Held at Legion House on 21 November 2014 (Abridged version)
Welcome to our first budget committee meeting since our Dominion Convention last June where it was made clear to everyone there that the Legion will need to do things differently because the status quo is no longer acceptable.
It was with that thought in mind that I spoke of my six point action plan at Convention and again at our DEC meeting on 13 September 2014. Through these meetings we were able to assign responsibilities along with a set of criteria to ensure that any and all budgetary efficiencies would be objective, fair and transparent.
For the purposes of our meeting today we will be focusing on three major aspects of the Legion budget: Legion House, Dominion Command Standing Committees and Legion programs.
Our Dominion Secretary will address this issue in greater detail but it is my belief that the changes made at Legion House were necessary to achieve a balance between the efficiencies we promised our Legion delegates and the need to ensure that we keep some of the corporate expertise at Legion House.
There are significant changes for our Legion House employees to accept, and it is a sign of their appreciation for the financial wherewithal the Legion faces as a whole that they have accepted them. And I want everyone to know that these changes are not a reflection on the great work our employees at Legion House do. On the contrary, we cannot express enough, the appreciation all Legion members feel towards the enormous amount of work that is required to keep an organization of a more than 300,000 members running smoothly. It is simply a matter of coming to grips with our fiscal reality.
Dominion Command Standing Committees
I already mentioned this at DEC this past September but I wanted to repeat them as a part of the overall effort to show all of our Legion members that we are becoming more fiscally responsible. I promised to reduce the number of members on committees and merge other committees as well as revisit the staff at Legion House. This has been done. For example:
- Reduced the number of Dominion staff that participate in events;
- Membership and Outreach Committees have been merged together;
- Reduce the number of committee meetings to one per year;
- With few exceptions, only elected officers are eligible to be on committees
I have already pointed out how we have made difficult cuts and savings with regards to Legion staff at Legion House. I have also adopted new travel and committee meeting policies, again with a view of cost-savings. But let us be honest and acknowledge that these changes only affect approximately ¼ of the Legion’s overall budget. Programs represent almost ¾ of the budget and are where the most significant changes can be made to reflect our current fiscal reality.
Comrades, since 1986 our membership numbers have decreased yet the number of programs we have subsidized in that same time period has increased. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that this is not financially sustainable. So, in September I asked our committee chairpersons to show the same kind of cost cutting and efficiencies we have asked from our Legion House staff. To that end, we have asked our various committees to look at their respective programs and be prepared to discuss some of these savings at this budget meeting and more formally at our next DEC in February 2015.
To that end, I asked everyone to use the following criteria when they reviewed their programs:
- Dominion programs must be national in scope;
- Branch and/or provincial or national programs must have an impact on membership. If there is no correlation then the program needs to be reviewed;
- Programs have a direct correlation to membership. So if you run a bingo, you will recruit people of a ‘certain’ age, the same thing about ‘darts’, and ‘line dancing’ etc. The point I am making is that we need to be cognisant that the age group participating in our programs equals the age group from where we will be recruiting our members. If we are targeting a specific age group then we need to develop programs for this specific age group. In this case, programs designed for a younger public and potential member.
- Membership will follow programs. By extension an active branch with the right programs will usually mean the membership issue will solve itself.
The current advocacy efforts for our disabled Veterans, coupled with the huge outpouring of support Canadians have traditionally shown through the Legion’s Poppy Campaign are evidence of the Legion’s continued importance to Canada as an emblem of patriotic service and care for our Veterans.
The long list of commemorative ceremonies surrounding the First and Second World Wars will likely sustain official interest in the plight of our Veterans for many years and the Legion needs to make sure we are always at the forefront of these events and issues. This can only be achieved if the Legion is fiscally sound. And this is why we are here and I welcome everyone’s input and hope that our decisions today will have the necessary impact to ensure the Legion’s growth at this critical milestone in its history.