3 min

Round two

TPWAF heads for second vote on amalgamation

Credit: RJ Martin

Just when you thought the drama was over, the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (TPWAF) is heading for a second vote on the proposed merger with the AIDS Committee Of Toronto (ACT).

“I think there were many people that presumed the outcome last time,” says TPWAF’s interim executive director John Miller. “There were many people that presumed to be speaking on behalf of the membership and then at the end of the day none of us really knew what the membership felt…. Now I think people aren’t taking anything for granted.”

On Sep 14, ACT members voted overwhelmingly to accept the merger. But TPWAF’s bid was narrowly defeated; members voted 43 against and 79 in favour of amalgamation, just three votes short of the two-thirds majority required to carry the motion.

Miller stresses that the reconsideration of the plan to merge with the AIDS Committee Of Toronto (ACT) is a brand new vote and not a revote. “That’s an important distinction,” says Miller. “There was no contesting the logistics of the last vote or the fairness of it. This is not a recounting or asking the same people to come back and cast a second ballot…. The membership list will look different. Some people will have signed up and some people will have resigned.”

So if no one is contesting the first vote, why is the merger being reconsidered? “A few days after the last vote a member approached me asking… if it is possible for there to be another vote,” explains Miller. The member was told that there were just two possibilities: the board would have to reintroduce the motion, which wasn’t going to happen, or the membership would have to take up the issue directly.

As a result, a handful of members put together a petition calling for a special meeting to reconsider the merger

that was mailed out to the membership. The petition received the required 30 percent support to compel the board to call a new meeting, scheduled for Mon, Nov 15.

Not everyone is pleased with the development.

“My main concern is what has changed between the Sep 14 vote and the dissemination of the petition?” asks Harold Desmarais, a current TPWAF member and former board member. “Nothing except that they lost the vote.”

Desmarais is now heading up an anti-merger campaign. Because TPWAF funding was approved to distribute the pro-merger petition, the organization will also pay for a mailing that Desmarais is currently putting together.

“There’s always a certain amount of funds in any not-for-profit organization set aside to support the process of governance,” says Miller. “It’s important to do that to allow volunteers and members to exercise their rights and responsibilities under the bylaws.”

“It seems [Miller] is willing to bend over backward to at least make sure the other side is given equal treatment,” says Desmarais.

Although at first he argued the procedural validity of the petition and the new vote, Desmarais now feels that the board is only doing what it must under the bylaws. “The board’s hands are tied. Why try to hold back the tide? [The vote] is going to happen. But let’s go from there. What do you want to see at the meeting? What are the real issues?

“I think the board has acted responsibly, I think the ED has acted fairly. I don’t think that at this point in time major damage has been done… but I’m concerned about what might happen if the vote succeeds.”

Desmarais believes that a decision to merge could damage the foundation’s credibility if it appears that the vote was forced through. He points to the fact that the pro-merger camp was signing up new members before the Oct 16 deadline to be on the voting list.

“Now the membership is closed,” says Desmarais. “We’re going to have a new meeting but not everyone knows about it…. The people who presented the petition knew from the time that they sent out their original letter, which was Sep 23, sothey’ve had all that time to sign up new members.”

Miller doesn’t see the pro-merger membership drive as problematic. “Their intention was to call another vote so they were also signing up members. If you call that a head start, yes, they had a head start.

“People were alerted to the fact that they were doing this. At any point people from the no side could have done a membership drive and they didn’t. I told people it was their right to do this and they didn’t. The people on the yes side have been better organized.”

He adds that the special meeting, and therefore the new member registration deadline of 30 days prior to the meeting in order to be eligible to vote, could have been scheduled for a later date, so long as it fell within the 60-day window that the board had to respond to the petition. But the decision was made to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

“There’s some wariness about this process from people involved in services here because they want to be able to move forward and that can’t happen until this issue is resolved finally,” says Miller. “That’s why the board called the meeting so soon. It had 60 days to do that but it called it within a month. We need to move forward one way or another.”

* The TPWAF special meeting is Mon, Nov 15 at 6:30 at the Metro Central YMCA (20 Grosvenor St).