THE NISGA’A Lisims Government is doing away with the potential for conflicts of interest by having its elected members resign if they also wish to represent any other body or agency receiving money from the Lisims government.
Lisims president Mitchell Stevens called the move, which takes force through changes to the Nisga’a Elections Act, one that will increase transparency and accountability among elected members of various government and public sector bodies.
“There was a perception of conflict even if they removed themselves [during financial discussions],” said Stevens of one motivating factor to make the change.
“Our school district, District 92, and the health board, the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority are two real prime examples of where the government flows money through,” he added.
Stevens said calls for such changes were being made at Nisga’a Lisims general assemblies being held every two years.
“These are changes that are made as we continue to change. It’s part of our evolvement,” he said.
The change extends to Nisga’a village governments because their elections are held under the auspices of the Nisga’a Elections Act.
“This really gives the citizens more comfort that there can be no conflict of interest,” said Stevens.
The change received unanimous approval by the Wilp Siayuukhl Nisga’a (the Nisga’a legislative body) last week.
“I was very happy with the level of debate. It was lively and it was intense. They knew what had to be done,” said Stevens.
He’s anticipating a renewed interest in people running for office stemming from the move for increased transparency.
Exact details of how the change will be implemented will be known once the regulations spelling out the legislative intent are published.
Nisga’a legislators also approved increasing the number of voting locations for Lisims elections.
There are now seven original polling locations: four in the Nass Valley and one each in Terrace, Prince Rupert and Vancouver.
Prince George is a prime example of an additional polling location because of the number of Nisga’a youth who attend the University of Northern British Columbia, said Stevens.
“We also have people who work north of Prince George. This will give them all greater access to participate in elections,” he added.
Stevens said Nisga’a voting officials had limited success with mail-in balloting over the years.
“People move, addresses change. Some people say they never got their ballots. This will help,” said Stevens of adding voting locations.