Today's Rant: In Praise of Term Limits

Strength in NumbersFor a good part of my life I have been involved in volunteer organizations. From an early age volunteerism was encouraged by my family. It is something that has given me a lot of joy as well as a huge education in what is the potential of the human spirit.

I was lucky enough to work with June Callwood  or as we used to call her, Saint June. She was responsible for many of the community services that support Torontonians. I worked with her at Casey House Hospice , the AIDS hospice in Downtown Toronto which has become a model worldwide. In the early days I started by writing charitable receipts for donations in a corner of the basement and within a few years became the Chair of Fundraising, then a Board member, and finally President.

In the early days of Casey House, the governance model only allowed Board members a three year term…I found it strange that as a Board member got a good head of steam going and understood the organization, they were being moved off the Board. However, it was the thought at the time that term limits stop Board members from taking ownership of the organization and reminds them that they must keep any organization moving forward.

I remember once sitting in a meeting called by Frances Lankin , the then Minister of Health who announced changes in the Hospitals Act, when one man stood to preface his reaction to change with the familiar “I have been on the Board of _____ for 15 years”. I remember turning to the Executive Director of Casey House and at the same time we both realized that the problem with the Health Ministry was the entrenchment of Boards and staff in the “status quo “.

Fighting change is not acceptable in 2010. Most of our governmental and volunteer organizations are invested in the Status Quo. We, the Public have to insist on term limits for any organization, political or otherwise. We are held hostage by inflated governments that are resisting change.

The private sector is moving ahead. It is forcing employees to become more tech saavy and look for alternatives to become more efficient. We, the Public are having to pay higher taxes to pay for the inefficiencies within the Public sector.

One of the best things we could do is insist on term limits for Politicians, Public Servants and Leaders of any organizations. Yes, three years may too short but something like six years would be great. It would force young, talented contributors to get involved.  The talent out there is incredible however most potential candidates are intimidated by the “OLD GUARD” and voters rely too much on previous experience and name recognition when we should be looking at innovation and motivation.

There is strength in numbers; we can make a difference but we must start by encouraging term limits at every level of an organization.

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