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I got there at just before 6 (stuck at work) and made my way into the lineup: at this point it was on the stairs, and by the time I made it up to the second floor I could see the queue stretched from the boardroom, out to the hallway, around a corner and down to the end of the next hall, then turned back around on itself and snaked back to the stairwell door and down to the main. It was nutty. People were being very patient, though, except for a few pensioners who were pretty crabby.

The A/V people started setting up extra speakers and TVs to broadcast to the overflow rooms. I didn't think I would even get in, but eventually another intake table was set up and they decided to start the new line right where I was standing so HAW-haw, pensioners, I win. Well, not really, I let a couple in line in front of me.

I got checked off the list and made my way into the main boardroom, where there was still standing room (no overflow for this gal) and hunkered over against a wall. THS staff started bringing every chair in the building into the hallways, even out onto the roof beside the boardroom. Eventually there were about 30 people sitting out there (I envied them: it was quite cool out there, and became pretty steamy indoors).

There was a guy standing beside me who said he was a dog walker. [He had] called Trow a "narcissist" in front of the news cameras.

Eventually around 7:10 things got underway. Michael Downey made his opening remarks, well-received and heavily applauded. Christopher Barry came up and spoke too, and his background as a business guy was
pretty evident - not a softy but maybe the kind of CEO that an organisation that's scrabbling for funds needs to help steer it, at least temporarily?

Candidates were introduced and spoke one at a time in groups of six. A couple of no-shows (late entries to the roster, I didn't have them in the candidate-profiles booklet I got in the mail a couple of weeks ago).

- Daniel Belanger rushed through his 3 minutes like an auctioneer. I remembered him from the meeting in December: his main objective is total no-kill and he's quite passionate/strident about it.

- David Bronskill (board backed candidate), a lawyer from Cabbagetown. Talked about his experience volunteering, committees, mostly arts and youth-related. Wife is a vet.

- Lisa Gibbens (board backed candidate) - started off telling a story about her epileptic dog. She stopped at a crucial point in the story and said that since we only know half the story, maybe we're worried, or maybe we're even a little scared: and drew a parallel to what the old board members try to do when they spread rumours and half-truths. She asked how they would even know what was going on internally, since none of them had been back in the building since they left last year "some of them in handcuffs". At that point, a guy I had seen earlier sitting in the overflow room, but who had apparently moved to the roof, started hollering outside that he thought no one was going to trash anyone else (I'm actually kind of piecing it together here,
because he didn't have a mic so I could only get bits) and that this was all a farce. Someone asked him to come inside and use the mic, so he did and began haranguing her about how no one could hear anything outside of the room (first thing anyone had said about it, and everyone outside the main room was asked repeatedly whether they could hear okay). Every time Lisa tried to start speaking again he would shout her down, eventually just screaming BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT! over and over. Someone finally got him to leave the mic, and he lurched to the back of the room just as the two cops came in to take him away.

- Brenda Grant - a volunteer at the THS. A good speaker and seems like a decent sort.

- Bob Hambley (Trow backed candidate) came out swinging and flailed his way through a speech that accused the new board of, among other things, using the TAS as their "killing machine" or something. Seemed kind of insane, bellowing "come on! yeah, bring it on!" as the crowd booed him. Also went on this tangent about how the THS is SO allowed to take wildlife, that they're maybe not allowed to take in BEARS, or DEER, or a MOOSE, but what if a little child brings a robin in?? People were yelling NO THEY'RE NOT and he's going YES THEY ARE and it was all a little bizarre.

- Carol Hroncek (board backed candidate) got lots of applause and woo-hoos. She's a hard worker and I think she'll add a lot of energy to the board.

- Margaret Ann Johnson (Trow backed candidate), whom I hadn't heard of before but who sure seemed familiar to most of the people in the room. One of Trow's old-lady brigade, I guess. Invoked the name of Worthington, eliciting snickers and hisses.

- Ian McConachie (Trow backed candidate), who spoke for about a minute and a half, mostly reading from notes and muttering. Jeers from the crowd.

- Crystal Tomusiak (board backed candidate) spoke sincerely and briefly. Nothing controversial or confrontational.

