Minister says municipalities will be required to post conflict disclosures online
Richard Brown says the hope is to have disclosures online by June or July
The City of Charlottetown has posted new conflict-of-interest disclosures for council members on the city's website.
And now the province's minister of communities says other municipalities will be required to follow suit.
Under P.E.I.'s Municipal Government Act all council members in the province were required to submit the disclosures within 30 days of municipal elections last November.
However the province left it up to each municipality to decide whether the documents could be viewed by the public.
Now, Communities, Land and Environment Minister Richard Brown says regulations are being drawn up, which will require disclosures for every municipality on the Island to be posted online.
Not all municipalities on board
"Part of the regulations will be that public disclosure will be required," Brown said.
It's not about disclosing everything you own. It's about disclosing what would affect your work.- Richard Brown, Minister of Communities, Land and Environment
"We don't want a few municipalities doing it one way and another few doing it a different way. We just want consistency across the province [so] Islanders can go online and look at a consistent document from one municipality to another."
What Brown's department had previously told municipalities was that "although not a requirement under the act, council may choose to make disclosure statements accessible to the public as a best practice."
The disclosure forms show sources of income, and property owned by council members and their spouse, along with businesses in which they are directors or hold a controlling interest.
For example, the disclosure form for Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown shows he's a teacher, and a director in E.B. Brown's Transport & Crane Service Inc., and in Atlantic Hy-Span Ltd.
But not all municipalities embraced the idea of making the disclosures public.
In December the CAO for the City of Summerside Bob Ashley cited concerns about privacy, and told CBC the city would keep its council disclosures private "until otherwise directed by the province."
The CAO for the Town of Cornwall told CBC disclosures for Cornwall councillors are available on request for members of the public to see at the town's office.
Hopes disclosures are online by June, July
Richard Brown said the regulations will be taken to the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities for consultation, and the province's conflict-of-interest commissioner may be asked to help explain the new requirement to municipalities.
The public should always know how its money is being spent, since taxpayers provide that money.— Rick MacLean, journalism instructor, Holland College
He said there have been concerns from some municipalities they could "lose councillors" over the requirement to make the disclosures public.
"It's not about disclosing everything you own. It's about disclosing what would affect your work," Brown said. "We're not looking for detailed information.... We're looking for where you work? Do you have any other property holdings? Do you have any investments that may affect a vote in the municipality?"
'The public should always know how its money is being spent'
Brown said the disclosures would go either on each municipality's website or on the province's website, and he said that "hopefully we'll have this online by June or July of this year."
Rick MacLean, journalism instructor at Holland College, said requiring the disclosures be made public is the right move.
"The public should always know how its money is being spent, since taxpayers provide that money. And it should know what factors might influence those making decisions about how that money is spent," MacLean said.
"These disclosure forms are one way to monitor a potential factor that could play a role in a councillor's decision."