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A Step Towards Change on the CIRA Board

CIRA’s Board of Directors Nominating Committee have published their slate of Candidates for the upcoming election. These candidates will stand alongside member nominated Candidates in a ballot later this year.

Understandably, the Nominating Committee doesn’t publish any details of its deliberations so we don’t know who the committee may have turned away. We only know who they selected. That said, I find it telling that of the four current Directors eligible for re-election – John King, Victoria Withers, Barry Shell and Jim Grey, only John King was selected by the Nominating Committee.

Now, that could be because the other three didn’t apply to the Nominating Committee preferring instead to let their term lapse or pursue a spot on the Member’s ballot. Or it could be that they applied and weren’t selected. We can’t know for sure, however for someone who has serious intent to pursue re-election to the Board, apply through the Nominating Committee gives them two chances to be selected – once by the Nominating Committee, and if they are unsuccessful, they can reapply for a nominating through the Members slate.

My gut says that all four directors applied to the Nominating Committee and only one was selected. Having served with John King during my term on the Board, I think the Nominating Committee made a good choice. Did they give Grey, Withers and Shell the thumbs down? We’ll never know for certain and its definitely a question I intend to explore further if any of them decide to run on the Member’s ballot.

The final selections of the Nominating Committee are;

Ward Chapin
Dave Chiswell
Robert Brouillette
Carole Mackaay
Hank Intven
William Gibson (no, the other one)
John King
Bill Sandiford

Please take the time to click through to their submissions to the Nominating Committee and get familiar with their qualifications, views and ideas – you will be voting for them soon.


Change is needed on the CIRA Board – Part II

I received a lot of feedback on my earlier post advocating for change on the CIRA Board. I thought it might be helpful to followup on a few of them.

First, about my comments on Board diversity. Specifically;

Canada is diverse, vibrant and progressive – CIRA’s Board should reflect this.

Of primary concern to me is the diversity of thought and experience of the people populating CIRA’s Board of Directors. Different people with different backgrounds can bring different thoughts to the table, and collectively these create a tremendous resource the organization can rely on. I’m less concerned with “quotas” as some thought I was advocating for. My point is simply this – CIRA needs a Board of Directors that can add to the discussion and create value for the organization. One of the ways of fostering this is to pay some attention to diversity of thought and experience. That said, I would personally like to see better regional balance on the Board. 6 people from B.C. is too much, especially given that a number of Canadian provinces have *no* presence on the board.

Second, I want to expand my comment about special interest groups.

The outcome of this election should be a Board representative of Canada’s diversity – not a panel of advocates for special interest groups.

I think it is proper for special interest groups to rally around good candidates and push for their election to the Board. What is not right is when these candidates bring their issues to the table and try to push an agenda on the organization. It is easy for inexperienced Board members to forget that they have a primary obligation to the organization that supersedes the interests of the groups that got them elected. During my tenure on the Board I saw many candidates come to the table in exactly this way and the time and energy wasted on pushing back on these conflicts of interest was terrible. The Board should benefit from focus, and that requires each Board member to bring themselves fully to their work and as unencumbered by special interest agenda as possible.

Last, I want to reiterate my remarks about the difference between having a Board seeking to protect and keep versus one focused on growth, innovation and progress.

We need Directors who are hopeful and curious. Any who are motivated by fear of change should be replaced.

The .CA registry and DNS is a national infrastructure asset and its technical operations need be managed conservatively and competently. That does not mean that CIRA’s programs, initiatives and policies cannot be progressive and growth oriented. I would love to see the Board engaged in a strong dialog with Canada’s Internet community about what our possibilities are, how we can grow the pie and create great opportunities for Canadians. This means putting aside the introspection around governance and bylaws and taking up the mantle of engagement, transparency, accountability and real discussion with the Board’s stakeholders. CIRA’s staff is making excellent progress in these areas and I find it amazing that the Board still finds it so difficult.

