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30Nov
2015

Conflict of Interest

It is the summer of 1893, Judge Walkem of the British Columbia Supreme Court has ordered that the City of Victoria be prohibited from carrying out a contract for the construction of a surface drain, because a City alderman had a contract to supply bricks to the successful contractor [Coughlan & Mayo v. Victoria (City), 1893 2 B.C.R. 57].

Fast forward to July 2014: On the eve of the local government election season (the official one, that is), Chief Justice Hinkson of the BC Supreme Court has dismissed a petition seeking to remove the Mayor of Vancouver from office because the Mayor supported a lease of City land to a company that had provided the Mayor with assistance during his election campaign [Chernen v. Robertson, 2014 BCSC 2358].

Both of these cases applied legislative provisions, however, in the intervening years the applicable legislation was dramatically expanded. In 1893, a single provision of the Municipal Act addressed conflict of interest, prohibiting an alderman from having an interest in contracts with the municipality. Today, the Community Charter and the Vancouver Charter each contain a multitude of detailed provisions addressing circumstances where a council member has a personal interest in a matter before council, including a prohibition on attempting to influence council decisions on a matter in which a council member has a personal interest, a prohibition on the use of a council member’s office to attempt to influence another person or body on a matter in respect of which the council member has an interest, restrictions on accepting gifts and a prohibition on using ‘insider information’ for personal benefit.

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