Why Weren’t NCC Directors Fully Informed? Reader

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This is a comment from frequent Bulldog contributor Ron Benn:

National Capital Commission director Bob Plamondon said that he received the The Ottawa Hospital materials Monday on the Civic campus locattion, which did not leave him with enough time to read, let alone comprehend the analysis and recommendations.

I have, over the course of my career, had to prepare materials for meetings of boards of directors, and have sat on a few boards as well. These were smaller enterprises, some publicly traded, some privately held. It was standard corporate governance protocol to have all material for the directors to consider distributed at least a week in advance of the meeting so that they had time to read, comprehend, develop questions etc.

How can an organization the size of the NCC fail to have distributed these reports, especially those related to such a high-profile decision?

 


 

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6 thoughts on “Why Weren’t NCC Directors Fully Informed? Reader

  1. Maybe he was working on a much bigger and more important file.

    Has anyone heard from Mayor Watson,,, he must be busy getting ready for the Grey Cup Game.

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  2. This is the federal government you’re talking about. Everything must be approved by dozens of levels of management and that takes time. It would be more surprising if the documents were distributed well ahead of the meeting.

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    1. Merril, I interpret your response as sarcasm. Dysfunctionality is an excuse, not a reason for poor performance.

      If the directors take their role seriously, they should instruct management to provide the necessary documents by a proscribed lead time or postpone the meeting. Failure to provide complete reports on a timely basis is a sign of a lack of respect by management. Willingness to accept the lack of respect is a sign of a director accepting his/her role as a mere decoration.

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  3. Ron Benn,

    You do realize that this is Ottawa?

    What happened is that the Hospital officials (HO) decided to play a game of chicken. The HO had been promised 60 acres of Experimental Farm land by the Conservatives. That met with a lot of opposition. Furthermore, a federal election was on the horizon.

    What did the HO do? They sat on their hands for 15 months, convinced that public pressure would force the feds to honour that promise. Even after it was clear that the new government (e.g. Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa Centre and Minister of Environment and Climate Change) was against the Experimental Farm lands being touched, nonetheless the HO thought they had this in the bag (i.e. counting on the support of people who agree on the new Civic needing oodles of surface land for parking and re-location needing to be next to their existing site).

    Just like the case with the City of Ottawa and LRT down the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, the NCC called their bluff. There were only three or four politically viable sites (i.e. no Experimental Farm sites, and nothing too far west or south). Since the HO was against a rebuild/expansion on their existing site, then that further narrowed the search.

    Do you honestly believe that more time was needed to make a choice? Tunney’s Pasture is no mystery site to anyone from Ottawa, especially someone like Bob Plamondon. A public presentation was made and a public survey taken, just like in the case of the LeBreton Flats. The criteria was clear, and the factors that led to this choice are all plainly listed on the NCC website.

    This game of chicken has left the hospital officials with egg on their faces.

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    1. Sheridan, I consider the selection separately from the process that got them there. Getting the right decision by accident, or dare I say by manipulation, is not something to be proud of.

      There were many lessons to be learned from the Enron fiasco of more than a decade ago. One of the most important lessons was that the Board needs to get sufficient information to understand management’s objectives and strategy. The more complex the issue the more important it is to get a complete package of reports with sufficient time to digest it, and to develop probing questions.

      Another lesson from the Enron fiasco was that the Board cannot be viewed as a rubber stamp, and it is the responsibility of each director to ensure they aren’t treated as such.

      It is time for the NCC Board to join the current millennium (after all it is 2016) and insist on being well and properly informed.

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  4. Let’s look at the other side of this.

    Why did Plamondon and other NCC directors go ahead and vote on an issue for which they didn’t have all the information in a timely manner? One of the duties a director of any corporation has is to make informed decisions. That’s part of responsible governance.

    Is this an isolated incident or do the directors regularly proceed with decision-making without information? Anyone voting on things he or she doesn’t fully understand should resign immediately.

    NCC management doesn’t float around in the ether somewhere. They report either directly or indirectly to the board. If they aren’t doing their job, i.e. providing timely and complete information to enable the board to function, what’s being done about that by the board?

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