No voting conflict, say Terrace mayor and councillors

Elected officials have no direct interest in business bylaw outcome

MAYOR Carol Leclerc and two councillors stand on their freedom to vote on the city’s proposed bylaw to regulate food vendors, as their connections to local restaurants did not alter their vote.

Leclerc voted in favour of the bylaw which would increase vendor fees and restrict their locations and hours, and said that while her son-in-law, Tyson Hull, is an owner of Mumford’s Beerhouse and Grill on Hwy16, the proposed bylaw affects all businesses.

“This is a broader thing. It’s not specifically targeted at Mumfords… The bylaw is for all the businesses in Terrace,” said Leclerc.

Councilor James Cordeiro, a shareholder in Xanders Coffee downtown also voted in favour of the bylaw, said it was not a conflict of interest because the proposed changes came from city staff seeking a balance for the good of the city.

“It is a recommendation from staff, made independent of myself,” he said.

Councillor Sean Bujtas, the assistant general manager at Chances Terrace, which operates a restaurant, voted against the bylaw. He said it was not a conflict of interest because it affects all businesses.

“This bylaw is licensing, regulations and fees for all businesses, making it too broad to be a conflict,” he said. “If this bylaw was strictly to do with pubs, then I would need to excuse myself.”

None of the three would directly earn more money due to bylaw changes, and section 104 of the Community Charter says that conflict of interest does not apply if the financial interest is remote, distant and insignificant.

Max Cameron, a political science professor at UBC, said there are several considerations.

“If it does not benefit them, although it does benefit the municipality by raising tax revenue, that’s fine,” explained Cameron.

The key questionis the motive behind any policy change and whether the intent is to reduce competition or to establish tax fairness for businesses, he said.

An important point to consider is the source of a policy change. “If this comes from staff, who think this is consistent with fair tax policy, and even some of the mobile vendors say that it is fair… if it is something that does not have the intent of benefiting a particular group of people rather, benefiting everyone generally, [then it is not a conflict of interest],” he said.