My Issue Paper on Mayor Clarke’s Options

Although he’s now apparently entertaining the idea of remaining mayor even if he wins the PC leadership race, Mayor Cecil Clarke is on record saying precisely the opposite.

It happens at the 09.42 mark of this February 6 interview with Steve Sutherland of CBC’s Information Morning Cape Breton. (Clarke had just announced his candidacy for the PC leadership but the party had yet to set a date for the convention.)

Sutherland asks Clarke:

Back to the idea of…running for the PC leadership while you’re still fulfilling your function as mayor, at what point would you consider resigning from the job of mayor?

Clarke responds (without hesitation):

Becoming leader.

Now, I realize the question was “at what point would you consider  [emphasis mine] resigning from the job of mayor,” but Clarke’s answer is so prompt, I originally interpreted it as an assurance he’d resign if he won the leadership.

Now, I’m not so sure.

I haven’t had a chance to watch last night’s council meeting (although I plan to, if only to see Councilor George MacDonald, who served two years on the secretive interim port board, proclaim “Right to Know” week in the CBRM) but I did read Solicitor Demetri Kachafanas’ Issue Paper on the mayor’s options (it’s attached to the Council Agenda, Page 56), the Post‘s coverage of the issue and Citizen Joe Ward’s take on the ensuing discussion.

Kachafanas’ Issue Paper told me nothing I didn’t already know about the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and the Municipal Elections Act (ME) from, you know, reading the Municipal Government Act and the Municipal Elections Act. But his views on “conflict of interest” were…enlightening:

The fact that the mayor, or any councillor for that matter, is a leader of a Provincial Party while serving as mayor is not a conflict of interest. In fact, as stated earlier, neither the MGA nor the Municipal Elections Act prohibits it. Many councillors are affiliated with political parties and some have run for political parties while holding office as councillor. It is not unusual for councillors to criticize the Provincial or Federal Governments or political parties with respect to stands they take on issues that affect municipalities. This does not put the councillor in conflict.

Furthermore, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act deals with conflicts that arise of [sic] direct or indirect pecuniary interests that a councillor may have.

In essence, the fact that the mayor is a leader of a political party and may criticize the government or other political parties does not result in that person being in a conflict of interest. The mayor is one vote of council and his particular views are not the views of the entire council unless adopted by council by way of resolution

If an issue arises where a pecuniary conflict of interest occurs as a result of the Mayor’s position as leader of a political party, then it would be incumbent on the mayor to declare the conflict, withdraw from the debate on the issue and leave the room.

Reading that made me want to write an Issue Paper of my own. So I did:

Let’s begin by replacing the term “conflict of interest” with the term “conflict.”

Because what our mayor would have, should he attempt to remain as mayor while leading the Progressive Conservative Party into the next provincial elections, would be endless conflicts between carrying out his mayoral duties and raising his profile throughout the province. That’s because, even though the MGA does not expressly prohibit it, you cannot be in two places at the same time.

His motivations will constantly be questioned — is he taking a particular stand, attending a particular event, promoting a particular cause because it’s in the best interests of the CBRM or in the best interests of the provincial Tory party and his own political career? Is he using the resources of the CBRM in the service of the provincial PCs? Is he traveling on CBRM business or is he campaigning?

Seriously, it will never end.

He can’t be a full-time mayor and a full-time party leader and putting aside the concerns of the citizens of the CBRM for a moment, would provincial PCs accept a part-time leader?  What kind of message would it send to Nova Scotians? “Vote PC: Our leader not only has no seat in the legislature, he has a day job!”

I honestly can’t see it. I think his own party would make him resign as CBRM mayor.

But my guess is that if there’s any possibility he’ll be allowed to hold both jobs (and the Regional Solicitor of the CBRM certainly isn’t going to stop him) and collect both salaries, Clarke is not going to be the one to shut it down.

I wish he’d find that conviction he seemed to have in February and repeat this simple phrase loudly and clearly: “I will resign as mayor of the CBRM if I win the PC leadership in October.”

The rest of this discussion (especially the loopy, loopy bits where Cape Breton Post/Frank magazine columnists — who should really stick to their Game of Thrones fan fiction — characterize councilors wanting to know if the mayor will be gone in October as “frenzied zealots” wanting Clarke’s “political corpse thrown onto the street”) can then be consigned to the proposed new Battery Point anaerobic digester where it belongs.






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