With COVID-19 causing disruption across the globe, Equestrian Canada has been kept very busy with the changes this pandemic necessitates.
- All EC in-person events, clinics and activities were suspended March 14th until April 12th, with the possibility that it might be extended;
- The office closed March 16th, and EC staff have been working remotely;
- All EC competitions have been suspended until April 12th, again with the possibility that it might be extended.
EC has been quite pro-active with regular communication updates both via email and on social media, providing the community with updates and information.
This includes information on horses returning to Canada from the US, and working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expedite the process.
In addition to EC and USEF competitions being suspended, the FEI has also suspended all of their sanctioned competitions and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have finally come to their senses and officially postponed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to 2021.
EC has also been providing a list of resources for equestrian facilities , and on March 25th held a webinar to help answer questions about COVID-19.
They say that times of crisis can bring out the best in people, and EC has certainly stepped up to the plate quickly & decisively to provide valuable information and guidance to the community.
Before the world as we know it radically changed, the EC Board of Directors held a meeting in January and in February. Here are a few items which stood out.
This was a recurring theme during both meetings as the EC Board is attempting to reduce their operational activities. Previously scheduled meetings for April and September have been cancelled, although COVID-19 might present un-anticipated challenges requiring the Board to keep to their original schedule.
A new office lease is said to be “on target”. Not sure if that means it has been signed. The move will apparently save EC $500k over the next ten years. With the move-in date being April 1st, I’m not sure if EC would be able to actually move in given COVID-19.
SEARCH FOR THE NEW CEO
EC’s Human Resources Committee has begun conducting the search for a permanent CEO. Their plan is to identify a successful candidate by June/July 2020, with the transition from interim permanent CEO taking place October/November.
There are seven ongoing cases in front of Brian Ward, who EC retained to handle third-party complaints and support EC’s obligations to the government’s “Safe Sport” initiative. There is also mention of a new directive from Sport Canada (who provides funding to EC) regarding Return-to-Sport protocol which will be a requirement for all sports. While there is no further detail provided in the minutes, it seems to be in reference to the “Canadian Guideline on Concussion in Sport” which was developed by Parachute, a national injury organization, and has received support from both the Public Health Agency of Canada and Sport Canada.
See further down under the heading “Policies”.
EC’s Finance Committee had been budgeting for a significant deficit this year of just over $400,000. After significant review by EC’s interim CEO and Chief Financial Officer, a revised budget showed a deficit of $85,000, with most of the difference as a result planned expenses being reduced.
Sport license renewals, one of EC’s largest revenue streams, have to date been comparable to the same period last year. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if 2020 sees a record low in renewals given the impact COVID-19 will likely continue to have on the competition season.
There is also a confirmed funding loss from Own the Podium of $215,000: $50K loss for Para Dressage and $165k loss for Jumping. In the previous cycle, EC received $300,000 for Para Dressage and $265,000 for the three Olympic disciplines. Though the minutes don’t note what the loss is from, it’s likely that the 62% loss to the Olympic disciplines is due to the show jumping team losing their Olympic qualification as OTP funding is strictly interested in Olympic performance, not with World Championship or Pan Am Games results.
While I expect that many previously planned programs may be suspended or dramatically reduced as a result of COVID-19, which would result in less expenses, starting off with a planned deficit of $85,000 doesn’t bode well for an organization whose financial health has been fragile at best these past few years.
Concern still exists from the Categories with regards to a lack of regular communication. To resolve this, EC President Megan Krueger will be providing a “President’s Report” to all Category Chairs shortly after Board meetings.
There is also ongoing concern from Category C, which represents three types of Affiliates: Industry, Breed and Special Interest. Although their Terms of Reference were revised in 2018 (following the first big upheaval with the 2015 Bylaw changes), Category C is urgently seeking to determine their role in the organization and raised this request as recently as the 2019 AGM.
It looks like they, and the vast stakeholders they represent, will have to wait until August or September to get a definitive answer as the “assessment” which started in October 2019 is being flowed through two Committees (The Strategic Initiatives Plan Committee and the Governance & Ethics Committee) who will then make recommendations to the Board before being put to a vote at the 2020 AGM. For an organization that is trying to become more streamlined and nimble, that seems like an extremely long process to answer a critical question for a Category of Voting Members who have been seeking this answer for a very long time. Moreover, it’s not clear if Category C will actually be involved in helping to formulate or approve said recommendations.
Category B, which comprise the Provincial/Territorial Sport Organizations (PTSOs), have been working with EC’s interim CEO Yves Hamelin on an updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) as the current MOA expires March 31, 2020. Yet another new body appears to be on the brink of creation: a Regional Council. Information in the minutes is sparse, although it seems to be related to the Canadian Equestrian Development committee (CED). Is it just me, or does anyone else feel that the new structure which replaced the old structure is just as complex yet communication has lessened, with the Board acknowledging that silos are bigger. (see my previous updates).
There is no information regarding activities of Category A, which is surprising given that this is the Sport category representing the various disciplines within EC.
Speaking of structure, if you are confused or not clear on what EC’s role is it appears so too is the Board. The Strategic Initiatives Plan Committee (yet another new committee) is tasked with assessing “EC’s role in Industry and Sport” and bringing recommendations to the Board in order to clearly define what the organization will and will not focus on. In addition to this new committee, EC is also planning on hiring a facilitator to assist with the work which is to be presented to the Board in April and presented to the Voting Members at the AGM in August/September.
Added to this, the Governance Committee is working on a document which shows how EC’s Governance structure works. It’s hard to understand why this doesn’t already exist, but look forward to it being shared with the community once it is finished. No doubt it will also reveal some new committees and councils which have not yet been mentioned in the minutes.
The last topic I’ll cover here is EC policies which are either being created or revised. These include:
- Screening Policy
- Corrective Action During Events Procedure
- Social Media Policy
- Athlete Protection Guidelines
- Reciprocation Policy
- Concussion Policy and Concussion Code of Conduct
This was apparently an area of lengthy discussion by the Board, with a number of questions being raised including liability, national vs. provincial policies, implementation and compliance.
The Screening Policy was described as “the underpinning of the Coach License that gives the mechanism for reviewing situations that arise on the police background checks and how they are going to be handled.” And it would include….you guessed it….another committee! The Screening Committee.
None of the policies presented were approved, and instead sent back to EC staff with comments from the Board.