Municipal conflict of interest registries are required in Ontario

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| Published , updated January 15, 2024

Section 5 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act requires Members of Council to declare any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in relation to a matter under consideration prior to the consideration of the matter at a council meeting. They must submit a written statement of the interest and its general nature with the municipality.

Municipalities are required to maintain a registry of all declarations made my council members

Section 6.1 of the Act requires municipalities to maintain a registry of all declarations made under this Act. The registry must include the original written declaration provided by the member of Council and must be available to the public. The registry must include:

  • (a) a copy of the written statement filed by the member of council, and
  • (b) a copy of each declaration recorded under section 6. 2017, c. 10, Sched. 3, s. 5; 2022, c. 18, Sched. 3, s. 3.

Municipal conflict of interest registries in Ontario

Here are municipal conflicts registries I could find that are easily accessible online:

What is a pecuniary interest?

The Act does not define the term, but the dictionary defines pecuniary as “relating to or consisting of money”. In practice, it means a conflict of interest that may impact finances, economic prospects or asset value.

There are 2 types defined in the act:

A direct pecuniary interest may exist when the result of a matter before Council or the board could impact, either positively or negatively, the member’s finances, economic prospects or asset value.

An indirect pecuniary interest can result due to a relationship with another entity. It may exist when the result of a matter before Council or the board will impact the finances, economic prospects or asset value of a:

  1. private corporation in which the member is a shareholder, director or senior officer;
  2. public corporation in which the member has a controlling interest, or is a director or senior officer of;
  3. body of which the member of Council or board is also a member; 
  4. member’s business partner; or eg. a member’s employer

The direct and indirect pecuniary interests of a member’s spouse, child (regardless of age) or parent are deemed to be the same interests of the member for the purpose of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act according to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner of the City of Toronto.

The onus to declare a pecuniary interest rests with the member, and there is time dedicated for these declarations on every meeting agenda.

What are some examples of pecuniary interests?

  • Spouse worked for applicant of Property Standards Committee
  • I have a personal and professional relationship with X, though no current economic relationship.
  • I was a member of Fundraising Committee at Sunny Days in 2022.
  • Member of the Chamber of Commerce
  • Business relationship with the property manager of 116 Spencer Ave
  • Worked with one of the Appellants in the past
  • Mother’s residence is in the immediate vicinity

What is a member of council required to do if they have a pecuniary interest?

When a member of council has any pecuniary interest relating to a matter before council, they must:

  1. Disclose the interest and its nature before discussing it during a council meeting. Municipalities often require a written disclosure submitted before the meeting begins and a oral announcement at the beginning of the meeting.
  2. Not discuss or vote on any aspect of the matter. Municipalities often require that council members leave the room until discussion and voting are finished.
  3. Not attempt to influence the voting on any aspect of the matter before, during or after the meeting.

Here is an example of a submitted declaration of interest form:

What is a pecuniary interest registry?

A pecuniary interest registry is an accessible public record of all the written declarations of interest statements submitted to the municipality by council members. Declaration forms vary by municipality, but generally include the following details for each declaration:

  • Meeting date
  • Date the declaration was filed
  • Name of the council member
  • Committee or type of meeting
  • Agenda item
  • Reason for declaration
  • Link to the written declaration document

The registry should be found on a municipality’s’ website or CivicWeb portal.

The Town of Brighton, which has a population of just over 12,000, has a Conflict of Interest folder on their CivicWeb portal that contains a copy of the Declaration of Pecuniary Interest forms that members have filed with the municipality. The Town of Bancroft (pop. 4,061) does the same:

And here is the way that the City of Toronto provides access to declarations:

What if my municipality does not have a registry?

If you can’t find a copy of your municipality’s Pecuniary Interest Registry, contact your members of council and municipal clerk and politely ask where you might access it, and if does not exist, remind them that it is required under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

If they do not or are not able to produce one, the next step is to submit a Freedom of Information Act request under MFIPPA to obtain a copy of it.

This approach was inspired by a similar situation in 2022 when a resident of the Township of South Glengarry found the township was lacking a Personal Information Bank Index – another municipal record required by legislation.

The resident submitted a Freedom of Information Act request MO-4159 asking for access to their “personal information records” as follows:

  1. Please identify and provide access to inspect and correct all of my personal information records which I have not previously requested.
  2. Please identify and provide all S34 [section 34  of the Act ] Personal Information Bank index or records relating to my personal information records which I have not previously requested.

After the request was received, the township initially told the appellant that it did not maintain any personal information banks or the corresponding index.

After discussing the matter, the township reformulated the request and issued a decision, in which it disclosed some records.

The resident appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC), pointing to the township’s failure to maintain a personal information bank index and its corresponding failure to search for records within its personal information banks.

During the adjudication stage, the township published, on its website, a personal information bank index.

The adjudicator found that because the township had now published its personal information bank index, it was now in compliance with section 34 of the Act and therefore concerns about whether the township is in breach were moot.

How I got the City of Belleville to create a registry

I first tried inquiring about the status of the registry with the Clerk, who is responsible for recording every declaration of interest in the minutes of the council meeting.

  1. November 8, 2022 – Emailed the Deputy Clerk Christine Stewart, no response
  2. November 17, 2022 – Emailed the Director of Corporate Services/Clerk Matt MacDonald, no response
  3. Dec. 7, 2022 – Emailed the Integrity Commissioner for guidance, who replied to my emailed and cc’d the Director of Corporate Services/Clerk, no response
  4. Dec. 7, 2022 – Emailed the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, no response
  5. January 31, 2023 – Emailed Mayor Neil Ellis, no response

FOI request template for Pecuniary Interest Registry

After receiving no response from any of my inquiries, I found and followed the approach described above, filing the following Freedom of Information request with the City. My cheque was cashed April 21, 2023. Here is request I sent:

Please identify and provide access to inspect Belleville’s Declaration of Pecuniary Interest Registry as described in Section 6.1 and 6.2 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which state:

Record of Disclosure

Disclosure to be recorded in minutes

6 (1) Every declaration of interest and the general nature thereof made under section 5 shall, where the meeting is open to the public, be recorded in the minutes of the meeting by the clerk of the municipality or secretary of the committee or local board, as the case may be.  R.S.O. 1990, c. M.50, s. 6 (1).

Idem

(2) Every declaration of interest made under section 5, but not the general nature of that interest, shall, where the meeting is not open to the public, be recorded in the minutes of the next meeting that is open to the public.  R.S.O. 1990, c. M.50, s. 6 (2)

Registry

Requirement to establish registry

6.1 (1) Every municipality and local board shall establish and maintain a registry in which shall be kept,

  • (a)  a copy of each statement filed under section 5.1 or 5.3; and
  • (b)  a copy of each declaration recorded under section 6. 2017, c. 10, Sched. 3, s. 5; 2022, c. 18, Sched. 3, s. 3.

Access to registry

(2) The registry shall be available for public inspection in the manner and during the time that the municipality or local board, as the case may be, may determine. 2017, c. 10, Sched. 3, s. 5.

From: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90m50#BK13

It would look something like these:

Belleville’s response to the FOI request

May 19, 2023 – I receive the response to the FOI request from the Director of Corporate Services/Clerk:

Belleville’s Declaration of Interest Registry

The Pecuniary Interest Registry for the City of Belleville:

According to Archive.org, the registry was first indexed March 16, 2023:

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