Sometimes our business sessions can seem overly pedantic and technical. This is especially true when we’re debating a contentious or even provocative motion.
So why do we practice parliamentary procedure?
Right now, two school boards in the GTA (Peel and York) are embroiled in heated controversy and meetings of the boards have been chaotic with disorderly protests resulting in police being called.
The disruption of public meetings (or private meetings of company boards, clubs and organizations) by unruly protestors doesn’t just affect the contentious matters at hand but are an affront to the democratic process itself.
In other words somebody thinks that outshouting or threatening people with whom they disagree is an okay thing to do. It isn’t at least it isn’t in a democratic society.
Why should you care? And, what does this have to do with Toastmasters?
As a member of a club you have a duty to participate in the business of the club. You’ll find the rules for parliamentary process in a book called Robert’s Rules of Order.
Certainly we vote in an executive (a topic I will return to soon) to serve the club and is trained by District to handle the day-to-day work of keeping our club running but the executive isn’t empowered to be a decision-making group. Decision-making is up to you, the individual club member.
Your vote in club issues is of vital importance to the health of your club.
Past president Adrian Scott got me thinking about due process after he sent me an email with an attachment from Food Allergy Canada that outlines the organization’s concerns with a forthcoming decision by Toronto City Council that affects its members.
You’ll notice that Food Allergy Canada is advocating action to help influence the Toronto city council vote on the adoption to stock epinephrine in Toronto restaurants and other public places. In the email the author describes the process of how this particular motion was deferred to a committee and then returned to council with a recommendation and now is ready for a vote.
This is politics at its best.
First, you convince an elected member of a decision-making body to make a motion that supports your interests. (At our club any member can make a motion.) Then, as the issue requires input from a technically informed committee, the motion is sent to them for a specific period of time.
As the report from the committee is returned and the issue is scheduled to be debated again, you and your organization reach out to the committee members asking them to support your point of view.
The motion is again brought forward for debate which will now include the report from committee and it will be either adopted or lost depending on the vote of all members of council.
The alternative is either anarchy or rule by imperial fiat neither of which are desirable or fair.
A chairperson who neglects to court the assembly’s support of any decision (If there be no objection I declare…) will find themselves unable to proceed as calls of “objection to consideration” will force immediate votes of confidence by the members.
While it is true “a chair gets away with what a chair gets away with” there is a limit to the goodwill and willingness of any assembly to go along with decisions they have not been invited to debate and vote upon.
The minority have a right to be heard (and heard fully) while the majority have the right to rule. You may not like it but it is fair and applies to when it be the king (or chair) or the lowest, most aggrieved and humble citizen.
*Let right be done.