Cambridge Mayor Seeks an Independent Review of his Declaration of Conflict-of-Interest from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
Cambridge - Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig is asking the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to examine his pecuniary interest under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. The objective is to seek an independent, objective review of his declared of pecuniary interest and find out whether he can legally speak on issues related to mass transit and represent the views of the citizens of Cambridge. The major issue before the court is whether Mayor Craig’s declaration of pecuniary interest is “so remote or insignificant in its nature that it cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to influence [him]” when it comes to his positions on matters related to Rapid Transit (RT) in the Central Transit Corridor of Waterloo Region.
Mayor Craig engaged the services of local lawyer Douglas O'Toole and the Notice of Application was issued by the registrar of Ontario Superior Court of Justice on May 17th, and was then served on the Ministry of the Attorney General (Crown Law Civil division) with a view to ask for the matter to be reviewed as soon as possible.
On June 29th, 2011, in accordance with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, Mayor Craig declared a pecuniary interest on the subject of mass transit in the Central Transit Corridor, including the implementation of a rapid transit system. (Mayor Craig’s son was, and is, the owner of property within the geographic boundaries being evaluated in the RT plan and he officially let that be known.) Since then, all routes have been finalized, the branding of the system as ‘Ion’ has been completed, and the construction and project management is in place to move forward. However, Mayor Craig is still not able to weigh in on the subject.
“This is an important matter for our community,” Mayor Craig said. “As one of only three regional representatives for Cambridge, I wish to participate in matters related to RT going forward if the law permits it.”
“Recognizing the importance of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and in order to be able to proceed with certainty, I have chosen to ask a court justice to review the nature and magnitude of the pecuniary interest before I participate in any future discussions, debates, or votes that pertain to mass transit systems in the Central Transit Corridor,” added Mayor Craig. Any municipal politician in Ontario who is found by the Court to have acted contrary to the provisions of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act faces severe consequences. In the event such a finding is made a Judge can order the politician’s seat to be vacated, can disqualify the politician from seeking election to a municipal board or council for a period of up to seven years, and can order that the politician make restitution of any financial gains obtained as a result of a contravention of the Act.
While the Cambridge Mayor is the first in the region to seek a review of this nature, there has been another case in the Greater Toronto Area in 2000.
“Public faith in our elected bodies is dependent upon citizens being confident that their elected officials’ decisions are not motivated by personal financial interests or the potential for personal financial gain. That is what the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act seeks to achieve and that is why the consequences of contravening the provisions of the Act are so severe,” said solicitor Douglas O'Toole. “The process Mayor Craig has chosen to follow, by asking the Superior Court of Justice to review his declared pecuniary interest before he participates in matters related to mass transit is one that is transparent, allows him to proceed with certainty, and also assures that the decision regarding his ability to participate in these discussions is made impartially by the Court; whose only interest is in upholding the law.”
The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is governed by the Province of Ontario and can be found here:
http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90m50_e.htm. Mayor Craig said he did discuss the potential for revisiting the act with the province, however, there was no indication that this could happen in the near future. His legal proceedings will not only help clarify his position within the matter related to Cambridge, but will also help support other Ontario municipalities as they deal with such matters.