September 21, 2019

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Editorial

Browaty plays by different rules

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/1/2015 (1709 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There's nothing stopping Coun. Jeff Browaty from retaining his council seat while running in this year's federal election. In fact, there's nothing saying he can't hold both jobs simultaneously.

Federal legislation is silent on the question, as is the City of Winnipeg Charter Act.

Not that Coun. Browaty would do that, but it does happen. Marvin Hunt was a councillor in Surrey, B.C., when he was elected to that province's legislature in 2013. He held onto both jobs until finally deciding to resign from council last year, saying he wanted to focus on his job as an MLA.

Historically, it wasn't unusual for mayors and councillors to serve in provincial legislatures. The concept of conflict of interest was not very strong back then.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/1/2015 (1709 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There's nothing stopping Coun. Jeff Browaty from retaining his council seat while running in this year's federal election. In fact, there's nothing saying he can't hold both jobs simultaneously.

Federal legislation is silent on the question, as is the City of Winnipeg Charter Act.

Coun. Jeff Browaty

Coun. Jeff Browaty

Not that Coun. Browaty would do that, but it does happen. Marvin Hunt was a councillor in Surrey, B.C., when he was elected to that province's legislature in 2013. He held onto both jobs until finally deciding to resign from council last year, saying he wanted to focus on his job as an MLA.

Historically, it wasn't unusual for mayors and councillors to serve in provincial legislatures. The concept of conflict of interest was not very strong back then.

Times have changed, but Coun. Browaty has failed to grasp the potential conflict posed by his sudden grasp for the federal grail. What, for example, will he do or say during the campaign if the city finds itself in a dispute with the government he wants to join? He is unlikely to tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper he should do more for municipalities.

The councillor made a commitment to his constituents in last year's civic election to represent their best interests, but now he seems to think someone else could do the job just as well if he wins the Conservative seat for Kildonan-St. Paul, which is roughly similar to his North Kildonan council ward.

And if he loses, he gets to keep his council job, risking nothing. City councillors like it that way.

In the 1988 provincial election, eight city councillors, including then-mayor Bill Norrie, said they were considering running for the legislature. In the end, only five councillors took the plunge, and three were elected — all of them Liberals under the banner of leader Sharon Carstairs.

None of them resigned their council seats during the campaign, although the winning councillors automatically lost their civic posts under rules at the time that prohibited anyone from holding two elected positions simultaneously.

In the 1990 election, many more councillors went on to serve in the legislature, including some who held key posts in the Conservative government of Gary Filmon, also a former councillor.

Today, the city's Charter says councillors who seek provincial office must resign following their nomination.

There are no restrictions, however, in federal or provincial legislation that say councillors must resign to seek federal office.

The problem is that it gives people like Coun. Browaty an enormous advantage. It's not just name recognition, but also the ability of a sitting councillor to dole out cash from his ward allowance and other civic funds to community groups.

Another question is whether a councillor can serve two masters. Coun. Browaty has resigned from executive policy committee, but he was immediately appointed to chair another committee. Councillors' jobs today are extremely demanding.

The issue last came up in 2011 when then councillor Gord Steeves criticized the legislation forcing him to resign if he ran provincially for the Progressive Conservatives. He suggested the law might even be unconstitutional.

The law, however, is not unfair. Elections Manitoba has said a councillor seeking provincial office would only have to resign after the nomination papers are filed with its office. Councillors do not have to resign merely because a party has nominated them.

Practically speaking, then, a councillor could serve until a few weeks before the election, but they must resign, which involves risk and commitment.

Instead of trying to cash in on the best of both worlds, Coun. Browaty should promise to resign from council if he wins the federal nomination. That way he will at least be playing by the same rules as everyone else.

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Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

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