The Importance of Meeting
In the case of Shen v. The Owners, Strata Plan EPS3177, the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal held that the strata corporation had failed to call and hold a proper meeting of the owners.
Among other things, the Tribunal said that:
- The corporation had failed to give all owners a proper opportunity to attend the meeting. [A pandemic emergency order limited “in-person” attendance to a maximum of 50 persons, and the corporation had not allowed owners (or their proxies) to attend electronically. The corporation had only allowed owners to otherwise attend by written proxy (but, again, the appointed proxies were not necessarily able to attend the meeting).]
- The strata corporation had also treated some of the proxy votes as “advance ballot votes”, and the Tribunal said that “there is no explicit provision for advance ballot voting, before an SGM (Special General Meeting)”.
The Tribunal made specific note of the fact that the resolution considered at the meeting (namely a resolution to terminate the corporation’s management contract) had been amended at the meeting, and said:
I find it significant that many strata lot owners cast advance “proxy votes” based on the proposed wording in the April 28, 2020 SGM notice, and that these votes were counted as approving different, amended wording at the SGM, without first approving those amendments.
I should stress: This is a B.C. decision (not necessarily “the law” in Ontario). But the same reasoning has me worried about “advance electronic voting” that we’re starting to see in some Ontario condominiums.
I definitely recognize the benefits of advance electronic voting. The voting ease and convenience can help condominiums achieve quorum and can help condominiums conclude required business. And electronic decision-making certainly seems to be the “way of the future”. We’re all becoming more and more comfortable with electronic procedures.
However: It seems to me that there is widespread acceptance of the fact that condominium business still requires a meeting. I think that the Condominium Act makes this pretty clear (at least in Ontario). Even where “advance electronic voting” is being considered, there is still the recognized need to call and hold a “meeting”.
I note as well that the business to be transacted can change at the meeting. Resolutions (including proposed By-laws and Rules) can be amended. Additional candidates for election can be nominated. These are “fresh decisions” that can arise at a meeting.
And of course, the whole idea of a meeting is to allow for possible discussion of all of the proposed business.
My concern is: Advance voting allows an owner to make a decision without attending (or having a proxy attend) a meeting. So, the owner (or the owner’s proxy) does not participate in any discussion (permitted at a meeting). And the owner (or the owner’s proxy) is also not necessarily aware of, or involved in, any proposed changes to the business of the meeting. What if all owners (save for one) decide to vote early? Does a meeting then even make sense?
I suppose one theory of advance voting is that owners should have the right to “choose to vote early and avoid the discussion” (as long as this is authorized, in Ontario, by by-law of the condominium). But again: Does this defeat the requirement for a meeting? Does this defeat the interests of other owners who may wish to have discussion and/or to propose changes at a meeting?
In summary, the above decision of the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal again makes me wonder if advance voting may sometimes be contrary to the need for a “meeting”.
If meetings are really to be a “thing of the past” in condominiums, shouldn’t the legislature say so?
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