Let Them Eat Cake

So history records Marie Antoinette’s comment (one of her last I suspect) when told that her subjects were starving.

Which brings me to the current “leadership” at our beloved Radio Amateurs of Canada. When asked here and elsewhere what happened to our last volunteer regulatory affairs officer we were told by two highly placed members of the reigning polit bureau that the gentleman in question had been fired and “what more did we need to know?”

I have a sense of what East Germany must have been like during the Cold War or mainland China during the Great Leap Forward.

Well assuming Bill Gade was “fired” for cause, I for one would like to know the reason we took this draconian step to remedy a problem that no one seems prepared to discuss.

It’s sort of like being told we should eat cake isn’t it?

What if Bill wasn’t dismissed for cause? What then? And what if he was? What was it? Could we not have found a better way to deal with what appears to be at the least a difference of opinion and at worst something that warrants further investigation?

We no longer are governed based on the divine right of kings? Or are we?

Ever since I was blown off by the two lesser lights whose arrogant statement (and trust me this was a statement and not posed as a question suggesting perhaps I was a bit dim just for asking) of what more did I need to know about the dismissal of one of our own, a volunteer trying to serve his Amateur Radio community, someone just like you and I, the whole situation has bothered me no end.

And the brain-trust at RAC, such as it is, wonders why no one is volunteering to assume the growing number of vacancies that exist on our board and executive. I’d liken volunteering for a position with RAC to be akin to being a rower on a Roman galley. You’re whipped into obedience, chained to a hard wooden seat, kept below decks with no idea of where you’re going or why.

What would Winston Smith say? (Look it up.)

Are we having fun yet? Well at least a slave rower could say they got a free trip out of the experience.

What are we getting out of RAC?

Seems a lot of folks are getting pretty fed up with results.

What’s Next For RAC?

Best guess? We’re going to hear about a “Foundation” license someday soon.

What’s that you ask? This is likely going to be a limited-privilege beginner’s license.

Best news for RAC is Industry Canada might agree to allow the association to do the examinations and collect and keep the fees!

Now this would be good news for RAC but if this is the first time you’ve heard about it or if you’ve not had a chance to make comments to RAC then how do you feel now about being excluded from the decision-making process?

Do you approve of a new license? And do you approve of the way it seems to have been developed? Maybe it’s time for something completely different?

Maybe it’s time for a new Canadian Amateur Radio Federation? We could call it CARF…oh, wait a minute. Haven’t we been down that road once before?

Isn’t there a song about the new boss being like the old boss?



HAM-X 2013 Big Turnout

I knew Ham-X 2013 taking place today at the Brampton Fair Grounds on Heart Lake Road north of Brampton, Ont., was going to be packed as I scanned the VHF/UHF bands on my way up from Oakville.Charter-3190080

It seemed that every repeater in southern Ontario was active with hams heading to Ham-X.

A joint effort by the Peel Amateur Radio Club (of which I am past member) and the Mississauga ARC Ham-X has had good years and great years and this was a great year.

My guess is Ham-X attracted close to 1,000 hams and that number may actually climb as the morning goes on.

All the big Ham Radio dealers were there as was a booth by Icom. Lots of club booths and of course tons of tables piled high with all sorts of goodies.

This Vibroplex bug followed me home.Charter-3190039

For more photos please visit my photo gallery at Peter West Photography.


Better Late…

Got my March/April issue of The Canadian Amateur today (March 21) and as I’ve said before it’s a pretty good magazine and one of the few published by a national ham radio association anywhere.

(I was a group magazine editor of a bunch of national magazines and sure I’d give the old girl a re-do but I’m not the editor and the money we spend on editing and layout is money well spent. Anyone who says we shouldn’t be paying the $8000 or so annually on editing and should rely on volunteers doesn’t know what they’re talking about.)

Of course the main reason TCA does so well as its published and edited by a team outside of the regular gang at RAC world headquarters.

Best article?

Got to the one about how to display your QSLs while regaining your wall space. It’s a solution that works for any ham and is very XYL friendly. Gary Skett, VE7AS is the author and I won’t give away the surprise and clever solution but what else would you expect from a fellow Flexer (Gary runs a Flex 3000)? Great article Gary.

Worst waste of space?

Got to be the self-serving rant by one of our grand poobahs complaining about “politics” taking the fun out of his hobby. What nonsense. Politics has been called the art of the possible. It’s also been called the art of the compromise.

