Identifying and managing conflict of interest maintains the public’s trust and confidence in their local government. That’s why the province has recently strengthened municipal legislation to help municipalities ensure proper policies, procedures and practices are in place.
The Ministry of Government Relations has developed resources and sample forms to help municipalities get a better understanding of the changes made to declaring conflicts of interest.
Here’s a short list of some of the most common questions we’ve received from municipalities:
- Are there any exceptions to conflict of interest rules?
Legislation lists many situations that may arise while conducting municipal business where the need to declare a conflict of interest would not apply. For instance, a conflict of interest would not exist when a motion to pay the monthly utility bills is presented to council where a member of council is employed by SaskPower. Council members are also not considered to be in a position of conflict when setting the tax policy for the municipality, or when setting remuneration for members of council. A full list of the situations where the need to declare a conflict of interest does not apply can be found in subsection 143(2) of The Municipalities Act, subsection 115(2) of The Cities Act, and subsection 161(2) of The Northern Municipalities Act, 2010.
- All of council has a membership with the local Co-op, so how does the council make decisions regarding the Co-op?
A conflict would generally not exist when members of council are also members of the local co-operative; however, a member of council who is a member of the Co-operative Board should disclose the information on his or her disclosure statement and may be required to declare a conflict with respect to decisions regarding the Co-op.
- Does the mayor or reeve have additional powers or duties in relation to a declaration of a conflict of interest?
No. The mayor or reeve does not have any additional authority with respect to conflict of interest declarations made by other council members; however, after a member of council has made a declaration at a meeting, the person who is presiding over that meeting must ensure that the person who has made the declaration:
- states the general nature of the conflict including any pertinent material details;
- abstains from all discussion and voting; and
- leaves the room while the discussion and voting are taking place.
The administrator records all of these details in the meeting minutes.
- Does the administrator “police” the filing and upkeep of public disclosure statements? Who makes sure the statement is updated if there is a change to a council member’s interests and holdings?
There is no change to the role of administrators in terms of the regular upkeep and filing of council members’ statements. The administrator has a duty to advise council members of their legislative duties; however, the onus is on each member of council to fully disclose all required information on the public disclosure statement. The Ministry expects all council members will respect and abide by the legislative requirements.
The onus remains on council members to ensure statements are updated when interests change. There is no requirement for the administrator to “police” the filing and upkeep of public disclosure statements.
- What happens when a councillor refuses to fill out the disclosure statement?
If the ministry is notified that a council member has not filed the disclosure statement, the ministry will first contact the municipality to determine if the information is correct. Depending on the situation, the ministry will work with the member of council to determine the delay. If the member refuses to comply with the requirement, other members of the council will be notified and reminded of the requirement that a member that fails to file the statement is disqualified and must resign from council. If the member continues to not comply with the requirement, a voter or the council can apply to the Courts to have a judge determine if the member should be disqualified.
- Is a member of council required to update their public disclosure form every time they declare a conflict of interest at a meeting?
No. A member is not required to update their disclosure form if the potential conflict has already been disclosed in the public disclosure statement. Because there is an ongoing duty of disclosure, if a conflict that was not originally on the form is declared, the member should provide a written amendment to the administrator as soon as possible after the declaration has been made – when the matter declared is information that is required on the public disclosure statement .
- Does council have the ability to extend the time to file a public disclosure statement for up to 90 days, just as there is for the council procedures bylaw?
No. The Cities Act, The Municipalities Act and The Northern Municipalities Act, 2010 each provide authority for a council to extend the time to complete a council-related matter. The public disclosure statements are a requirement for each individual council member and do not fall under this authority.
- The Barclay report recommended a private disclosure, so why does our legislation include public disclosure?
The amendments went further than Mr. Barclay recommended, in order to:
- be consistent with other jurisdictions;
- provide members of the public with the right to know the financial interests of council members, to avoid conflicts; and
- be consistent with the public disclosure statements filed by MLAs.
Disclosure statements that were previously required under The Cities Act or that other municipalities chose to implement were already required to be open to the public, so reverting to private statements would have been a step backward in terms of public transparency.
The amendments to the legislation now require a public disclosure statement within 30 days of being elected, and must be updated annually and whenever a conflict that has not been previously disclosed in the public statement is declared during a council meeting. The statements are available for public inspection during normal business hours.
A more detailed listing of some common questions can be found on our Conflict of Interest webpage.
If you would like to speak to someone directly, contact a Municipal Advisor at: