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Agricultural Society holds long delayed AGM

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After more than a yearand-a-half since their last membership meeting, the Swan River Valley Agricultural
Society (SRVAS) held a successfully completed Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Monday (Aug. 23), with some important business passed by the members to allow to move forward with business that will hopefully include the next iteration of the North-West Round-up and Exhibition, which hasn’t taken place since 2019 and now won’t be scheduled to take place until next July. At the last AGM held in December 2019, unresolved issues with memberships and proxy vote procedures meant that official business was unable to be approved, and financial reports, executive elections and the passing of a new constitution were unable to be completed. 
A mere few months after that meeting, the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared in Manitoba, and planning a large public meeting became more complicated. A COVID-compliant AGM was finally able to be
held via a drive-in assembly held on the SRVAS Grounds, allowing members to participate from the comfort and safety of their own vehicles, or via proxy votes. 
A total of 74 members present and five non-voting people present. In addition, 51 proxy votes were
accounted for, adding to the total of 125 votes that were present at the meeting. Of those numbers, two
of them were underage members, who were afforded a vote after an appeal via a point-of-order challenged that these members’ votes should be counted. The total registered membership of the SRVAS
is 262. Vera Chernecki, a professional registered parliamentarian with no involvement with the SRVAS, acted as the presiding officer over the meeting. 
Following the introduction of the board and the rules of procedure for the meeting, the agenda, minutes from last AGM and appointment of scrutineers for the ballots were approved.
Financial Report Linda Cole from PKHC presented the financial report for the last two fiscal years – year ended Oct. 31, 2019 and year ended Oct. 31, 2020. 
There were some notable differences by the end of the 2019 year-end, namely that the fundraising
gala brought in more than twice as much as the prior year – $20,810 compared to $7,841 – and that
there was $28,447 spent on legal fees, when nothing was spent on legal fees the year prior.
The statement of operations showed that the Fair and Round-Up made slightly less than 2018. A similar proportional change also happened with the social committee. The year ending Oct. 31, 2020 was, of course, a very strange year, with Cole highlighting the new note that was included in the report: “In March, 2020, the Organization was mandated to close its facility by provincial decree, therefore were unable to host the annual exhibition and rodeo,” Cole read, as part of the note. “As a result of this closure, there has been a reduction to revenue and expenses for the fiscal year ending Oct. 31, 2020.”
Notable in the statement of financial position was $30,000 of long term debt, which was the CEBA loan that will mature in 2025, bearing an interest rate of zero percent. The loan was part of the Government
of Canada’s COVID-19 response, and if $30,000 of the total $40,000 loan is paid back by the end of the 2022 calendar year, the remaining $10,000 would be forgiven. 
Even though there was no event for the 2020 year, the loss of revenue was balanced slightly with
$21,162 of new grants, one of which was considered the $10,000 forgiveable loan. 
Other grants included a Manitoba Infrastructure grant, a Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries grant and a
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Legal fees were down significantly from the year prior – $16,610 compared to $28,447 – and the Executive Assistant’s salary was also reduced to $13,000 from $21,996.
Committee Reports No committee reports were presented as there were no activities to report. Membership Fees The next order of business was the vote for and the adoption of a new membership fee.
Members were initially presented with a choice between three different membership options, selected via secret ballot: 
1. $100 regular membership fee and $50 senior membership fee for those who are 65+ years old. At
this fee rate, the Society can continue to honour the incentives of one free weekend gate entry bracelet, one half price weekend gate entry bracelet for a spouse, and two tickets to attend the Sponsorship Appreciation Supper.
2. $50 regular membership fee for all members. At this fee rate, the Society can honour the incentive
of one-half priced weekend gate entry bracelet. 
3. $24 regular membership fee for all members. At this fee rate, the Society can not include any  incentives.
SRVAS Secretary-Treasurer Jamie Beals broke down the case for increasing the membership fees to
$100.
“A three-day bracelet pass is an expense of $48, a half-price three-day bracelet is $24, and two tickets to the appreciation supper is $34, coming out to a total member expense of $106,” she said. 
“2021 membership income (when the SRVAS started charging $100 per membership) was $26,200 and expenses were $27,772. This still leaves us at a loss of $1,572, but not as great of a loss.”
Member Hayden Rooks noted his concern about the $100 membership rate on the ballot, saying that
while the argument for it made sense considering the incentive expenses, he feared that it would drive
away some members. 
Rooks also added that having three options to choose from on the ballot could lead to a vote-splitting
scenario. He proposed dropping one of the options. His comments were followed up by member Sean
Baskier, who moved that the $24 option be dropped from consideration. The membership approved the
motion with a vote of 88 in favour and 28 against. When the results for the secret ballot vote came in,
66 were in favour of the $100 membership fee and 53 in favour of the $50 membership fee. Five ballots
were considered spoiled because they were proxy votes that selected the $24 option.
SRVAS board director Julie Baskier added an important clarification following the AGM that a person does not need to be a member to volunteer for the NorthWest Round-up and Exhibition, so any potential for a reduced membership should not affect the pool of people that would be willing to volunteer for the event.
