"Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure." ~G.E. Woodberry

"Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure." ~G.E. Woodberry

Councillor Conversations

Let's talk about Municipal Government.

How do you know if you have a conflict of interest?

The Ontario Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is a law that governs how politicians must behave in situations of having a conflict – in the act, it is referred to as a pecuniary interest. This act is enforceable under the law and was created to safeguard the public from self-interested politicians, but makes allowances to not prohibit members to run for public office.  

At one point or another, every politician will face having a pecuniary interest. I carry a textbook that has travelled with me to every Council meeting for the past 4 years that outlines various scenarios where I might find myself in a conflict.

Every single member of this Council has declared a pecuniary interest this past term. These pecuniary interests can be a decision about a streetlight or sidewalk on your street, being a volunteer firefighter sitting on Council, having a spouse with a business that regularly deals with the Township, having a family member's business before council, being a member of the local Legion, or owning a business (this one is me).

Before the start of every Council, Committee of the Whole, BIA, or other sub-committees of Council there is an opportunity for those making decisions to declare their pecuniary interest and remove themselves from the meeting when that topic arises.

Not declaring a pecuniary interest, voting and/or trying to influence other Council members can come with very large personal consequences should there be a complaint. It involves lawyers, money, possible censure or ejection from Council. No politician is looking for that headache.

I own a business that has been doing business with the Township. I am not in a conflict, because I declare a pecuniary interest, and don’t discuss it. Observer staff have been working with Township staff independently for over 20 years.

I have been very diligent at declaring my pecuniary interests on reports before Council. This can be easily verified in the Council minutes that you find online.

The newspaper business is one that is built on trust with our audience – it is, in fact, our most valuable asset. Great newspapers operate in silos – advertising and editorial do not mix. We lose business because of our editorial department. Sometimes our advertising customers don’t like something that appears in the paper – sometimes they cancel ads to send a message. The Observer has never put the fear of losing advertising before a story in the public interest.

I am not a journalist – we have 3 professional accredited journalists on staff. I am not a sales person. My job at the paper is to manage the design of ads, the paper and our digital assets. I oversee 2 other graphic designers and have no direction over news content.

My being a Councillor and working at the local newspaper has not been an issue. I would not be asking to be re-elected if this was too difficult to manage. It is not.

Elections are a great time to ask these questions of candidates. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to this particular tweet by @iammallorymanch.

More Reading about conflict of interest:

Primer on Municipal Conflict of Interest: OSUM

Ontario Municipal Conflict of Interest Act: March 2018

Q&A from LawNow.org about Conflict of Interest Act

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