Conflict of Interest in Nanaimo -and in BC

Ron Bolin: Dec. 12, 2010

Our recent conflict of interest drama raises significant questions about the relevant legislation, its use and possible abuse. The fact that the resulting brouhaha remains unresolved, except for the lingering legal bills and the shadow cast on one Councillor’s reputation, is troubling.  We don’t know whether there has been any breach, and there is apparently no way to know without the case going to court, a potentially costly and perilous procedure for all involved.  There seem to be no clear rules for discerning whether an actionable conflict of interest is involved, and without this it is just as difficult to determine whether there has been an “apparent” conflict of interest. For an introduction to the BC Conflict of Interest rules as applicable through the Community Charter see: http://www.cscd.gov.bc.ca/lgd/gov_structure/community_charter/governance/ethical_conduct.htm

The rules say that: “(disclosure of conflict) of the Community Charter requires a council member to declare a conflict of interest if he or she has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter under consideration.” But taken to its extreme there might well be few Council votes left on some issues after the room is cleared of those who took election funds from businesses or their owners, unions, etc. or got a discount from someone, or got a contract from someone, or voted for a tax or fee increase for which they were not liable.  There are too many circumstances in which the potential for conflict of interest exists under current conditions.

It is recognized that this area is questionable territory.  You can read about some other cases at: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=89968b72-2d8a-4bff-9726-064e4caf8436

The result of all this is that, not only are we ill protected from many potential conflicts of interest, but such an  accusation, which apparently does not even require that the name of an accuser be made public, can be used as a political weapon with few apparent consequences. This situation needs legislative justification –and fast.

What is your opinion about conflict of interest in Nanaimo?

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