Did corporate interests create conflict for city councillors?

conflict story
Vancouver’s CRTC debate still making headlines

It was a bit bizarre last week at Vancouver city council. When the elected officials weren’t debating news articles from Maclean’s magazine or fighting over lucrative committee appointments they were spending a fair chunk of time focusing on the CRTC’s internet billing policy. It was kind of like when COPE used to introduce motions regarding international space treaties and making Vancouver a nuclear weapons free zone.

Were it not for the investigative skills of Bob Mackin over at 24 Hours, it might just have been another wacky week at silly hall. That’s because a story appeared online in his newspaper today which opens the debate regarding whether Vision’s councillor Raymond Louie and COPE’s David "Carbon" Cadman were in a conflict of interest.

According to Mackin, both of these men own shares in communication companies that may well be financially impacted by the CRTC’s decision. Thus their active participation in a lengthy debate on a motion which could impact their stock holdings caught the attention of the 24 Hours team.

We’ve written in the past regarding Cadman’s extensive investment portfolio. According to his financial disclosure, the left leaning councillor (who claims to be one of Vancouver's "greenest" elected officials) owns part of Exxon Mobil, Verizon Communications, SBC Communications, Coca Cola, Fannie Mae, Ford Motor Co., Eli Lilly and many other blue chip multinational corporations.

Meanwhile, according to 24 Hours, Vision Councillor Raymond Louie:

…owns shares in BCE Inc. Communications (the parent of Bell), Bell Aliant Regional Telecommunications and Manitoba Telecom.

Given that both of these councillors have a financial stake in the communications sector, one would assume they might have chosen to recuse themselves from the debate while the CRTC motion was on the order paper.

Did that happen? Nope. In fact, both councillors not only stayed in the room during the debate, the actively participated in it (see the council video).

When Mackin asked each councillor whether their participation in the CRTC debate might be perceived as a conflict of interest, they both stated that they were not. Although they don’t dispute the fact they own telecom shares, they told Mackin they weren’t in a conflict because of the way they voted.

This is very interesting logic that I’m uncertain would pass muster at either the provincial or federal level. 24 Hours highlites a section of the Vancouver Charter which relates to potential conflicts:

Section 4.2 of the city’s code of conduct says a conflict exists when an individual is or could be influenced or appear to be influenced by personal interest. “Personal interest” can include direct or indirect financial interest, bias, pre-judgment, close mindedness or undue influence.

It should be noted this isn’t the first time the issue of a potential conflict of interest has come up when it comes to Coun. Raymond Louie. As we’ve previously written, there are many people in Vancouver who think he’s in a conflict of interest in his role as Chair of the PNE board. It’s a claim that Louie has dismissed outright.

What do you think? Will other mainstream media pick up on this story and ask some tough questions? Do you agree with Councillors Cadman and Louie that they were not in a conflict of interest? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

- Post by Daniel

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