OMA Council: Motions, motions, motions

There was no shortage of drama and excitement around this weekend’s OMA Council, the main events of which you can likely read about elsewhere on the blogosphere.

I want to focus on a slightly more mundane issue, but one which I think is vital to the success of future Councils and for continued engagement of Council delegates.

First a bit of background. At Spring and Fall Council, individual delegates to Council are encouraged to submit Members’ Period Motions for Council to vote on, which if passed, would then be advisory (not binding) to the Board of Directors. Prior to being presented, the motions are reviewed by the Resolutions Committee who provide advice on phrasing, content, and whether the motion is deemed out of order for procedural reasons.

At previous Councils, the number of motions put forward had been modest, and there had been relatively no issue in getting through all of the motions. With so many new and engaged delegates to this Council, the number of motions approached 80. To put this in perspective, during the time set aside at this Council specifically for motions (which was similar time to past Councils), we managed to get through 38 motions. There was hope that time could be found at the end of Council to get through additional motions, but unfortunately despite the Chair’s best efforts to move the program along, the remainder of the motions were not heard.

It truly wasn’t anyone’s fault that the motions weren’t heard, it was simply a perfect storm of unprecedented interest in putting forward motions coupled with a busy program updating Council delegates on a chaotic period since the spring.

That being said, although no one is to blame for the situation, we need to course correct in advance of the next Council meeting. Close to 40 motions were unheard during this meeting, put forward by physicians who felt them important enough to be heard and who will likely feel they may still be relevant at Fall Council. Add those to the avalanche of new motions likely to be generated between now and then, and we’re quickly creating our very own organizational waiting list. So very Canadian of us.

So what to do?

First we need to reflect on what has spurred the interest in motions, and what the true intent of some of these motions are. Are they regarding an issue the delegate has raised unsuccessfully and repeatedly through existing OMA channels, and is looking for a Council stamp of approval to spur the Board to action? Is it an issue that is more symbolic? Is it an issue that the delegate thought of while in the shower on Saturday morning and thought it would be a good idea to see what Council thought? While we shouldn’t stifle debate or engagement, given the limited time that we have as a Council, it may be appropriate to give delegates some guidance on alternative strategies to moving an issue forward rather than putting forward a motion.

The number of motions is at least in part a symptom of delegates’ sense (correct or not) of not being listened to by the OMA, and that the Council floor is their opportunity to have their voice heard and ideas evaluated by colleagues. Consideration has to be given to dedicating a section of the current online forums to idea generation and board/delegate member feedback on those ideas. I know that a few delegates set up an online group for Council delegates to discuss motions openly prior to Council, but I wonder whether the OMA should be setting up a similar platform for discussion and board evaluation and uptake between Council meetings to drive down the biannual swell of interest.

Another issue that has to at least be given consideration is to limit the number of total motions any specific delegate can put forward. There were no motions that I specifically found superfluous, but I think in a time where there is this much interest, we need to consider equity in allowing as many delegates as possible to put forward their best motions.

My last point is around the presentations themselves, and the discussion from delegates that followed. In this new era of engaged membership (the Chair himself remarked that he could not recall so many delegates staying until the end of the meeting), it behooves the Chairs of each committee to deliver a well-prepared, concise presentation to maximize the time for other issues. I would humbly suggest that the Health Policy presentation be moved out of the Sunday afternoon slot, as virtually no one in that room had the stamina to discuss what should be one of the most important topics of the weekend. Delegates should also be reminded that whenever possible, discussions that can be held privately should be held privately for the sake of efficiency. Consideration should also be given to alternating committee presentations with Member’s Motion Periods to sustain the attention of delegates (credit Dr. Deepa Soni for this idea).

I am confident that we will see many of these changes adopted prior to Fall Council, as the Chair and Vice-Chair were clear that they were looking for feedback from delegates. While I don’t want to see the pendulum swing too far such that the entire Council is spent deliberating hundreds of motions, I think we could make some definite progress in terms of efficiencies to ensure that the motions that need to be heard at Council get the audience they deserve.

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