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Conflict of Interest Commissioner's Role
As an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly the Conflict of Interest Commissioner has four key responsibilities:
- The Commissioner is an adviser to Members if they have questions about potential conflicts between their public duties and their private interests.
- The Commissioner meets with each Member individually annually (and as needed) to review the required disclosure of the Member's private interests and general obligations imposed by the Act.
- The Commissioner prepares a Public Disclosure Statement for each Member of the Legislative Assembly. These statements are filed with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. They are available for public inspection and are posted on the website of the Legislative Assembly.
- The Commissioner investigates alleged contraventions of the Conflict of Interest Act, made by one Member against another, reporting to the Legislature through the Speaker. If the Commissioner finds that the Member is in breach of the Act, they can make one of four recommendations:
-that no penalty be imposed;
-that the Member be reprimanded;
-that the Member be suspended from the Legislature for a period of time; or,
-that the Member’s seat be declared vacant.
What is a conflict of interest?
Whether a Member of the Legislative Assembly is in a conflict of interest is determined by the Conflict of Interest Act R.S.P.E.I. 1988 Cap. C-17.1
The general purpose and objective of the Act is to make sure no Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) makes or participates in a decision that furthers their private interest or improperly furthers the private interest of another person.
The Act governs only the conduct of MLAs, including the Premier and Cabinet Ministers.
A conflict of interest arises when an MLA makes a decision or participates in making a decision that:
- furthers the private financial interest of a Member or that of his or her family or;
- improperly furthers another person’s private interest. [Section 9]
However, if it is a decision that applies generally to the public and affects the MLA or his or her family as members of a broader class of persons, or concerns remuneration or benefits of a Member, it is not considered to be a conflict of interest. [Section 1(g)].
The Act prohibits an MLA from using information obtained as the result of being an MLA to advance the interests of the MLA or another person if that information is not generally available to the public. Furthermore, an MLA shall not provide this type of information to another person if the MLA knows or should reasonably know the information will be used to advance the interests of another person. [Section 10]
An MLA is prohibited from using his or her office to influence a decision to be made by another person so as to further the private interest of the MLA or the private interest of another person. [Section 11]
Who can make a complaint of a conflict to the Commissioner?
A member of the public is not able to ask the Commissioner to conduct an investigation and give an opinion as to whether there has been a violation of the Act by an MLA.
The Commissioner has the authority to conduct an investigation and give an opinion as to whether there has been an alleged violation of the Act only if the request comes from:
- a Member alleging that another Member has violated the Act;
- a resolution of all Members of the Legislative Assembly; or
- the Premier, who may request an opinion as to whether a Cabinet Minister has violated the Act. [Sections 1 and 28]
If a Member has a concern as to whether another Members' conduct contravenes the Act, the Member must request that the Commissioner provide an opinion. The request must:
- be in writing;
- set out the grounds for this belief and;
- be supported by affidavit evidence.
Only then does the Commissioner have the jurisdiction to undertake an investigation and provide an opinion to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.