The importance of voting in council elections

Under the Professional Engineers Act (PEA), the principal object of PEO is to regulate the practice of professional engineering and to govern its members so the public interest is served and protected.   

Under the PEA, Council is the governing body and board of directors of PEO. For PEO to effectively regulate the profession, it must have a strong and effective Council. This requires members to take the time to annually review the election material and to vote.

Consider this: In February 2010, Council passed a resolution that “each year, Council would select the PEO president to be the chair of Council from among the elected membership of Council.” This procedural change stemmed from recommendations from the Executive Committee after its review of PEO’s governance structure.

Further implementation details were laid out during the November and December 2010 Council meetings, and the first appointment of president was to take place immediately following PEO’s 2013 Annual General Meeting. However, in February 2011, Council ultimately decided to hold a series of town hall meetings with members to discuss the issue before enshrining anything into regulation.

At the town halls, many attendees felt the members should elect the president, forcing a referendum in conjunction with the balloting for the 2012 Council elections. The vote was 74 per cent in favour of direct election. The outcome corresponded with the survey carried out in July and August 2010, in which 57 per cent of members supported “the status quo, where members annually elect the president-elect and one vice president.” In that survey, members were able to provide comments, and the subsequent report it generated consisted of over 100 pages. One of several main points to come out of that survey was members felt that, with the limited material available, it was difficult to make an informed decision on how to vote.

ALL-CANDIDATES WEBCASTS

To address this issue, in January 2012, live all-candidates webcasts were started, with members submitting questions in advance of the webcasts. The webcasts were professionally recorded and made available to the members on PEO’s website shortly after the live event. For the 2019 PEO Council elections, live webcasts will take place the week of January 7.

Typically, webcasts take place each evening, with the regional councillor candidates first, then councillor-at-large candidates, followed by candidates for the positions of vice president and president-elect. Questions can be submitted for consideration, typically the week before the webcasts, with voting by the members to determine the selected questions.   

For the last two years, webcast timelines of the recorded webcasts have been created and shared with PEO’s various chapters. The timeline allows a member to be selective in watching only portions of a webcast if, for example, they are only interested in the candidate’s position on a particular topic or if they only want to watch the opening and closing remarks of some of the candidates. An example of a timeline can be found on the Thousand Islands website: Go to www.thousandislands.peo.on.ca and click on 2018 Council Elections, then scroll down to “MSExcel versions” and select one of the options (e.g. councillor-at-large webcast).

MAINTAINING SELF-REGULATING STATUS

Several candidates running for Council have expressed concerns about losing our self-regulating status, given what has happened in Quebec and British Columbia. And, alarmingly, voter turnout has averaged 13 per cent over the last five years; for a professional organization, this is a low number and does not support our self-regulating status.

We’re working to encourage more members to vote. 
If you have feedback on the process, we’d like to know:

  1. How long have you been a member? 
  2. Are you aware of the all-candidates webcasts? 
  3. Have you ever watched one or more webcasts? If so, 
    did you find it beneficial?
  4. Are you aware that each candidate has a half-page statement in the January/February issue of Engineering Dimensions? If so, do you read the statements?
  5. Are you aware that there are three email blasts from the candidates during the election campaign? 
  6. Do you wait until after the three email blasts from the candidates before voting?
  7. Did you find the all-candidates webcast timeline helpful? 
  8. Would having a short video (about two minutes) from each candidate on the PEO website be helpful? 
  9. Would you support reducing the voting period to the last week of the campaign?

Please send us your answers and any feedback to ThousandIslandsmail@peo.on.ca.


Ray Linseman, P.Eng., is past chair of PEO’s Thousand Islands Chapter.

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