Both definitions seem to elude the understanding of our dwindling and misdirected leadership group.

Complaining about the “politics” is an admission that the author hasn’t got a clue about how to work with people as what he or she is really saying is how disappointed he is that the rest of us don’t get in lock step with their idea of what’s right and okay.

This is a waste of precious editorial space we can never get back and we paid for it 😦

Politics is the art of working together and if RAC has one failing it is that we’ve never learned how to work together as witnessed by the recent “firing” of our volunteer regulatory affairs officer, the quitting of a certain VP of PR who couldn’t stand the BS any longer and the rather painful elimination of one past president just to mention a few highlights of the recent past.

Now that’s politics folks!

Previous Canadian ham radio organizations suffered the same fate of overbearing leadership devoid of any understanding of how to empower the membership to set and realize their own vision and goals and who increasingly alienated and drew away from the mainstream membership who quit in frustration and disgust.

When RAC fails, and I’m sure it will, I hope we can find a way to keep TCA. bismarck

BTW it was Otto von Bismarck who said “politics is the art of the possible”.

He also is supposed to have said that “laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.”

Bismarck also said “When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means he hasn’t the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice.”

Keep that one in mind. It might come in handy for a later post 🙂

Bismarck wasn’t called the Iron Chancellor by chance.

Who Owns RAC?

Well it’s clear I don’t. 🙂

If I did after the mass firing and the suspension of the ancient creaking dysfunctional constitution, a national members’s committee of inquiry would begin the process of breathing new life into our dead association.

So who does run RAC?

You’d think it would be the membership as after all they’re the ones who forked out their $50.

But how do they get to have their say? Why it’s through the election of their trusted directors who have duties and responsibilities and are legally obligated to act in the members’s best interest. (The responsibilities of directors of non-profit organizations are spelled out by federal and provincial laws.)

But if those representatives, the directors, are virtually all “elected” by acclamation or by a handful of votes can we truly call them representatives and leaders?

And who can explain the thinking behind “firing” of a member who questioned the process he was witnessing when it came to a $20,000 Industry Canada contract? The message here seems to be don’t question the process or the consequences will be unpleasant. Some might consider this a form of bullying and we don’t tolerate bullying in our Canadian schools and workplaces anymore – do we?

So if the members aren’t in control and the directors aren’t in control, just who is in control?

Could it be that no one is really in control and RAC just lurches from crisis to crisis? One member says it’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It looks like good work is taking place but unfortunately the ship is still going down.

And if we don’t like what’s happening to our national radio association, what can we do about it now?

Perhaps you might want to personally ask your “elected” representative a few questions?

I might suggest starting with questions going back to the awarding of a $20,000 contract to one individual inside of RAC.

You might want to ask your director these questions:

  • Were you aware of the contract?
  • Did you have an opportunity to discuss and vote on the awarding of the contract?
  • Are you satisfied with the outcome (including the “firing” of the regulatory affairs officer)?

The names and email addresses of your current directors are listed inside of The Canadian Amateur magazine which seems to have encountered some printing and delivery issues this month and will be arriving late.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

The corollary to the title is the beating will continue until morale improves.

So what should be the prime directive of any non-profit hobby-related association?

Might it not be to serve the membership?

So are you being served by your national Amateur Radio association here in Canada?

You paid your $50 and what did you get? My guess is most of you can’t answer that question with any assuredness.

In fact I’m reading emails and hearing from members of our Canadian association who are saying that maybe we should sit back and let the whole darn thing collapse by itself?

We can guess that programs and projects have either been cutback or not implemented in an effort of stanch the unsustainable economic bleeding which was taking place over the last few years.

This is a good thing and shows good management practices are being put into place.

But vague suggestions that better days are coming (which we’ve been reading in director’s emails to the masses for years) does little to inspire or reassure.

So does the inability of the leadership team to recruit new members into the executive fold or to engage the membership in any meaningful way (See CQ Canada for a tutorial on what to do and how to do it.) and thus earns the derisive description of being an “old boys’s club”.

Evidence of this malaise can be seen in the pages of The Canadian Amateur where virtually all of the current directors were either elected by a handful of votes or simply acclaimed as no one else wanted the job. Photos of executive members come and go with such rapidity as to warrant using Polaroids if such still existed.

Same thing with the membership numbers which are stuck around 4,000 and some say are in rapid decline. Since we don’t know the real numbers all is speculative.

