McKay: MAEA downfall has been discouraging participation

The following interview was conducted on October 9th.

John McKay, former mayor of Miramichi, is a shareholder of the MAEA and a former member of the board of directors.  John spoke with MO))) on October 9th, and at that time said he thought the downfall of the MAEA was due to two reasons – the loss of volunteers, and the gradual disinterest of the public.

When  MO))) spoke with John and he recounted the turbulent times in 1990’s when shareholders voting changed.  John said his father was a shareholder, and was active in horse racing.  John recalls the way the voting used to work, with one shareholder having one vote, no matter how many shares that person owned.  He said there was no advantage to having any more than 1 share unless you wanted to be on the board of directors – then you needed at least two shares, but that still meant you only had one vote.  People with more than 1 share could give shares to their children and such.  The reason for this was to encourage broad participation in the organization.

John said he remembers the shareholders meetings being quite well attended and being lively affairs, especially around the time for the elections of the board of directors.

John served on the board of directors at one time.  We asked John what type of affairs did the board of directors handled for the MAEA.  He said the only thing that they did was manage the agricultural fair.  That was the mandate of the board and the business of the MAEA.  McKay said the organization raised money all year to host the fair, and also got grants from the government to subsidize prizes at the fair for livestock and produce etc.

In the 1970’s McKay said a lot of improvements were made to the buildings and the grounds, and the racetrack was brought back into operation.  George Bateman was the president then, and McKay remembers a large section of the paper at that time being devoted to the improvements at the MAEA.  McKay said that in those days, there were a number of groups that were part of the MAEA:    the horseman who put on horse races; the curling club who paid rent to the MAEA; and the Lions Club who paid rent there and used a building at the MAEA for their meetings.

McKay said that in the late 70’s John Trevors bought a large number of shares from Lee Loggie, a retired business man who was an inactive shareholder.  McKay said Trevors distributed those shares to people who were sympathetic to the goals and ambitions  John had  for the MAEA.  Those people in turn voted for a board of directors that appealed to Trevors.  McKay said that shortly after that there was some upheaval at the MAEA when Paul Seymour was elected president (defeating Marion Fitzpatrick).  He said eventually Seymour stepped down and was replaced in the interim by Jack Tozer.

After that board,  John Trevors saw to it that the board of directors reduced from 21 to 7 members.  Then they changed the voting process from one vote per shareholder, to one vote per share, and also applied to convert the organization to a company under the Business Corporations Act of New Brunswick.

McKay said Charlie Hubbard (former MP) was at the meeting   when the voting was changed, and was quite upset about it, saying that it was going against the way the organization was originally meant to run.  McKay says Hubbard was told to leave the meeting by John Trevors if he didn’t like it.  McKay says “Now I’m  not casting any aspersions on the motive behind the change in the voting, I’m only saying that is  my memory of how things happened at the time.”

Following those meetings, the Miramichi Leader and Miramichi Weekend published some articles about them.  Copies of those newspaper articles formed part of the affidavit that accompanied the notice of motion against John Trevors filed this week.

Charlie Hubbard was quoted as saying after that meeting: ” What he did that night was nothing short of what would be done in a third world country.  He had everything there except the rifles.  The whole thing was just a farce as far as I am concerned.  He took control by this new change in bylaws.”  Hubbard also said he didn’t expect a member of the parole board of Canada to be involved in such shenanigans.

In a subsequent editorial written by David Cadogan (also part of the affidavit), Cadogan examined Trevors’ means to an end.  He said during a time when the MAEA had a declining profile, and Trevors led a vigorous, yet fanatical, struggle to keep up with the times.

 During that time, Cadogan said Trevors was no more tolerant of dissent or disloyalty than your average dictator.

“Is it right in the context of his treatment of longtime friends and supporters?  Is it right in the spirit of the founders of the MAEA?  Is it fair in the methods used to ensure that John’s ideas and opinions will prevail?  Surely not.”  Speaking of John’s intentions to improve the MAEA, Cadogan said, “His intentions are undoubtedly pure.  His end may well be most desirable.  None of these ideals make fanatical drive attractive or acceptable in a [community organization like the MAEA].”

John McKay’s father with one of his race horses.

John Mckay said that in the years when the MAEA  broke ties with some organizations, they began to lose the volunteer base that was so important to them.  Soon after, he said, their profile in the community dropped off, and people lost interest in what was going at the Ex.

McKay said first the curling club was evicted, then the Lions Club left, and the horsemen were encouraged to leave – I’m being charitable, when I say this, he said – and then the cattleman left and started the Napan Fair.  When these groups left, the volunteer strength left with them.  Now they have pay people to bring animals to the fair to be exhibited.  McKay says the focus now is less agricultural, but not because there is no interest in that type of fair, and he pointed to the success of the Napan Fair.

John McKay said he never attends shareholders meetings anymore because he stopped getting notifications of meetings, and he says he is unsure of the focus of the organization anymore.

NOTE:  The MAEA’s finances at the moment may require a significant increase in revenues to attain long-term viability.  

The MAEA has incurred losses of $664,271 since October 2003, consuming $171,551 of investments during that time.  Retained earnings (assets invested or used to pay debt)  obscure the deteriorating financial position to some readers of the financial satements.  (source:  MAEA consolidated financial statements , September 30, 2011)