PEI

No changes to conflict rules for P.E.I. MLAs

No changes to the legislation setting out conflict of interest rules for P.E.I. MLAs were passed during the spring sitting of the provincial legislature.

Two competing bills were tabled during spring sitting of legislature, but neither was brought to a vote

Two competing bills were introduced in the P.E.I. Legislature this session to make changes to the province's conflict-of-interest rules for MLAs, but neither was brought to a vote. (Kerry Campbell/CBC News)

No changes to the legislation setting out conflict of interest rules for P.E.I. MLAs were passed during the spring sitting of the provincial legislature.

That's despite the fact two competing bills were tabled to implement some or all of the changes recommended in a 2015 report from the province's conflict of interest commissioner.

A bill from the Green Party included all five of the commissioner's recommendations, while a government bill included three of them. The Green bill was brought to the floor once for debate without coming to a vote. The government bill was never called for debate.

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said he was "disappointed" no changes were made to conflict rules during the sitting.

"The commissioner's report from 2015 was quite clear that it's time we update the legislation," said Bevan-Baker.

According to the report, P.E.I.'s Conflict of Interest Act has not been amended since it was introduced in 1999.

'An important thing that's absent'

Included in the Green Party's bill were recommendations to extend the so-called "cooling-off period," prohibiting former cabinet ministers from taking work related to their previous portfolio, from six months to a year.

'It's quite clear the authority there should be the independent officer of the legislature, rather than the MLAs themselves,' to implement conflict-of-interest changes, says Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker. (Province of Prince Edward Island)

The Greens' bill also included a recommendation which would allow members of the public to come forward to the conflict commissioner to request an opinion on an alleged conflict of interest involving an MLA.

"Because we don't have an ombudsperson here on Prince Edward Island, there's actually a very limited amount of opportunities for Islanders to bring forward concerns about their government, whether that be the MLA or the actions of government," Bevan-Baker said.

"And so providing this avenue for Islanders to bring forward … their legitimate concerns about their MLAs I think was an important thing that's absent from the accountability measures we have on Prince Edward Island."

Bevan-Baker said it was clear from the one time he brought his bill up for debate it would not receive the support of the house, but said he was waiting for an opportunity to debate government's bill.

He said ultimately it should not be left up to MLAs to decide whether or not to implement changes recommended by the conflict commissioner, whose sole function is to advise or investigate MLAs with regards to potential conflicts.

"It's quite clear the authority there should be the independent officer of the legislature, rather than the MLAs themselves which, given that this was a conflict of interest bill, seems like, ironically, a conflict of interest to me that we should be the ones to get to decide the level of oversight that we have."

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About the Author

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca