THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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The Toronto Sun - Dec. 3 1981 - By John Downing
Stiff rules on conflict
Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, the pepperpot who run the country's fastest-growing city, may face a challenge over the way she declared a conflict-of-interest in a controversial Nov. 2 meeting of her council.
McCallion, a veteran Peel politician, declared at least twice at the public meeting that she had a conflict-of-interest with regard to one of five dis tricts that council was clearing for development.
She then refrained front voting on the part of a long, complicated motion which dealt with what planners call “East Credit Neighborhood One — an area south of Eglinton and east of the Credit River which eventually will have 2,918 houses, 92 townhouses and 338 apartment units.
However, she did vote on other sections which to the dismay of the school board and planners approved more housing than some experts think the city’s schools and service can digest now.
Queen’s Park has tinkered with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act constantly during recent years to get an act which would not be, in the words of a former Toronto alderman, Bill Archer, a "guide for the guilty and a trap for the innocent."
Indeed, a new, tougher act has just started through the approval process."
But both the new act and the present one make it plain that any councillor at any meeting of council or a committee where an item is discussed is which he or she has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest “shall, as soon as practicable after the commencement of the meeting, disclose his interest and shall not take part in the consideration or discussion of, or vote on any question ... or attempt in any way to influence the voting ...”
McCallion chaired the entire, long ineeting in question. Such prominent lawyers as Robert Macaulay appeared before council to comment on its plans. Then a complex debate followed which dealt with all the areas covered bv the motion, from East Credit to Central Erin Mills.
After the motion was read aloud and a councillor started to ask who had been consulted, McCallion interrurpted to emphasize that all the members of council had worked on the motion.
The debate then went on again for a considerable time before she declared a conflict-of-interest with regard to East Credit. She continued to discuss the whole issue, even stating at one point that she had "no biases. I'm going to vote quite freely on it. We can be quite proud of this exercise." .
She said what a good deal the motion was for the city and threatened reprisals if developers fought council over what it will do to recover municipal costs from them.
After she presented a rewording of part of the main motion, council voted on it in four sections with McCallion abstaining on the part to do with East Credit but voting in favor of freeing the other areas for housing.
Since the penalties to do with conflict-of-interest are so severe, councillors generally go to elaborate lengths to avold any complaint.
The common procedure is for the politician declaring the conflict to leave his seat during the entire discussion, or if he is chairing the meeting, to turn over, the gavel, the symbol of control, to a colleague and leave.
Under the act, a ratepayer applies to a county judge if he has complaints about how the councillor conducted himself with regard to the conflict. The judge, if he agrees, can declare the politician's seat vacant did may disqualify him from being a councillor for up to seven years.
The judge may decide that the contravention was committed through inadvertence or was a "bona fide error fit judgment" and not throw the politician out of office.
Ironically, the feisty McCallion, who has won admiration for how she'll take on even the big shooters, like Bill Davis, has headed the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, a municipal organization which has given considerable advice Queen's Park on the conflict legislation.
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