In their own words
Interview with Diana Belshaw, president MTCC #1299
Diana Belshaw is an experienced condominium director and a 4-year president of the Board of Directors of MTCC #1299, a 181-unit condominium in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto. She and the Board made an early switch to virtual meetings in 2020 when the Ontario government announcement was made at the start of the pandemic.
“In some ways we were early guinea pigs,” she laughs, as the Board, aided by their corporation lawyer Denise Lash and management, soldiered ahead. “We consistently held virtual meetings. We did a lot of online engagement starting with Board meetings, bylaw meetings and, finally, our AGM,” she explains.
“We found it easy working with CondoVoter. They have a good combination of efficient vote tabulation and meeting management.”
Diana adds “We all can do Zoom. But this was different!” Diana is referring to the many pieces of documentation that are required for condo owners’ meetings and AGMs.
Having gained successful virtual meeting experience, Diana is keen to share her knowledge with others. As a condo Board president, she is particularly pleased with the ability to monitor and know in advance of a meeting how many people have voted. She concedes that there are still a few occasional paper proxies that are used for a handful of owners who remain uncomfortable with online voting while others are whizzes. “There are still some individuals who do not use online banking, and that’s one of the most secure online transactions. So, I suppose these people will not cast a vote online either.”
A huge part of Diana’s experience with electronic voting took place when the Board decided to review all its bylaws at once. “For our bylaw meeting we had 90% voter participation. And for the subsequent AGM, we achieved 80% participation. CondoVoter hosted each of these meetings and were able to produce [and prepare for virtual presentation] the required documents for us. They are very supportive partners.”
The corporation was sometimes on the edge of reaching quorum at in-person meetings, but thanks to a core of fairly active owners they always made it. Now, understandably, Diana’s favourite benefit of virtual meetings is advance voting. “There is more security knowing how votes are managed and it’s most helpful to know you have reached quorum prior to the meeting,” she says. “You aren’t juggling. You can now focus on managing the meeting.” Two other benefits to virtual meetings she has found to be important include: less likelihood for emotions from the floor, and more space and time for other business. “All these benefits occur because our virtual meetings are run efficiently, professionally and carefully.”
Looking back to when in-person meetings were the norm for condominiums, Diana has made this observation. “People are sometimes afraid that virtual meetings are less personal. But that’s just not true,” she states. “In my experience, there is just as much capacity for interaction and commentary.”
She and the Board all agree that they would like to continue with some combination of virtual and in-person meetings in the future.
“We have owners who travel, who have young families, who have busy lifestyles. A hybrid meeting [in-person and virtual] can accommodate all owners.”
We’ve come a long way from 2020, through a pandemic and now halfway through 2021. “Everyone’s online meeting fears have been put to rest,” says Diana. “Virtual meetings work well and they are convenient. I really see no downside.”