The City of Yellowknife’s integrity commissioner received no public inquiries or complaints about city council during the past year – possibly because nobody knows it exists.
Dragon Toner Law Office began its five-year term as Yellowknife’s integrity commissioner in September 2018. Lawyer Sheldon Toner presented the office’s second annual report – covering the period from September 26, 2019 to September 25, 2020 – to city councillors on Tuesday.
“It’s still been pretty quiet and there hasn’t been a lot of activity,” he said.
According to the report, there were no inquiries from members of the public about the process for making a complaint and no complaints were initiated against members of council, meaning no investigations were required.
Sheldon said he did provide informal and confidential advice to two members of council regarding questions about potential conflicts of interest and considerations around disclosure and possible recusal from deliberations. He also advised one councillor about a potential issue under the ethics bylaw regarding standards of conduct, though the annual report provides no further detail.
The report states the integrity commissioner plans to increase awareness about its role, saying this “may or may not lead to more activity in future years.”
The integrity commissioner is an “independent and impartial individual” who provides advice and rulings on ethical challenges, adjudicates whistleblower complaints and alleged breaches of the council’s ethics code, and makes recommendations on city bylaws and policies.
On Tuesday, Sheldon recommended the city consider including an exemption to its code of ethics bylaw, similar to other jurisdictions in Canada. He noted Ontario’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act contains an exception whereby councillors don’t have to disclose a financial interest when it is “so remote or insignificant in its nature that it cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to influence the member.”
Sheldon said that could help “navigate the day-to-day potential conflicts that are quite common in municipal politics,” especially in smaller jurisdictions like Yellowknife.