So again, in this upcoming election – let’s push for real change on the Board. Let’s look for candidates that have a clue about what loving the Internet, serving the public and participating in the work of a Board really means. Let’s add those people to the existing clueful people on the Board and encourage them all to aspire to greater heights.


Change is needed on the CIRA Board: An Open Letter To CIRA’s Membership

Change is needed on the CIRA Board. To be precise, more change.

In the next Board election, I urge you to look beyond the incumbents and reach deep into the community to find and elect as many experienced, interesting and passionate new candidates as we can.

CIRA has the potential to lead change and support Canada’s vibrant Internet community. Year after year, the Board claims to have abided by “best practices” and engages in endless tweaks to its governance model yet it has failed to make any appreciable progress outside of its original formative efforts. The organization itself continues to gain scale and credibility and the staff and CEO would benefit from the skills, experience and mentorship that a strong Board can provide.

Canadians deserve more from CIRA’s Board of Directors. We need energy, enthusiasm and leadership that can create connections with Canada’s Internet community and foster and promote a truly Canadian Internet agenda.

Canadians deserve a Board populated by professionals that are qualified and enthusiastic about the richness of the Internet and what we can achieve with it. Seeking professionals means looking deeper than middle managers from IBM who have a passing knowledge of the ICD. We need Directors who are hopeful and curious. Any who are motivated by fear of change should be replaced. Canada is diverse, vibrant and progressive – CIRA’s Board should reflect this. The outcome of this election should be a Board representative of Canada’s diversity – not a panel of advocates for special interest groups.  

I’m not saying that CIRA’s Directors are all lacking. They are not. Many are making a strong individual contribution and could be an integral part of a well-functioning Board. The key lies with developing a strong Board and eliminating the apathy, inexperience and lack of vision that populates the periphery.

Furthermore, the current process of Board self-assessment doesn’t generate sufficiently unbiased information to allow the Nominating Committee to do its work effectively. The Nominating Committee can and should take a deeper look at the dynamics of the Board and seek to form its own opinion how each individual Board member contributes to the whole. The Nominating Committee should actively seek to unify the Board around the Directors who are demonstrably making a positive contribution to the work of the organization and reinforce their ranks with new faces who can make a similarly strong contribution.

I write this from a position of concern and care. I have always believed that CIRA has the potential to be a truly special organization – more than just a steward of an important public resource, it could be a cornerstone in a progressive national Internet agenda.

I also now believe that more change is required before this can happen.


Handicapping the CIRA Election: Part II, the results

Last week, I laid out my bets for the CIRA Board of Directors election. To recap, I predicted that the following candidates would be elected;

  • Kerry Brown
  • Eric Boehm
  • Bill St. Arnaud
  • Kevin McArthur

So how did I do? Well, the results are in and my predictions were half right. Kerry and Bill were both elected, but Eric and Kevin lost to Susan Mehinagic and Andrew Escobar.

Susan’s win was a surprise to me – not because she isn’t a worthy director, but because she came out of nowhere. This happens fairly regularly with the Nominating Committee candidates because of their recruiting and selection practices. All in, I’m pretty happy that I managed to pick two of the three successful candidates.

Not so on the members side. It was a really tough pick this year. I really thought that Frank Michlick and Kevin McArthur would do a lot better as a result of the support of their respective constituencies. I really thought the battle would go either way and that Rob Villeneuve or Marita Moll might come up the middle. I was right about Rob given his strong showing but I underestimated the degree to which Marita and Kevin would split the progressive vote while at the same time slightly over-estimating how many ballots Kevin would gain from the support he had from OpenMedia, etc. I also completely blew it when it came to Andrew Escobar, forgetting the fact that he only lost the 2010 election for the member seat by 4 ballots. Not sure if I would have called the results differently, but I would have at least mentioned him in my first post.

In any event, I think all the candidates did a great job, and I really appreciate everyone investing so strongly in this important process. And of course, my best wishes to all of the successful candidates.

The results broke down like this;

Nomination Committee Slate

  • Brown, Kerry 433 Elected *
  • St.Arnaud, Bill 352 Elected *
  • Mehinagic, Susan 312 Elected *
  • Gibson, Bill 294
  • Boehm, Eric 254
  • Evans, Gary 228
  • Vidal, François 210

Members’ Slate

  • Escobar, Andrew 215 Elected *
  • McArthur, Kevin 154
  • Villeneuve, Rob 112
  • Moll, Marita 111
  • Walton, Catherine 97
  • Williams, Tom 95
  • Michlick, Frank 62
  • Makuch, Greg 51
  • Aguiar, Reinaldo 43



The CIRA Board: Election results & Board diversity

The results from the CIRA Board of Directors election are in and I am officially no longer a member of its Board of Directors, having chosen not to stand for a 4th term. Congratulations to all of the successful candidates, and my thanks* to everyone that invested their time and effort running for this important position.

Here’s a look at the new board.

  • Paul Andersen, (ON) (exp. 2013)
  • Rick Anderson, (AB**)  (exp. 2013)
  • Kerry Brown, (BC) (exp. 2014)
  • John Demco (ex-officio)
  • Heather Dryden (ex-officio)
  • Andrew Escobar, (ON) (exp. 2014)
  • Jim Grey, (BC) (exp. 2012)
  • Byron Holland (ex-officio)
  • John King, Nfld (exp. 2012)
  • Rowena Liang (BC) (exp. 2013)
  • Louise Macdonald (PQ) (exp. 2013)
  • Susan Mehinagic (BC) (exp. 2014)
  • Barry Shell (BC) (exp. 2012)
  • Bill St. Arnaud (ON) (exp. 2014)
  • Victoria Withers (BC) (exp. 2012)

John Demco, Heather Dryden and Byron Holland are un-elected, ex-officio directors and live slightly outside the process that seats the rest of the directors. John holds his seat by virtue of his role as founder of the .CA registry, Heather is a representative of Industry Canada and Byron Holland is CIRA’s CEO.

From that list, here are some basic stats concerning board diversity. I excluded the ex-officio directors from the counts, because they are essentially appointed and generally remain unchanged and I show the province of residence of the director at the time they were elected.

  • 4 women, 8 men
  • 3 from Ontario, 6 from British Columbia, 1 from Newfoundland, 1 from Alberta**, 1 from Quebec.
  • Leaving the board are 1 director from Ontario, 1 from Manitoba and 1 from B.C – 2 were men, 1 woman.
  • 3 4 directors terms expire in 2012, 4 expire in 2013 and 4 in 2014.
  • 2 directors have served for more than two terms, 2 directors are entering or in their 2nd term, 8 directors are in or entering their first term (3 having been just elected)

I’d be really interested to hear whether or not the composition of the Board meets your expectations for the organization. Does the balance look right? What about the mix of skills? As the steward of an important public asset, I think we *should* have an opinion on such things – please weigh in with your thoughts!


*Some people might find it weird that I’d personally thank candidates in this way – it is important to me that Canada’s Internet community maintain a strong influence over this organization. The two most obvious ways for them to achieve that are to a) run for the board and b) vote in the elections. As a result, I always like to thank everyone who puts themselves out in front of the election and endures the ups and downs of the election process. I only really thank the voters when they are voting for me :-)

**Rick Anderson has relocated from Alberta to Ontario since his election, lessening regional involvement outside of Ontario and British Columbia.

Updated 10/4/2011 to correct John King’s term. He was elected in 2010 for a two year term to replace Margaret Gilmour who was elected, but not seated in 2009.


How you could have won the CIRA election

The most obvious way of winning the CIRA election was completely (and arguably, appropriately) overlooked by all of the candidates.