- and then we come to Tim Trow. Before he came up, Downey spoke to the crowd and said that he wanted to make sure everyone had a fair chance to speak and asked us to please treat Trow with respect or whatever. Yeah, yeah. So Trow came up and said he wasn't going to take the whole three minutes, then launched into this kind-of whiny rambling rant about how sure, the animals at the THS now are fine, but what about the animals who don't get in? What's happening to them? In his day no one was turned away, so where are all the animals who aren't being admitted to the THS going? it kind of went on and on and the crowd was getting a little restless and he finally stormed off, waving his arms.

- there was Tom Ungar, who was good

- and finally Ken Wood (board backed candidate), who was good, treehugger guy (literally: chained himself to a tree on Lansdowne once), spoke well and convincingly.

There was a 15-minute break, where I hung out in the halls trying to see if I could hear anything gossipy but no dice. By then I guessed it was probably going to go pretty overwhelmingly in favour of the board's picks but you never know, right?

At 9:05 we reconvened and ballots were handed out to everyone. I will say that the balloting process was pretty disorganised - I know they got way more attendees than forseen, including quite a few who had already sent in their proxies but came to the meeting anyway (which is great, but was still a bit of an added complication) but eventually everyone got a ballot who should have gotten one, and we all filled them out and returned them to the scrutineers.

Then a couple of things to vote on, like the bylaw amendments and the "confirmation of proceedings" which I forget what that was exactly but I waved my blue VOTE FOR card anyway.

Then there was "other business" where a couple of people asked questions about generalities. Then a woman in the overflow room (who we couldn't see, only hear, so it was kind of disorienting) said that she wanted to make a motion to have greater control over the voting process next time, since the way it was being handled last night meant that there was a possibility someone could vote more than once. Which, you know, I kind of agreed with, even though I thought she sounded kind of pissy about it, but whatever, so that was moved and seconded and voted on and carried, and then Downey was going to move on but then she was all I HAVE ANOTHER MOTION PLEASE and he was all uhhh ok, so she said she moved that in future all by-law amendments would be
voted on individually and not as a group, because what about people who agree with some of the by-law amendments but not others.

And as Michael Downey was kind of working through exactly how that should be phrased, someone near me (whose name I unfortunately forget, because she was awesome) stood up to the mic near me and said she is a former teacher and union member and she is very experienced in things like points of order and so forth, and that normally voting on individual amendments is fine when you have meetings that are scheduled over the course of three DAYS, but in this kind of situation it's accepted practice that amendments are grouped together to
expedite voting. She actually really jabbed it in there, and when the other-room-lady started to say something in protest, Teacher Lady said to the room at large "I am going to remind the mover that according to
practice, by speaking again she will close her motion. I am just saying that to caution her" which shut up the other-room-lady.

So it was kind of resolved that they would look into disseminating the individual bylaw information well in advance of the next AGM but yeah, no individual voting-on.

THEN other-room-lady started going on about how she had called the THS when she found a feral cat with a litter of kittens not long ago, and that the woman who answered the phone "told me to take them to the WOODS and let them GO!!" and then she started to sob. OK then!!

Aaaaaaand then I had to leave.

In summary, at the 2011 Toronto Humane Society AGM:

- about 270 members in attendance
- meeting started an hour late to accommodate registration
- the central meeting room and 2 other overflow areas were needed to accommodate everyone
- 740 proxies were submitted with 30 spoiled
- 520 proxies were held by the THS Board Chair
- 183 proxies were held by Tim Trow
- 7 members had individual proxies
- the Board-endorsed slate of David Bronskill, Lisa Gibbens, Carol Hroncek, Crystal Tomusiak and Ken Wood was elected for the 5 vacancies
- amended Bylaws based on principles of animals first, transparency, accountability and term limits (2 X 3-year terms) were approved

Another review by Selkie here at her blog, Tailspin.

2 Comments to “Toronto Humane Society annual general meeting and election - from the trenches”

  1. Anonymous says:

    After we found out that 500 proxies had already been submitted to the board, it was actually rather pointless to stick around and vote for a done deal, but we'd been waiting for over an hour and there were some circus acts. Despite the entreaties from Michael and Linda for civility, there were quite a few yahoos in the audience and on the stage. After the directors' vote, a few of us headed over to the Dominion instead of sticking around for the bylaw chatter. I wish the members in attendance had been able to switch it up from the proxy results. Time to hold feet to the fire.

  2. selkiem says:

    great overview! Agree with your comments about the discussion vis-a-vis amendments ... I blanched when she suggested EACH one be voted on individually - got a week anyone?

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.