This is part two of a series on conflict of interest by David Goldsmith.

The District of Invermere (DOI) has in place a council Code of Conduct, dated March 2018. Section 6 deals with conflict of interest.

• Council officials are expected to make decisions that benefit the community. They are to be free from undue influence and not act or appear to act to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, family, friends or business interests.

• Council officials must appropriately resolve any conflict or incompatibility between their personal interests and the impartial performance of their duties in accordance with statutory requirements of the Community Charter.

Provincial Community Charter

The Community Charter and the Local Government Act are the two pieces of provincial legislation that govern what and how a municipal government must carry out its functions. Division 6 of the Community Charter deals with conflict of interest. It states that if a council member considers that they have a “direct or indirect pecuniary interest” in a matter, (“pecuniary” is defined as a financial interest), then the council member must not:

• Remain or attend at any part of a meeting during which the matter is under consideration,

• Participate in any discussion of the matter at such a meeting,

• Vote on a question in respect to the matter at such a meeting, or

• Attempt in any way, whether before, during or after such a meeting, to influence the voting on any question in respect of the matter.

The Provincial Charter goes on in Section 108 to state that a person who violates Section 100 may be “disqualified from holding office on a local government until the next general local election.”

What does this mean at the local level?

If an issue came before the District of Invermere which could benefit the mayor or a council member, (or one of their family members such as a spouse, sibling, parent or adult child), that council member should recuse themselves from any discussion and vote on the issue. Examples of this could be a development that might require building materials or trades contracting at the local level. Or a development that might result in potential real estate sales by a council member or the family members of council members. If a council member found themselves in a situation like this they should declare the potential conflict of interest and seek a ruling on the issue.

Official Community Plan

The way to avoid an abundance of possible conflict of interest situations in Invermere for the mayor and council, and for the senior officials of the DOI, would be to have an updated and very thorough Official Community Plan in place to guide most future decisions that may come before council. The existing Official Community Plan dates from 2015. In the plan itself, it states, on page 34, the Official Community Plan, “…is a living document that reflects the current and projected needs of the community, and as such, the OCP should be reviewed and updated every five years.” We are now in year nine of this plan. It needs a full update with appropriate community consultation and input. 

We could avoid potential continuing conflict of interest by our elected officials if the OCP met the above stipulations.

(David Goldsmith served on the board of the Interior Health Authority for seven years, and on the board of the First Nations Health Authority in BC for four years.)