Delegates debate treasurer’s position – 51st Alberta-Northwest Territories Convention

September 16, 2019 by Sharon Adams

Democracy in action is the best description of the 51st Alberta-Northwest Territories Command Convention held in Drumheller on May 10-12.

The tone was set at the opening ceremonies where Dominion Past President Dave Flannigan reminded delegates that “Conventions are held so that we can make changes so we [can find] better ways to serve our veterans and their families.” Delegates later donated generously to support a new therapy program for veterans and the command service bureau.

The convention started with a commemoration ceremony at the Badlands Community Facility, during which wreaths were placed by Mayor Heather Colberg, Flannigan and L.A. Command President Margaret Koenig. Second World War veteran John Wiebe declared the convention officially open Friday night. On Saturday, the 233 delegates got down to business.

Discussion of a motion to allow the appointment, rather than the election, of the provincial treasurer triggered a heated debate.

At the 2015 convention in Lethbridge, delegates defeated a resolution to eliminate the elected position in favour of a financial committee. A treasurer was elected and later resigned, then a treasurer and finance committee were appointed. In 2017, delegates supported the motion to replace the treasurer’s position with a finance committee consisting of the first vice and two executive members, advised by the executive director and accountant.

In 2019, delegates defeated a motion calling for the treasurer to be appointed by the command president in consultation with the executive council.

Strong argued the committee would be better able to assess and appoint candidates “so we can identify the right person for the job.”

Dominion Past President Dave Flannigan congratulates First Vice Rosalind LaRose.
Sharon Adams

Those opposed argued there are competent staff, elected members and procedures in place to assure good financial management and that moving to an appointed position would jeopardize oversight.

“We are the greatest champions of democracy and we must stand firm on that,” said Bryce Talsma of Men of Vision Branch in Cochrane, an Afghanistan veteran and new Legion member.  “Do not abandon our principles on the altar of expediency.”

But when nominations for treasurer were called, there was a long and uncomfortable pause before Maureen Vink of Men of Vision Branch was nominated.

“This is my first convention,” she said after accepting the nomination. “I was flabbergasted you don’t have a treasurer. You have to have someone who knows how to keep things together.”

President of an accounting and tax firm, she offered to be a resource to any branch treasurer who needs advice. “I hope you don’t regret electing, rather than appointing,” said Vink, who was acclaimed.

First Vice John Mahon of Worthington Branch in Wainwright was acclaimed president after Vice-President Rosalind LaRose declined nomination.

After his installation Mahon told delegates “Only one thing is important to me—the mission statement of The Royal Canadian Legion.” It will guide his leadership, he said.

All three vice-presidents were nominated for the position of first vice. Karen Shaw of Red Cliff Branch declined nomination. LaRose of Stettler Branch was elected over Keith Lockett of Cold Lake Branch.

Nominees for the three vice-president positions included Lockett, Dave Velichko of Joe Wynne Branch in Edson, Gord Morrison of Stony Plain Branch and Talsma. Talsma was defeated, but later sworn in as a district commander.

Scott Sadler of Onoway Branch was acclaimed chairman for another term.

Delegates approved a motion to approach Dominion Command to amend the Poppy Manual so the poppy financial year coincides with the calendar year.

Two non-concurred motions were brought back to the floor. A motion to open ordinary membership to federal peace officers, firefighters and paramedics was defeated. However, delegates approved approaching Dominion Command to alter the Ritual, Awards and Protocol Manual in recognition of the sometimes lengthy award approval process, so that service from the date of application for one award is credited toward the next award. Delays in approval now penalize members, said the rationale for the motion.

Strong reported that although membership is still a concern, at the end of 2018, 96.15 per cent of members had paid their dues. “Last year, we saw the lowest loss of membership in Alberta-Northwest Territories Command,” said Strong. Figures show a decline of 2.6 per cent in 2018, from 39,494 to 38,479 members, very close to the loss percentage nationally.

“We are always cognizant that spending must be kept under control,” Strong stated in delivering the financial report, “but we are experiencing difficulty continuing to work within the restraints of the current revenue streams.” Revenues declined to $1,428,593 in 2018 from $1,563,321 in 2017.

Past President Chris Strong (at right) pins the president’s pin on incoming President John Mahon.
Sharon Adams

Mark Fenety reported the Military Recognition Book has contributed $2 million to coffers since 2008, while Strong reported command revenues from that source fell 17 per cent in 2016 compared to a year earlier.

With little debate, delegates approved a $1 per-capita increase beginning in 2020.

More than $46,000 was raised at convention to support the University of Alberta Heroes in Mind, Advocacy and Research Consortium program following a presentation by its director Suzette Brémault-Phillips.

HiMARC aims to stimulate research on and education about military and veterans’ health. It has begun a research project involving 45 serving military with post-traumatic or operational stress injuries who will be treated with Motion-Assisted, Multi-Modal Memory Desensitization and Reconsolidation, or 3MDR, therapy. It is a combination of talk, virtual reality and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. Previous studies in the Netherlands and Wales showed it helped veterans move disturbing images to long-term memory, thus relieving symptoms.

The program will cost $1.2 million over two years, she said. To get the program running, Alberta Command donated $60,000 and Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital $50,000. Defence Research and Development Canada is providing an $800,000 in-kind contribution.

Other donations included about $41,000 to support service officers, $15,000 for the poppy fund and $7,000 for the polio fund.

In his report from Dominion Command, Flannigan said the goal is to have 300,000 members by 2026, the Legion’s centenary. “A friendly smile and a warm handshake are often the seeds of new members,” he said. “People form their first and lasting impression of the Legion as a whole by their experiences in the branches.” He reminded branches to use online resources, including a new welcoming ceremony to replace the initiation process, a hospitality plan and a new code of ethics for elected officers and staff.

He also updated delegates on Legion national and international projects, such as the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, advocacy for veterans, the strategic plan and concerns about stolen valour.

L.A. President Koenig reported the number of auxiliaries declined from 72 in 2015 to 68 in 2018, and membership dropped from 2,714 to 2,215. L.A.s contributed more than $700,000 to branches and nearly $300,000 to community organizations and veterans’ comfort programs in 2015-16.

The L.A. will hold its future provincial conventions on a different date from the Legion’s, so that dual members can attend both.

Stony Plain, Edson and North Calgary branches expressed interest in hosting the 2021 convention, but had not brought submissions to convention for delegates to review, so the site will be chosen later.

Throughout the convention, the Local Arrangements Committee, chaired by Bob Hanna, provided transportation and entertainment, which included a barbeque and production of the play Jake’s Gift, about a Second World War veteran’s emotional return to Juno Beach.

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