A new supportive membership category has attracted a few hundred subscribers and while I appreciate their zeal I question the worth of supporting an organization whose very structure is questionable at best and self-defeating at worst.

The greater concern is we’re saddled with an executive structure (and have been for years extending back through equally secretive societies and associations that came before) which mistakenly is able to withhold embarrassing information from the membership with impunity and over the years has shown little understanding of how to involve the membership in the decision-making process in any meaningful way.

How sad it is to contemplate what we’ve become but how tragic to think of what we could have been.



Oakville ARC President Calls For Transparency

As I follow this, I conclude that the time has come to open the discussion, provide clearer answers and, maybe, rethink the governing structure.

I care not so much about the magnitude of the dollars and more about the attitudes that shaped the decisions. The membership are not “Little people”, they are the share owners, stakeholders, the represented – and they are not being informed.

RAC execs – time to open this up. You need to adopt Servant-Leader methods – and that means transparency.

Rod Hardman
President, Oakville ARC

Former RAC Pres. Comments

Bob Cooke, VE3BDB, former RAC president, has sent a comment in regards to the current controversy affecting RAC. I am reposting it here:

The plot thickens, Peter.
In all fairness, does this sort of attitude and action by certain individuals within the current RAC hierarchy really come as any great surprise to anyone who has been following the tangled web? Just askin’.

Seems to me the real disappointment is the apparent lack of fortitude and sense of propriety by any Board or Executive member, all of whom seem to have failed to step forward and start making noises about certain matters on behalf of the corporation and for us, the rank and file members.

Is there a fear they, too, will get canned by the sitting emperor and his close cronies, by speaking out and showing due diligence as RAC officials with a voice?

There is no divine right to govern or manage the RAC. But there IS a responsibility to govern and manage fairly, diligently and within the borders of what is right.

It is to weep.

Bob Cooke VE3BDB
RAC Member #606
Past RAC Positions Held: Regional Director, Vice President for Field Services, President, and other elected/appointed RAC posts.

Where’s My $3K?

Did you get a chance to bid on the $3,000 rumoured to be the amount a RAC member has been promised for working on the $20,000 Industry Canada contract to update the Amateur Radio database of questions used to qualify candidates for the Amateur Radio ticket?

Now there’s been a lot of chatter and emails about the RAC announcement of the contract with some even questioning the legality of a non-profit organization bidding on a contact that might best have been given to someone outside the organization or at least awarded to the best candidate chosen from the overall membership if the organization’s constitution allowed us to do so.

Now I don’t know about legality but any time there’s a single-source government contract awarded in secret it worries me. And I would want to check our charter from the federal government and our own constitution to see if these documents allow us to proceed.

Some may argue that there was nothing secret about the contract negotiations but funny thing is I didn’t know about it nor did I have an opportunity to bid on it. Did you?

In one e-mail I saw an association executive member called any questioning about the legality of the contract as “silly”.

But I don’t find it silly that (a) we knew nothing about this contract; (b) it appears to be a sole-source bid; and (c) $3,500 seems to be going to one individual.

(And let me be very clear here: THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL involved. Heck if I got the contract I’d be over the moon and up one expensive carbon-fibre road bike….but I digress.)

What also complicates the issue for me is we have our former regulatory affairs officer claiming he was dismissed for questioning the way RAC officials handled this contract.

This is worrisome in the extreme.

Why? Because, while executive officers serve at the pleasure of the president and report to him and should be dismissed for cause, they should not be at jeopardy of being summarily dismissed for attempting to do their job.

(And please someone complain that Bill Gade had an opportunity to defend himself should he wish to pay for his own flight from Winnipeg and hotel and food costs in Ottawa.)

And BTW the job that our former regulatory affairs officer was attempting to do was work for us, the membership, and not for the pleasure of the president.

What do we need to do here?

Would it be helpful to create a national committee of inquiry? Robert’s Rules of Order allows us (the members) to strike special committees with powers to carry out these type of inquiries.

This would take an agreement by some of the presidents of our affiliated clubs. Somebody going to pickup the ball?

Brilliant Video From VE2-land

A full high-def 11-minute video shot and produced out of Quebec (see www.ve2cwq.info for info). The operators are speaking French of course but the voice over is in English.

This is by far one of the best videos about Amateur Radio that I’ve ever seen.

One could only wish for other organizations mustering up the expertise and the interest to do similar videos promoting our fabulous hobby.

“Bravo!, et merci”