How to List Candidates in a Notice of Meeting

There has been some commentary recently on the question:  How should candidates (for election) be listed in a Notice of Meeting?  The commentary has been prompted by a guide on the “Use of Proxies and Proxy Forms” published by the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO).  The guide includes a direction that “all candidates be listed in alphabetical order by last name.”

We thought we would also “weigh in” on this.

First and foremost, we completely support the goal.  The idea, of course, is to have a candidate listing that is as fair as possible to all of the candidates.   That is undoubtedly the purpose behind CMRAO’s statement that “all candidates be listed in alphabetical order by last name” particularly when preparing the proxy form. And again, we like this goal.

But does this direction from CMRAO actually achieve this goal?  The bottom line, for me, is that CMRAO’s direction leaves me with plenty of doubts and questions:

  • First and foremost:  I wonder about the authority for this direction from CMRAO.  Certainly, there is nothing in the Condominium Act or Regulations or Forms requiring that candidates be listed alphabetically (or any other way).  Does this mean that condominium Managers are expected to follow the direction from CMRAO… but a condominium Board is not?  And does this mean that the Board could instruct the manager NOT to follow CMRAO’s direction?
  • I assume that the theory – the concern – is that candidates who are “higher” on a list will receive some sort of preference when it comes to voting.  I wonder:  Is there any science to support this?  And does this mean that (if one follows the direction from CMRAO) candidates whose last names start with higher letters in the alphabet will then be advantaged by an alphabetical listing?
  • Would it help to specifically say that the candidates are listed in alphabetical order?  Would that (or would it not) tend to lessen any advantage gained by the “earliest listed candidates”?
  • What if my first name is “Andrew”?  Might I prefer that candidates be listed in alphabetical order by first name?  And why wouldn’t that make sense?
  • What about a random listing (with the listing decided by drawing names from a hat)?  Would that be more fair?
  • What about simply adding words (to the prescribed form) stating that “candidates are not listed in any particular order”?

For as long as I can remember, most condominiums have been listing candidates based upon the timing of receipt of the requests for candidacy.   In other words:  I believe that most condominiums have historically let the candidates decide the order of the listing (by the timing of their declarations of candidacy).  Why wouldn’t that be acceptable?  [Candidates who don’t declare their candidacies until the meeting are of course hugely disadvantaged, because proxy givers usually don’t know about their candidacies.   But this is accepted as a natural consequence of a late candidacy. Why not follow a similar principle when it comes to listing of “advance candidacies”?]

I recognize that this might give incumbents an advantage… because they may tend to declare their candidacies earlier than others.   But it might also give incumbents a disadvantage (if their past performance as a director has been sub-par).  Isn’t it a good idea if the voters see the incumbents (who are seeking re-election) listed first?  That way, those candidates will be held accountable for their past performance as directors (whether good or bad).  After all:  We invariably disclose the fact that a candidate is a current director (an incumbent), if that is the case.  We always make this clear….and I think for good reason.

Alternatively, if listing the candidates based on the timing of their candidacy doesn’t work in your particular circumstance, another reasonable approach would be to list the candidates in a randomized order. In other words, draw the names from a hat (or something similar) and list the names in that order.

In conclusion, all of this leaves me wondering what is (a) most fair, and (b) legally appropriate, when it comes to the listing of candidates for election.  I certainly don’t object to an alphabetical listing (and, in that case, I like the idea of including a note specifically stating that the list is alphabetical; and I also like the idea of “flagging” any incumbents who are seeking re-election).  But my overall feeling is that an alphabetical listing should not be mandatory.