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MLAs were advised on accepting Olympic gifts

MLAs with an official role in an Olympic event would not have to disclose free tickets or other related benefits as gifts, according to guidelines issued by the office of British Columbia's conflict of interest commissioner, Paul Fraser.

“The Province of British Columbia is one of the host sponsors of the Games,” said a two-page guide issued by Fraser's office in Dec., 2009. “Informed citizens expect their elected MLAs will be involved in the success of the Games and participate in the promotional benefits to the Province.

“In my view, it is entirely fitting that all Members of the Legislature should have an opportunity to participate in the ceremonial and/or promotional aspects of the Games 'as an incident of protocol or social obligations,'” it said.

MLAs are normally required to disclose any gifts they've received worth more than $250 within 30 days of accepting the gift. Those disclosures are publicly reported annually.

But MLAs who accepted free tickets while acting in an “official role” would not have to report the benefit as a gift, the guide said. “If you have an official role at an event (such as promotional activity, making a presentation, giving a speech, meeting foreign dignitaries) and your expenses would normally be paid for by the government, the provision of tickets, hospitality etc is a gift to the Province and does not have to be disclosed.”

Nor would an MLA invited to an event “on a purely private basis”, such as by a close personal friend or family member, have to disclose the gift since “it is not connected with your official duties.”

If, on the other hand, the MLA was invited as a representative of the province, but did not have an official function, he or she would have to disclose the gift.

MLAs' disclosure statements are made public in November or December each year.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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