COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
City councillors Len Isleifson, left, and Jim McCrae, right, along with city manager Scott Hildebrand and Mayor Shari Decter Hirst listen to presentations at city hall on Monday.
Coun. Jim McCrae (Meadows) faces allegations of being in a conflict of interest over a motion he put forward regarding a controversial affordable housing bill.
The motion to request the province withdraw Bill 7 and renew consultations with developers was supported 8-3 by council this week.
Coun. Garth Rice (South Centre) suggested McCrae may be in conflict, due to the fact that he is a real estate agent.
"I made mention of it because I felt it needed to be cautioned," Rice said. "Let’s face it, (McCrae) does make his commission off of real estate, and the higher the price of the housing, the more commission he’s going to make … I felt that he might be treading on conflict, but others may not, I just wanted to caution him on it."
McCrae is also past president of Brandon Real Estate Board.
The bill would give municipalities the power to require developers to include affordable housing in new residential developments.
McCrae has criticized the bill, suggesting the province was imposing rules that would discourage business in the province.
"The more things we pile on to the business community in our province to make us less competitive with other provinces, away they go … Business goes where there’s money to be made," McCrae said in a previous interview with the Brandon Sun.
McCrae took issue with Rice’s comment on Monday.
"Sometimes you can view allegations like that … as nothing but an attempt to deflect attention from the real issue," McCrae said. "The real issue in this case, do we want housing for everyone or don’t we?"
McCrae said he has been in touch with the city clerk on this matter.
"We’ve been told that none of us councillors have a conflict of interest in discussing a bill of general application like this," McCrae said. "There’s nothing there that I know of that would put me in a conflict of interest situation and I’m pretty sensitive to those things."
McCrae said the accusation by Rice was a "desperate attempt" to divert attention away from the real issue.
City clerk Con Arvisais said according to the COI act, the person that ultimately makes the decision would be a judge.
"So if anybody, a member of the public, a councillor, wanted to take that to the courts for the judge to rule on, they can do that," he said. "A member of council can bring a motion forward … for council to order me as city clerk to file an application to the courts."
Rice said he won’t be pursuing the matter further. He did say the motion put forward by McCrae "wasn’t in council’s realm."
"It’s another level of government and we’re really not supposed to dictate what they do," he said. "But in this case I guess we’ll be sending them a letter now encouraging them not to do it, but I’m sure they’ll do what they see fit to do."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 19, 2012