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Change to Conflict of Interest Act sure to be passed; says MLA
Amendment to affect GNWT employees on town councils

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 7, 2011


Most GNWT workers sitting on community councils might soon be able to discuss issues involving their employer without being in conflict of interest.

Tom Beaulieu, MLA for Tu Nedhe and chair of the Standing Committee on Social Programs, said the proposed amendment to the Conflict of Interest Act is going through the system at the legislative assembly.

"I'm sure it's going to pass through the legislative assembly without any hitches," said Beaulieu, although he could not give an exact date of when that might happen.

The amendment is now with the Standing Committee on Social Programs after having passed first and second readings in November. The committee has also held a public meeting on the issue.

"It's ready to go to the committee of the whole for discussion," Beaulieu said.

The MLA called the amendment a positive thing.

"It clarifies when a conflict of interest does occur or is simply not there," he explained. "This essentially clarifies all that for government employees on municipal councils and so on."

Beaulieu said councillors who happen to be GNWT employees will not be considered in conflict unless they are directly affected when discussing territorial government issues.

For example, a councillor working for the GNWT as the engineer on Hay River's new hospital project could not participate in council discussions on the issue.

Hay River town council put forward the conflict of interest issue for councillors who work for the GNWT. In early 2010, four councillors had to declare conflict of interest when council discussed a proposed land sale to the territorial government.

The councillors followed legal advice on the matter, even though they did not feel they were in conflict.

The Conflict of Interest Act was originally passed in 1974.

The act states councillors with "indirect pecuniary interest" - which could be interpreted as receiving a GNWT paycheque - would be in a conflict of interest on issues involving the territorial government.

The proposed amendment states that a member of a municipal council or various boards who is employed by the GNWT or the federal government does not have an indirect pecuniary interest by reason only of his or her employer.

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