Some people are making it seem like voting at the Ontario Medical Association General Meeting is more complicated than the Normandy Invasion. It’s not you know, it actually very easy.
The usual process of ratifying a tentative Physicians Services Agreement (tPSA) is well established. The tPSA is presented to the OMA Board for consideration. If the Board finds the agreement acceptable they recommend it to the membership for ratification. Live presentations with questions and comments, written documents with legal and economic analysis and of course the actual tPSA are made available so that members can make an informed choice.
The membership then votes in a referendum. Members are always disappointed to learn that the referendum is not binding. It advises OMA Council, a group of 250 physicians elected by their peers, who make the final decision.
But why is the referendum not binding? It turns out that Ontario Corporations cannot delegate decision-making power to the membership. Governing bodies like OMA Council must make final decisions. So we can’t have binding referendums. Ontario law, The Corporation Act does not allow us to.
New legislation, the Ontario Not For Profit Corporation Act, widely known as ONCA, will allow for binding referendums. While passed by the Legislature, ONCA is not yet in force.
For the 2016 tPSA a group of members decided that this process was not good enough. They called for a general meeting, as is their right. Five percent of the members submitted a petition to hold a general meeting to decide the fate of the tPSA. The referendum and the special meeting of Council were cancelled.
Although voting in the non-binding referendum would have been electronic, decisions made by the members at a general meeting can be made in person or by proxy.
The process is governed by legislation. The OMA cannot change that.
Voting in person is straightforward. Show up and vote.
We have two weeks notice as to time, date and location. The meeting is in Toronto. That’s great for people who live in 416 and 905 area codes but for physicians in the rest of the Province, it will pose difficulties. Travel is expensive and coverage of clinical duties may be difficult.
So members may vote by proxy. That is they designate some one who will be present at the meeting to vote for them.
They can trust that the other person will vote in a way that is acceptable to the person giving the proxy or they can direct the person to vote in a specific way.
On the actual OMA proxy form, members may designate Dr Virginia Walley, OMA President, to hold their proxy. The can also tell Dr Walley to vote yes or no to the central question of the meeting. Is the tPSA acceptable, ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Members may also write in the name of any other person to hold their proxy. Again they can leave voting judgments to the discretion of the proxy holder or they can direct that person to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
I took advantage of that option even though I plan to attend the meeting. This will save me the trouble of standing in line to cast a paper ballot and I hope that what is sure to be a slow process can be speeded up. This is a personal choice and I expect many people who attend the meeting will just vote.
Filling out the proxy form is easy. There is a 15-digit security code which I cut and pasted into the correct field. I indicated that Dr Wally should hold my proxy but I could have typed in any name, even a non-member. I then ticked off a box indicating that I wanted Dr Walley to vote ‘yes’. She is now obligated to do so. If I had ticked ‘no’ she would have been obligated to cast my vote that way.
As I submitted my proxy, there was a double check to make sure that I had voted as intended.
I also checked a box asking for a confirmatory e-mail. That e-mail arrived in my inbox within seconds an I was able to double-check my proxy to make sure it was filled in, as I wanted. If there was an error, or if I change my mind, I can change my proxy as often was I wish. I can also show up at the meeting and revoke my proxy so that I can vote in person.
There is a simple sign in, a couple of boxes to check off, a confirmation procedure and a confirmatory e-mail. The whole thing took me less than a minute.
As someone who has purchased airline tickets, books and stocks on-line, it’s not that complicated.
Scott Douglas Wooder, MD