Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Perverse law

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THERE is still unfinished business in connection with the conflict-of-interest case against Mayor Sam Katz.

Two Manitoba courts have ruled the mayor was not guilty of conflict for hosting a $3,000 Christmas party, courtesy of taxpayers, at a restaurant he owned. The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the matter, which normally would signal it's time to move on.

Both the Court of Queen's Bench and the Manitoba Court of Appeal seemed reluctant to find against Mr. Katz because it would have resulted in his automatic expulsion from council under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

Under the legislation, any member of council is forced to forfeit his or her seat if found guilty, no matter how trivial the offence.

The province has refused to amend the legislation to provide for a range of offences so the penalty can fit the crime. Conflict legislation for MLAs gives judges several options in sentencing, but the province thinks city councillors are different because they have equal votes, which theoretically gives them more decision-making authority.

The current law, however, forces judges to consider the penalty, instead of focusing exclusively on the facts in determining guilt or innocence. That's perverse, and it must be changed.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 18, 2014 A10

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