Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.


The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

BC regulation change reduced what MLAs must disclose

Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser said he has no plans to make a report to the legislature about British Columbia cabinet minister Mary Polak’s late filing of a financial disclosure form.

Moreover, a regulation change cabinet made in September at Fraser’s request will give the commissioner much more discretion over which transgressions to pursue.

“She’s simply bought a condo,” said Fraser. “All we basically do in that case is remind members they’ve been late and carry on.”

MLAs are required to file notices of material change within 30 days, but Polak took 116 days to declare she’d bought a home and acquired a mortgage, the Tyee reported. She said she was late because she moved at a busy time and then the need to file the disclosure slipped her mind.

MLAs who refuse to file disclosures, or changes to them, can be reprimanded, fined up to $5,000 or lose their seat.

Had Polak been in a situation where she was trading stocks or doing something else where there were more obvious opportunities to benefit, said Fraser, “Then we’d be right on it.”

In September cabinet changed the definition of “material change,” giving the commissioner more latitude to decide which changes are significant.

Under the old version, B.C. Reg. 453/98, the definition of “material change” included “acquisition or disposition . . . of any asset, liability, financial interest or source of income by a member, the member’s spouse or a minor child of the member, or a private corporation controlled by any of them.”

It spelled out a few exceptions, including assets and liabilities worth less than $1,000 and income under $1,000.

The new regulation, B.C. Reg. 266/2010, keeps the same definition but drops the exceptions and instead adds that disclosure is only needed “if the change or event would reasonably be expected to have a significant effect on the information previously disclosed.”

Fraser allowed that the new definition is “subjective,” but said it will allow him to be stricter. “We’ve got this new rule that won’t be generously interpreted,” he said. “What we’ve tried to do is keep the bar as high as we can without keeping it ridiculously high.”

Thirty days is a reasonable amount of time to file notices of material change and MLAs will have to learn the deadline is serious, he said. “There's been more flexibility than not and now given that the test is reasonable it’s become reasonable to say the deadline is absolute.”

Previously MLAs were required to disclose details that added little to the public knowledge, Fraser said.

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

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus