Monday, October 03, 2011

Mississauga Inquiry

"I really believe the citizens of Mississauga have confidence that I've always put Mississauga first in all negotiations during my time over past 33 years," McCallion said during a news conference. "If any citizen feels that I was in conflict, I think the commissioner has clearly indicated that I was not in conflict within the (act)." from CP 24

That’s Mayor McCallion’s opinion. Not all would agree.

Hopefully, though, we can steer clear of a lengthy wrangle on Mayor McCallion's shortcomings and use the report to make necessary reforms to our municipal systems.

Recommendations in Updating the Ethical Infrastructure would take conflict issues out of the realm of individual opinion and make city council’s work more transparent. That’s at the crux of the report.
In the Executive Summary of the 400 page document Justice J. Douglas Cunningham comments on a Mayor’s duties specific to the issues before him:

Re the Mayor’s Obligation to make Reasonable Inquiries
If the Mayor has reason to believe that a relative’s involvement may put her/him in a real or apparent conflict position they need to make reasonable inquiries. In this case “even if Mayor McCallion did not understand” the extent of her son’s interest “she knew her son stood to benefit financially if the World Class Development (WCD) transaction was successfully completed.”

Conclusion: “She should have made further inquiries.”

Re the Responsibility to keep Council informed.

A mayor has an obligation to keep Council up to speed on matters. In this case Council “does not appear to have been aware of the Mayor’s private interventions.”

Conclusion: “She should have identified and disclosed to council the nature and extent of her son’s involvement in WCD.

Re: Duty to Refrain from Official Action where Conflict Exists

A municipal politician should refuse involvement in a file when she/he becomes aware of a real or apparent conflict of interest. Justice Cunningham distinguishes between the Mayor’s legislative and executive roles. Mayor McCallion essentially declared a conflict of interest re her legislative role but not for her executive function.

“It is no answer say that her actions were done for the benefit of the City Of Mississauga when her son stood to make millions of dollars if the deal was concluded.” She should have refrained from further involvement...and not simply withdrawn from her legislative role.”

Cunninghams’s analysis leads to sound recommendations which, if put in place, will prevent such situations from occurring in Mississauga and other jurisdictions. Specifically, the term “pecuniary interest” should be replaced with “private interest,” guidelines for lobbyists will be prescribed and a strengthened role for integrity commissioners should be put in place. These are just a few of the recommendations that jump out from a quick read of the Executive Summary.

The general thrust of the recommendations is that overall greater transparency “will serve to protect the public interest by removing possibilities for members of council to discharge their public offices in the pursuit of private interests.”

We need to move on this and not get bogged down with Hazel McCallion’s particular and unique situation.