Sunday, March 28, 2010

Message to CLA members: CLA President’s Task Force

This has not been the year I was anticipating as CLA President! In my inaugural address in June 2009, when I said “who would have thought that General Motors would be filing for bankruptcy protection”, I should have taken it as an omen.

First, let me assure you that CLA is not in the meltdown situation we witnessed a year ago, we are solvent! Further, we can continue to operate without making any decisions for probably 18 months. However, we do have to address some serious financial concerns. I posed the problem for Executive Council and emphasized the fact that delaying action would not be prudent. The seeds for our situation were sown years and years ago. We have attended successive Annual General Meetings and on each occasion listened to a dire Treasurer Report. Then we manage to walk away with the feeling that the sky is not falling.

Over the past two weeks I have heard that the initial communication from Executive Council contained mixed messages. Is our Association in a real financial quandary or not? The answer is: CLA is solvent, but we cannot continue to operate in the manner to which we have become accustomed. We need to change!

I have been asking myself for the past several months, how did we get here? The budget chart that was distributed on 11 March is very clear: we budget with the anticipation that revenues will not cover expenditures. This is not normal long term behaviour. Most organizations avoid deficits if at all possible. In circumstances when a deficit cannot be avoided, a contingency is developed to accommodate the planned deficit, combined with an action plan to restore funds to a balanced situation. I believe our approach has been less pragmatic, and much more of a “hopeful” approach, believing that the next year will be better than the last. CLA has been functioning within this hopeful environment for a decade, and the time of addressing the problem is upon all members. We can no longer avoid embarking on this very difficult discussion.

I am very pleased to tell you that the Task Force which was established by motion of Executive Council on 28 February has been formed, and held its first meeting by teleconference on March 19. It was a very lively discussion of how to begin what seems like an impossible task. The members of the Task Force are: Melody Burton, Gary Gibson, Kelly Moore (ex officio), Shelagh Paterson, Ken Roberts, John Teskey (chair), and Keith Walker.

The Task Force will be developing various scenerios which will be pulled apart and reconstructed as we search for the appropriate way forward. There will be a blog on the CLA website which will provide you with an opportunity to post your comments on the scenerios as they are developed by the Task Force. We only have a matter of weeks for this process and I hope that you will actively participate. I would urge you to review a key CLA strategic document from 2001, called Writing the Future, which is available on the CLA website at: .

I want to thank the individuals who have written to me to offer help and support. As the blog on the website becomes active I hope you will share the many thoughts that you have been developing to help direct the association into a revitalized future.

John Teskey
CLA President

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