Constitution The membership also took into consideration a new constitution, which replaces a constitution that was last amended and approved in 1989.
“(That constitution) is no longer relevant for your association and not in compliance with the Manitoba
Corporations Act, nor the Manitoba Agricultural Societies Act,’ said Chernecki. “The Ag Society board approved the new constitution and recommends its adoption.” Baskier presented a little context about the formation of the new constitution.
“This constitution has been developed over the past four years,” she said. “In 2018, we were advised by the Department of Agriculture and Resource Development and the Manitoba Association of Agricultural Societies to create a new constitution that is in line with current legislation. In fact, this was requested of all agricultural societies in Manitoba, but unfortunately, our (constitution passed in 1989) is the most out of date and most problematic in all Manitoba.
“(The constitution) does not clearly define the governance of our Society.
The legal case the Society has been faced with since 2018 has proven this. This constitution does not protect the Society or the members within it. There is little direction or accountability. There is no process, there is no policy. There are clauses within our (1989) constitution that are simply absent or going against the current legislation that our current Society is to uphold.
“Our funding from the government is dependant on us passing this constitution,” Baskier continued.
“Furthermore, passing this constitution will hopefully put the legal case from 2018 to rest. The parties
who have been listed in the legal case against the Society have been consulted throughout the process of developing it and have been provided ample opportunity to offer input.” Baskier noted that the lawyer hired by the SRVAS and the lawyer hired by the plaintiffs who filed a suit against the SRVAS have worked extensively to ensure that their clients would be pleased with the final document. The team of lawyers from the Department of Agriculture and Resource Development were also consulted. “The Department of
Agriculture and Manitoba Agricultural Societies Corporation (MASC) have made it known that they are interested in using it as a template for all agricultural societies in Manitoba to refer to,” she said.
“With the passing of this constitution, our Society and community can move forward and focus on hosting a very successful 2022 NorthWest Round-up and Exhibition.” 
Rooks – who was one of the plaintiffs listed in the legal action brought against the SRVAS – proposed
two amendments to remove specific clauses of the new constitution. The first clause he proposed to strike from the constitution was 15.04(a)(vi) under Duties of the President, which read, “Appoint members of the Society to one or more committees of the Society taking into account the members skills, abilities
and interests.”
Rooks reasoned that the duty could feel like too large of a responsibility to put on one person, and could lead to an imbalance of power in a future conflict. Baskier, as a board representative, did not disagree
with the amendment. The membership voted to approve the amendment. Rook’s second amendment
was to change the wording of clause 16.04, which read, “The Board may, by resolution, dissolve, amalgamate or establish and empower standing committees of the Board in addition to the Standing Committees listed in Article 16.01, as the Board may, from time to time consider appropriate.”
His change was to replace the first iteration of “standing” with the word “ad hoc”. 
“(The old wording) empowers the Board to remove any Standing Committees of the Ag Society,” Rooks said, giving his reasoning. “The Standing Committees are listed in the constitution and by having this clause stand the way it is, it is problematic because it empowers the Board to make changes to the constitution. 
Also, there isn’t a reason to leave it in its current format because changing or removing a Standing Committee could be done at an AGM or special members’ meeting, which would maintain a reasonable balance of power.
“A committee might need to be created in an emergency basis, which is where ‘ad hoc’ creation would take place.” In favour of that amendment was 36 and opposed was 94, so the amendment was lost, leaving the clause to remain in the constitution as originally presented.
When the secret ballots were counted to adopt the new constitution, 87 members were in favour and 36
not in favour, thereby passing.
Baskier clarified following the meeting that it was clear that the constitution was well-approved by the
membership, and there is still opportunity to change the constitution at a future AGM, if needed.
Executive Election The new Executive Board of Directors was then elected. Nominations were taken prior to the AGM, with deadlines for submission on Aug. 13 at 2 p.m., in order for names to appear on the printed ballots. 
There was also opportunity for nominations to be taken from the floor before the vote, with spaces on the ballots available to write in a name.
No positions were contested, so the Board was fully approved by acclamation. The following is the newly elected board: 
• President – Austen Anderson
• Vice-President – Lesley Sembaluk
• Track and Racing Director – Tim Rausch
• Rodeo Director – Barney Stehr
• Heavy Horse Director – Garry Clapham
• Light Horse Director – Lynn Stehr
• Livestock Director – Katie Anderson
• Grounds Director – Leah Graham
• Gates Director – Marjorie Williamson
• Special Events Director – Della McKay
• Social Director – Erin Schullman
• Advertising and Sponsorship Director – Wayne Antichow
• Home Living and Horticultural Director – Julie Baskier
“I’m so appreciative of the great turn out for our AGM,” said new President Anderson. “Despite the long wait to be parked, the cold weather, and having the meeting during harvest, our members came out in droves because they care about the future of the Ag Society and the NorthWest Round-up and Exhibition.
“We feel excited about the future and are planning events for this fall and winter to get momentum going before the Rodeo returns in 2022.”

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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