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Hamilton politicians need Municipal Act review

By Kevin Werner
Metroland West Media Group

Hamilton councillors will be getting a refresher course in conflict of interest procedures.

Before every council term, politicians attend a number of orientation sessions about their responsibilities to the city including disclosing expenses and understanding the code of conduct, as well as following the Municipal Act guidelines, including conflict of interest requirements.

Dundas councillor Russ Powers, chair of the governance subcommittee, said politicians can and should consult with the city’s legal staff and clerks about possible conflict of interest issues that arise during meetings.

But over the last two years some councillors have raised concerns about the proper procedure for disclosing their pecuniary interests when an issue is presented at council.

In the wake of Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland’s ruling that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford breached the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, members of the city’s governance subcommittee said it was appropriate for Hamilton councillors to learn about the municipal legislation. The judge authorized the mayor’s removal after a 14-day period.

“We need to hold a workshop on (the legislation),” said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark. “Explain it to politicians.”

Councillors are prohibited from voting under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act if the person has a pecuniary interest.

Prior to a council beginning its term, it has been the practice of most municipalities, including Toronto’s, to hold seminars on the legislation, said Powers.

He pointed out that Ford, who has served for 12 years on Toronto City council, would have received the training about the Municipal Act.

“It didn’t help Rob Ford,” said Clark.

Responded Powers: “You want to hear (the information).”

Ford will be asking the three-judge Divisional Court panel for a stay to allow him to remain in office until he can appeal Hackland’s ruling.

The governance subcommittee’s recommendation will be sent to the Dec. 10 audit and finance committee for review.


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