Kerri McGregor

Equestrian Canada Snapshot: Some Eye-Catching Developments

Kerri McGregor offers a recap of highlights from EC’s Board of Directors meeting including SafeSport, governance, shortfalls, and a planned office move.

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By: Kerri McGregor

As a passionate fan and supporter of equestrian sport and a former Equestrian Canada board member, I like to keep on top of what’s happening at head office. I’m also a strong believer that the community, particularly those who pay fees to EC, should be informed so following is a brief recap of highlights from EC’s Board of Directors meeting held December 9, 2019 that caught my eye.

FEI General Assembly in Moscow, Russia

EC President Megan Krueger and interim CEO Yves Hamelin travelled to Moscow to attend the FEI General Assembly. It was interesting to note that EC’s National Rules Committee did not approve of the FEI Endurance rule changes that were being presented for a vote. However, Canada (through EC President Megan Krueger) voted in agreement during the vote as “although the Endurance rules were not perfect, they are a positive step in the right direction.”

Safe Sport – Six Cases Before EC

This is a topic that is appearing for a lot of sports organizations. One of the highest profile cases in the equestrian industry is the lifetime ban for George Morris by the US Center for SafeSport. EC Board member Jane Milton, who is a lawyer by profession, has been tasked with writing EC’s policies as it pertains to SafeSport, and there is a section of the website devoted to more information on this here.

There are currently six cases before Brian Ward, who was hired last summer by EC to provide independent third-party complaints management (read article here). Five cases are related to athletes and one is related to horse welfare. EC also plans on hiring a Safe Sport Coordinator, and speaking with Provincial/Territorial Sport Organizations (PTSOs) on identifying when a complaint is a provincial vs. national responsibility.

2019 EC Convention Experiences Lowest Attendance In Four Years

Last year’s EC Convention was held during the Royal Winter Fair, the first time this has happened. It was surprising to read the report that it was a challenge to deliver the Convention in a short period of time, during a Major Games year (Pan Ams), and that the Royal presented a large space with multiple rooms. In reading this, you would think that EC has never held a convention, let alone in a Major Games year which regularly happens every 3 out of 4 years, and weren’t aware of what exactly the Royal is or where it’s held. As seems customary with EC, yet another working group has been created to delve into this mystery, and prepare in advance for a Convention that has happened every year for at least the past couple of decades.

EC to Change Offices (again)?

EC’s office lease is due for renewal this spring, and the Board is considering options to “mitigate the financial impact” though what that impact is exactly is unclear, perhaps rent has substantially increased? EC is likely looking to cut costs wherever they can to make up for budget shortfalls. From the discussion, it appears that EC will be packing up and moving locations with one of the reasons being to “enhance our image and branding”. So all of those renovations carried out when former CEO Eva Havaris was at the helm, which included fancy signage outside the building and in the main reception, only lasted a few years.

Significant Shortfall Identified (?)

The chair of the Finance Committee, Board member Rob Mitchell, made mention in his Finance report that there was a significant item noted in EC’s financial statements: a shortfall relative to the budget. No other details were included in the minutes, so it’s difficult to know what this is all about, but EC has been facing financial concerns over the past few years. In fact, the next topic discussed by the Board was the corporate reserve funds with the operational committees. Historically, the disciplines had control over their revenues, but this system changed last year.

Bylaw Changes

Changes to the Bylaws were approved at this meeting. Although not detailed, I assume they are the proposed changes as detailed in the EC Board’s October 31-Nov. 1 minutes. A couple of interesting proposed changes included:

– The addition of a clause to require not only Members of a Category to resign should they be elected to the Board, but also Members of an EC Operational Committee. Two Board members voted against this change at the time it was presented. (Article 4.5)

– The rewording of the clause pertaining to a Board Member failing to attend Board meetings without a reasonable excuse. The previous language used the wording “three consecutive meetings” within a Board year. This has been changed to simply “three meetings”. Given that there is no definition of what classifies as “reasonable”, this could be tricky to enforce.

– This next one is more substantial: changing the requirement that EC Members accept the Financial Statements at the AGM to simply being in receipt of the statements. One could argue that this is removing a significant point of Board oversight by the EC Members. Finances, understandably, have been one of the biggest (and at times contentious) discussion points at previous AGMs. While the current Bylaws do give the Board authority to enact changes immediately, there is still the requirement of the Members to approve said changes at the next AGM. It will be interesting to see if the Members decide to relinquish this oversight.

Governance

There was also discussion of the current governance structure itself. It’s very hard not to do a palm-slap-to-the-forehead when reading EC Board Member & Governance Charles Cue saying “at present the Governance structure is siloed and there is no joint place where everyone can sit together and talk about their issues.”

Ironically, this was created by design back in 2014 – at the same time when voting rights of thousands of EC members where replaced by only 28 votes. The creation of the new governance structure meant that the previous Councils that had existed (Sport, Breeds & Industry, Recreation, Provinces) were replaced by Member Categories (who make up those 28 votes). The previous Council structure was far more inclusive, for the very reason to provide a forum for disciplines & committees to work together. There was also a Joint Council, which served as an opportunity for all Councils to gather together at least once a year – typically at the Convention. While it had its faults, it did help prevent the siloes from happening.

But this was deemed by the Board and Senior Management at the time to be too unwieldy. And all of that was replaced by the new structure.

Now, 6 years later, there is the observation that the structure is too siloed.

Also filed under “the more things change…” is reading that the Board should not be dealing with operational matters, and the number of Board Committees should be reduced. The next topic then talks about the Strategic Initiatives Planning Committee – which oddly sounds like a topic a Board should be dealing with themselves: “the ability to convey clearly the road map for EC.”

Even more odd, is reading that “The Board needs to gain altitude, which is our theme for this year, but in the beginning we will have to be more hands on….”

The EC Board has long been accused of not being strategic/visionary enough, and instead getting into the weeds of operations – be it with Committees, Disciplines or Staff. By the sounds of it, things have not changed over the years and in fact are about to get worse before (hopefully) gets better.

Canadian Equestrian Development Committee (CED)

The CED is described as a sub-committee of the board that is made up of 50% PTSOs and 50% EC members. Its purpose is to monitor the projects that are outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding with the PTSOs. Surprisingly, it appears that Disciplines have not been involved with the work of the CED, and so there has been a disconnect. That would seem significant given the important role disciplines play in the PTSO/EC dynamic, where historically there has been many disagreements and power struggles.

To sum up, it appears (at least on the surface), that while faces may change the struggles remain eerily the same. EC is looking to move office. In an attempt to streamline the governance structure, the siloes of the past were brought back. In trying to reduce Committees, a new one is created as quick as one is removed. And even with the addition of an interim CEO, the EC Board still plan to get more hands on vs. fulfilling their role of oversight, policy direction and protect & enhance the assets of EC for the benefit of all stakeholders (this taken directly from the EC Governance Policy Manual). Oh, and that little question about Finances (ie. assets). Should be another interesting year!

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