running against the Board's approved slate.

No one observing this election process could have reasonably doubted its irregularities. From the beginning those who were pledging to protect Central Saanich farmland from development were vilified publicly and repeatedly by the Board and Management of Peninsula Co-op and in particular its General Manager Pat Fafard. Candidates were forced to present themselves before a committee which grilled them on their positions and whose members lectured and scolded them in a classic case of bullying. This committee then released its list of preferred candidates to the membership.

Candidates requesting a copy of the membership list, the financial statements and the most recent Board minutes were refused them despite the fact that all these documents are available under the Act to any member that requests them. Allowing all candidates to have access to the membership lists is no different than allowing all candidates access to the voters' list in any other election. Without equal access the challengers had little chance of being elected.

Other irregularities included unlocked ballot boxes which were frequently emptied into cardboard boxes beneath a table; the lack of voting booths to ensure the secrecy of one's vote and the lack of scrutineers to ensure the fairness of the voting procedure and to witness the count. Allowing members to vote before the meeting was underway was inappropriate as it provided no opportunity for the candidates to be heard (even more important given that the three challengers had had no access to the membership lists) before these votes were cast.

The arbitrator has now set out rules for a new election which must be held within 60 days of the May 26th ruling.

Under these new rules "candidates or their agents may attend and observe the counting of the votes; no completed ballots may be visible to anyone before counting commences; no voting can be allowed before the meeting commences; no candidate shall be required to appear before or be approved by any nominating committee in order to be eligible to be nominated for election and most importantly, no employee of the Co-op is permitted to participate in the election campaign, whether in support of or in opposition to any candidate." So when the employees approach you to vote for their candidates or allow them to have your proxy vote be aware that they are banned from any such action whether at the gas pumps, in the stores or in any other way.

This year's Peninsula Co-op AGM and election was already underway when this ruling was made, but anyone with integrity would immediately re-set that election date and abide by the rules the arbitrator has set out for the replacement election. That has not been the case to date and in addition the Co-op is proposing a number of changes to the bylaws, some of which are blatantly undemocratic and tend to pool even more power in a few hands.

Do not vote in favour of these bylaws.

If you want to know more feel free to contact me at

Please also join the facebook group Friends of the Peninsula Co-op which is posting all information pertaining to these elections.

You can read the entire arbitration award at the website for the Residents and Ratepayers of Central Saanich.

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