Bill to require municipal, school trustee candidates to disclose legal issues passes second reading


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WINNIPEG — Manitoba lawmakers are pushing forward legislation to require municipal council and school trustee candidates to disclose criminal, drug and tax convictions.

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WINNIPEG — Manitoba lawmakers are pushing forward legislation to require municipal council and school trustee candidates to disclose criminal, drug and tax convictions.

On Tuesday, Bill 230 passed second reading. It amends the Municipal Councils and School Boards Elections Act to compel candidates running for local government or school trustee to release a statement detailing convictions and guilty pleas under the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Income Tax Act.

The private member’s bill was first introduced by Progressive Conservative backbencher Len Isleifson, the MLA for Brandon East, last Thursday.

The private member's bill was first introduced by Brandon East Progressive Conservative MLA Len Isleifson last Thursday. (File)

Isleifson said many current members of the legislative assembly have served on municipal councils and school boards and recognize the importance of transparency when it comes to their history with the justice system. The bill is needed to “maintain the integrity of lawmakers,” he said.

“We take great pride in ensuring that the public that we come to represent in any of those cases know who we are, know what our past is, know our passion of why we’re here and what we bring to the table,” Isleifson said. “It’s vitally important on us to ensure that we are as transparent as possible to all those who put us into these trusted positions.”

Bill 230 includes exceptions for candidates who have convictions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Young Offenders Act or if they were granted a pardon under the Criminal Code. Candidates who do not disclose convictions could fined up to $10,000 or face a year in jail.

Disclosure statements would be posted on a website maintained by the local senior election official.

Bill 230 mirrors legislation passed in 2019 that requires candidates for the Manitoba Legislative Assembly to disclose prior convictions.

Under former premier Brian Pallister, the Tories passed a private member’s bill introduced by Fort Richmond MLA Sarah Guillemard mandating candidates to publicize past run-ins with the law. The information is now posted online by Elections Manitoba.

The Progressive Conservatives have used the conviction disclosures to take aim at opposition members in the past.

During a tense question period in November, Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen responded to NDP allegations regarding Kirkfield Park byelection candidate Kevin Klein’s past employment for accused rapist Peter Nygard by tabling conviction disclosures from Opposition leader Wab Kinew, two NDP MLAs and former candidates.

Kinew has disclosed convictions under the Criminal Code from 2004, including two order breaches, failing to provide a breath sample and common assault. He received a full record suspension in 2016.

Isleifson argued Bill 230 would not prevent or discourage people from running for public office but would improve transparency during an election campaign.

“It’s better to have that knowledge up front,” he said.

Wolseley MLA Lisa Naylor said there are benefits associated with the transparency called for in Bill 230. However, the municipal relations critic said the bill could go further and include breaches related to elections financing or conflicts of interest.

“It’s ironic that the PC government should put forward this bill when the premier herself has continually failed to follow conflict of interest laws, election laws and financial rules,” Naylor said.

Earlier this month, a Court of King’s Bench judge ruled Premier Heather Stefanson violated the conflict of interest act by failing to promptly disclose the sale of some personal assets in 2016 and 2019. She did not face any penalties under the act.

The Tories must call Bill 230 to committee, where members of the public can offer their input on the legislation, and then call it for concurrence and third reading, before it can become law.

The legislative assembly breaks for the summer on June 1. Any bills that do not pass third reading by that time will die on the order paper, as a general election is scheduled on or before Oct. 3.

» Winnipeg Free Press

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