Conflict of interest legislation voted down

Conflict of interest legislation voted down

Manitoba’s government has used its majority to ensure politicians will continue to work under what the province’s conflict of interest commissioner calls “the oldest and arguably the weakest conflict of interest legislation in Canada.”

On Thursday, Independent Assiniboia MLA Steven Fletcher saw his own conflict of interest bill shot down by the ruling Progressive Conservative government .

Fletcher launched the promotion of his Bill 208 in the Legislature parroting the words of Jeffrey Schnoor, Manitoba’s conflict of interest commissioner, calling the current legislation “terrible” and “the worst in Canada.”

The PC government’s big majority in the legislature easily defeated the private member’s bill. The Opposition NDP and the Liberals voted in favour of the rule changes.

Bill 208 would have widely expanded the scope of disclosure of assets for MLAs, included immediate family members in the requirements and broadened the reporting of ownership of assets beyond provincial borders.

Fletcher accused the PC government of sitting on its hands when it came to introducing its own updates to the rules.

“This government has no interest in tabling its own legislation,” Fletcher said after his legislation was voted down. “It would be infinitely better than what the government has. The government has zero. So if you take my bill, divide it by zero, you get infinity. So my bill is definitely, objectively better than what currently exists.”    

The rogue MLA was booted from the PC caucus in 2017 and is currently seeking the nomination to run federally in the riding.

Fletcher used the example of the coming legalization of marijuana to highlight the need for much more robust conflict of interest rules, suggesting the information on who would get processing and distribution licences would be valuable information.

“Those in the know could have made a fortune,” Fletcher said.

Broader disclosure of assets by MLAs and their families would make insider knowledge of this kind easier to track, Fletcher believes.

In November last year, Premier Brian Pallister asked every member of his cabinet to come forward to the conflict of interest commissioner if they’re investing in marijuana.

Flin Flon NDP MLA  Tom Lyndsay acknowledged elected officials should be held to a higher standard and called Fletcher’s bill “a good start.” Lyndsay called it “imperfect,” but hoped the legislation could move along to committee to be improved.

“This shouldn’t be the end product … this will allow us to make this piece of legislation better,” Lyndsay told the House, saying the NDP would support the bill.

James Teitsma, the PC MLA for Radisson, said his government needed more time to draft its own legislation.

“We have to get it right. That’s what we need to do and what we will do,” Teitsma said during the debate of the bill.

Published at Thu, 17 May 2018 14:27:03 -0400