Province tweaks conflict legislation

Changes let elected local government officials serve on certain society or corporate boards and still vote come CRD budget time

The days of tentative quorum during CRD budget meetings are at an end.

Over the past couple years, municipal leaders abstained from voting on the budget because of a 2013 BC Court of Appeal decision that determined “divided loyalty” was inherent when a local elected official served simultaneously as a director on a society/corporate board that may receive financial benefit from the local government.

The BCCA ruling had a significant impact on local government decision making, causing municipal council members and regional district board members to withdraw from discussions and voting related to societies and corporations, even when they had been appointed to those bodies by their local government. Municipal leaders took the problem to the Union of BC Municipalities’ annual convention, that organization took it to the province and last week the province approved regulations to allow elected local government officials serve on certain society or corporate boards without risk of disqualification based on financial conflict of interest.

The new regulations do not diminish existing accountability rules for conflict of interest based on personal gain or interest. They will apply when local elected officials fulfil their role as duly appointed representatives of their local governments on certain society and corporate boards.

In Oak Bay, for two years running the mayor and alternate were both conflicted out of CRD budget discussions and vote.

“This is a welcome change for all B.C. municipalities,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “It removes the inherent problems associated with cross appointments to the vast array of committees, boards and commissions elected officials are required to serve on. For Oak Bay it will mean we can once again participate in the final vote on the CRD budget.”

Appointment of a particular representative to sit on a society or corporate board remains at the discretion of municipal councils or regional districts.

Financial conflicts, such as a local elected official receiving a gift or personal financial benefit when sitting on any society or corporate board, still remain as potential conflicts and should be managed carefully. Perceived conflicts of divided loyalty between a local elected official’s personal interest in a society or corporation and their role on a local government also still remain potential conflicts under these regulations; such issues should be managed carefully with the assistance of legal advice as they can still be subject to challenge.