October 19, 2015

Province Introduces New Conflict of Interest Rules for Municipalities

The Government of Saskatchewan today introduced a series of legislative amendments to improve conflict of interest rules for municipal governments.

“These legislative changes will not only provide clearer direction and guidance for elected officials but will strengthen measures to deter and deal with conflicts of interest at the local level,” Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter said.  “By working closely with our municipal partners, we are establishing a new era of transparency, accountability and openness for our municipal elected officials.”

The proposed amendments are based on the recommendations of Justice Ronald Barclay’s inquiry into the Rural Municipality of Sherwood No.159 in his final report, issued on December 30, 2014, regarding the proposed Wascana Village development near Regina.

The proposed changes address the key areas identified by the Barclay report to improve conflict of interest and ethical standards for municipal governments including:

  1. Requiring more information from a member of council when declaring a conflict of interest situation.
  2. Mandatory public disclosure statements for all elected officials on council detailing their financial interests and any employment and other involvement that may be seen to affect the member’s impartiality.
  3. Mandatory adoption by all municipal councils of a code of ethics that includes a model code of ethics that will be developed in consultation with municipal partners.
  4. Clearer definitions of what constitutes a conflict of interest, a private interest and the inappropriate use of office and influence consistent with provisions in place for Members of the Legislative Assembly.
  5. The provincial ombudsman will be able to investigate alleged conflict of interest or code of ethics breaches at the municipal level including any breaches of council procedure/administration.

“I want to congratulate our municipal partners including the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA), the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) and New North in helping us develop this comprehensive package of reforms,” Reiter said.  “Ratepayers will be better served by municipal governments that have clear rules of conduct and ethical standards for elected officials.”

“SUMA supports accountability in municipal governance and transparency to protect the interests of local taxpayers, and these new conflict of interest rules reflect the collaboration with our partners at the province and at SARM,” SUMA President Debra Button said.  “We look forward to the consultations on the upcoming regulations to ensure transparency and integrity standards for all orders of government.”

“Rural officials welcome this clarification of conflict of interest,” SARM President Ray Orb said.  “SARM is committed to improving and enhancing our ethical standards as our ratepayers expect nothing less.”

In addition to the above organizations, the Ministry of Government Relations consulted the Urban Municipal Administrators Association of Saskatchewan, the Rural Municipal Administrators Association and the Provincial Association of Resort Communities.