A Question of Councillor Liability

Ron Bolin: March 18, 2015

A Letter to the Editor of the Nanaimo Daily News

re: City seeks legal advice on liability: Spencer Anderson, NDN March 18, 2014

Who is advising our Councillors that they may be liable for damages in what are, in effect, “Acts of God”? We heard these protestations of liability when the Colliery Dams issue arose and some Councillors provided vivid portrayals of up to 150 bodies floating in the aftermath. This theory demolished by facts, the issue now is flood.

Can Councillors be found liable for the consequences of an Act of God? And if so, how is it that they could escape liability for their decisions regarding failures to protect us from risks with regard to water, sewer, solid waste, building, roads and traffic control systems and related services which are much more within their powers to manage than are earthquakes and floods? Where is the table of all the risks associated with the operation of the City? And what risks are the highest?

This concern for personal liability by some on Council raises questions of the conflict of interest which they must routinely perceive in their positions as Councillors and reflects on their ability to manage any of the affairs of the City in light of this fear. Section 287 of the Local Government Act provides immunity to municipal public service officers in the absence of dishonesty, gross negligence or malicious or wilful misconduct. Councillors who fear to make decisions on public matters because they fear personal liability are in conflict and should act accordingly.

Ron Bolin