During the 2019-2020 fiscal year, after nearly 25 years in operation, the OFNTSC implemented governance reforms with a view to ensuring the corporation is well positioned to advance the infrastructure-related interests of First Nations in Ontario.
This process began in 2016 in response to a report from Deloitte, an international consulting firm, that recommended improvements to our governance and management processes:
INAC should support OFNTSC in reviewing current Board governance, in terms of size and term limits. Furthermore, this should include a Board competency framework with the view of potentially changing the overall composition of the Board to appoint Board members who have non-technical expertise and background (e.g. those with legal, financial, and business backgrounds). [Deloitte LLP, March 31, 2016 at p. 26].
To support the Board in this important work, OFNTSC engaged a recognized governance expert and appointed Legal Counsel with extensive experience working with Indigenous institutions.
The Board of Directors took great care in examining the options for governance reform and in January of 2020, took steps towards implementing reforms to governance processes and structures that it believes will best serve the corporation and First Nations in Ontario, including:
- Reducing the size of the Board of Directors from 24 Directors to a range of 7 to 11 Directors; a size that is proven to enhance the effectiveness of the Board in making decisions and overseeing the organization;
- Instituting a Technical Advisory Committee to ensure that OFNTSC keeps pace with the infrastructure needs of First Nations in Ontario and to highlight opportunities for improvements to our services and enhancements (meetings by conference call or other technology with one face-to-face meeting annually);
- Instituting a Political Representatives Advisory Committee to ensure that political leaders of Ontario’s First Nations have direct input into the priorities and services of the corporation (meetings by conference call or other technology);
- Introducing modern Board Committees for Audit and Risk, Governance and Nominating, Human Resources and Compensation, and Technology matters to ensure best governance and oversight practices are in place;
- Implementing greater separation between the Board of Directors and Executive Management by clarifying the responsibilities of both and empowering executive management to lead the organization and be accountable to the Board of Directors and First Nations in Ontario;
- Transitioning to a Merit and Competency-based Board to ensure that the Board of Directors has the right mix of skills, experience, industry knowledge and connections to advance the mandate of OFNTSC and demonstrate increased value for First Nations in Ontario while ensuring representation from all areas of the region and all types of clients/stakeholders is present; and
- Containing the Board and Management related costs of the organization to ensure that OFNTSC’s funds are spent on Technical Services and training for our First Nations clients – it is expected that savings achieved in the last 18 months will permit OFNTSC to more than double its Technical Services capacity and enhance the breadth of our technical services and engineering capabilities.
These governance reforms aim to ensure that OFNTSC is focused on delivering the vital technical services and capacity building services that First Nations in Ontario need in their pursuits to become self-sustaining and to achieve living standards in their communities that are comparable to those enjoyed by Canadians at large.
This work is ongoing and updates will be shared regularly.