There are some restrictions on who can vote. They have to be Canadian, they have to own a .ca domain name and they have to be a CIRA member. The first is tough to do anything about, but there are a lot of Canadians, so presumably a candidate could find a lot of people to vote for them. Problem is, most people that potential candidates know aren’t .ca domain owners, never mind being CIRA members. Even though it only costs (on average) about $15 to register a .ca domain name and a few minutes to authenticate as a member before the start of the Annual General Meeting in order to make the cut-off, the $$+process+timing issues are probably just enough to make it difficult to launch a general campaign targeted at the general public. Its much more productive to go after existing members and try and win their vote.

Except this year was different. Yola is giving away free .ca domain names at gybo.ca. *Anyone* could have become a CIRA member for free. Sure there were a few hoops to jump through, but I’m sure that candidates could have convinced a few people to sign up for free and vote for them.

Only a few hundred ballots separate winners in this election. A broader campaign bringing new members in could have carried the day. Definitely something for potential candidates to think about next year.

Also something for the CIRA Board to seriously consider in how they structure their governance and policy development activities.

Just saying’.


Handicapping the CIRA Election

Every year around this time, I start to get the question “Who do you think will win the board election?”. Normally I’ll defer answering, or answering candidly in quiet circles after a glass of wine or two but as a sitting director, it was just uncool and not that politically bright to publicly lay odds on the incoming directors. After all, being wrong meant that I’d be upsetting someone that I’d be working with in the coming years.

This year with my departure from the Board, I can pretty safely answer the question – and I love watching the election develop, so I thought it would be fun to layout who I think will be elected to the board this year. Not who did I vote for or who did I support, but just laying down a bet as to who I think has the best chance of winning.

The Nominating Committee slate is always tough to pick. They always have a small number of candidates and a large number of seats. Generally, if you make the Nominating Committee slate, you have a pretty good shot at winning a board seat in the election.

My gut says that we might see some surprises this year. Incumbent Kerry Brown has had a pretty visible campaign on the twitters, but it remains to be seen if he still has the connection to the base of members that got him elected in the first place. He faces some pretty stiff competition – the nomination committee picked a solid slate this year, and the inclusion of a candidate from Quebec could split the ballot up pretty broadly. I’m also hearing good things about the efforts of Bill St. Arnaud, Gary Evans and Bill Gibson to get their seat. My picks?

Kerry Brown, Eric Boehm and Bill St. Arnaud.

The member side of the ballot is a lot tougher to call. 9 candidates, 1 seat up for grabs.

These candidates from the grassroots come from a variety of backgrounds. During the campaign, a few have risen to the top – Kevin Mcarthur, Frank Michlick, Rob Villeneuve, Marita Moll and Tom Williams were all extremely active in and around the Annual General Meeting, and to varying extents, in social media leading up to the election. Rob Villeneuve carries the backing of a substantial portion of the registrar community, while Marita Moll and Kevin McArthur carry endorsements from the public interest and in Kevin’s case, the techno-activism community. Frank Michlick, who carries respectable technical credentials has good standing in the Toronto internet community and the backing of the domain portfolio investor community. Tom Williams, the incumbent, is a bit of a dark horse who carries strong credentials, but may not be able to rise up above the noise in this campaign.

Unless there is some serious vote splitting of the various stakeholder groups, I suspect the real race will be between Frank Michlick and Kevin McArthur. With Kevin’s endorsement by OpenMedia.ca, I suspect he may have the slight edge. This one is really too close to call, but if pressed, my favourite to win would be Kevin McArthur.

With the election just a few hours away from closing, it still might be anyone’s game to take. Who knows – the election always has a few surprises in it. I really do wish all of the candidates the best of luck – it is quite remarkable that our Internet community still cares enough to participate, as voters and candidates, after all of these years. Without this participation, it is almost impossible for CIRA to uphold its mandate as the steward of Canada’s top-level domain. Thanks to all of you for the part you play in this.