POP: Conflict of Interest

POP: Yes
Res #: POP 5-19M
Number: 5
Year: 2019
Midterm: Yes
Expired: No
Responses Received: Yes
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations

WHEREAS The Municipalities Act section 141.1 states a member of council has a conflict of interest if there is opportunity to further his or her private interest or the private interests of a closely connected person. The definition of a closely connected person in The Municipalities Act means an agent, business partner, family or employer of a Member of Council;

WHEREAS the definition in The Municipalities Act of family means the spouse and dependent children of a council member. The Municipalities Act does not allow the affected individuals to state their case regarding the conflict of interest without being in conflict of interest;

WHEREAS the Saskatchewan Ombudsman has appeared to adopt a “grey area” concept of a conflict of interest;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Saskatchewan Ombudsman be made to adhere to the definition of conflict of interest as it appears in The Municipalities Act.

Responses From: The Ministry of Government Relations

March 4, 2020

Ombudsman Saskatchewan is an independent office headed by the provincial Ombudsman who is appointed by the Legislative Assembly. The office is separate from executive government and is free to come to its own conclusions.

Bill 194 – The Miscellaneous Municipal Statutes Amendment Act, 2019 was introduced in November 2019, and will amend all three municipal Acts. That Bill includes an amendment to the definition of “conflict of interest.”

The amendment rewords “conflict of interest” to more closely align with the common law to apply to any situation where elected officials inappropriately further private interests over the public interest.

The common law definition of “conflict of interest” is well established in case law, and applies alongside any definition in provincial legislation. The common law definition has been used in judicial inquiries in Saskatchewan and by the Ombudsman.

The amended definition of “conflict of interest” in Bill 194 will provide clearer direction and guidance for elected officials by aligning with the common law definition upheld by courts.

J. Greg Miller – Deputy Minister of Government Relations