August 27, 2018
Thibault, C. Gagnon, Roy
Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing an application for the appellant’s disqualification but declaring his statement of pecuniary interests incomplete and ordering him to file accurate statements. Allowed, with dissenting reasons.
The appellant, a municipal councillor for the respondent city, disclosed his interest in a legal person of which he is sole director and shareholder but did not mention 2 immovables located in the respondent’s territory and partly owned (25%) by that business corporation. The trial judge found that interests in those immovables should have been disclosed and, therefore, the appellant’s statements were incomplete.
Section 357 of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities (CQLR c. E-2.2) forms part of a set of rules. That provision creates a limited duty to disclose; municipal councillors must disclose their pecuniary interests “in” immovables located in the territory of the municipality by filing a written statement with the council of the municipality. Section 361 of the Act is more onerous. It creates a broader duty in that it requires the municipal councillor to disclose both “direct and indirect” interests. Every member of the council of a municipality called upon to decide on a matter in which he has a “direct or indirect” pecuniary interest shall disclose the general nature of his or her interest before discussions on the matter are begun and abstain from participating in the discussions and from voting or attempting to influence the vote on that matter. Section 304 uses similar language. It prevents a member of the council of a municipality from having a “direct or indirect” interest in a contract with the municipality.
It follows, therefore, that when the legislature intended to give certain rules a broad scope, it used clear language. The choice of the expressions “direct and indirect” or “directly and indirectly” encompasses a wide variety of situations that prevent elected officials from making decisions when in a conflict of interest.
The legislature did not deem it necessary to amend s. 357 of the Act to extend a municipal councillor’s duty to disclose his or her pecuniary interest in an immovable to an immovable owned by a business corporation in which the councillor has an interest. In fact, such a change would likely result in genuine and serious difficulty, which is beyond the role of the courts and better left to the legislature. The written statement of pecuniary interests filed by the appellant with the respondent’s municipal council meets the requirements of that provision.
*Summary by SOQUIJ
Text of the decision: Http://citoyens.soquij.qc.ca.
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