Local government officials will be looking to the province to help sort out issues keeping some of them from participating with non-profit organizations.
Next month, delegates attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention in Vancouver will vote on a resolution seeking to work with the B.C. government to find a "remedy that clarifies the responsibilities and suggested conduct" of politicians so they can serve in both positions "without fear of disqualification from local government elected office due to conflict of interest."
Earlier this year, a B.C. Court of Appeal decision expanded the interpretation of conflict of interest rules after determining two Saltspring Island officials had an indirect financial gain when voting on grants to non-profits offered by the local government.
Since then, Prince George and Regional District of Fraser-Fort George representatives have danced around votes and found themselves stepping down from board of director positions, beginning with Coun. Lyn Hall giving up his seat on the 2015 Canada Winter Games Host Society board in late January.
In his reasons for judgment, Justice Ian Donald said the original B.C. Supreme Court judge came at the original ruling from too narrow a view.
"The pecuniary interest of the respondents lies in the fulfillment of their fiduciary obligation to their societies. When they voted for the expenditure of public money on the two contracts, which master were they serving, the public or the societies?" Donald wrote.
A letter to local governments from UBCM president Mary Sjostrom and Local Government Management Association of B.C. president Corien Speaker recommends caution until further court decisions because "it cannot be clearly known how far the principles established by the [Court of Appeal] decision might apply."
"While it is arguable that the Court of Appeal's decision only applies in the limited situation where an elected official is also a director of another legal entity, some of the language and reasoning in the decision is concerning, seems to create some uncertainty in the law, and may be used as the basis for future legal challenges," wrote James Yardley, a Prince George native practicing law in Vancouver, in written commentary on the decision.
The UBCM resolutions committee has recommended their membership endorse the resolution proposed by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities. The Southern Interior Local Government Association and the North Central Local Government Association also submitted similar resolutions.
A vote will take place Sept. 18 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.