(Epilogue: During the meeting, he recused himself from this vote. Related article: Conflict of interest complaint against Vancouver councillor has merit: watchdog. Mayoral hopeful works for PR firm that represents real estate developers and other industries, by Jen St. Denis, StarMetro Vancouver)
Who is he working for — Vancouver citizens? Or his corporate clients?
City Councillor Hector Bremner is hoping to be chosen as the NPA’s mayoral candidate in a May 29 decision by his civic party members.
But more immediately, as Councillor he will be at a Public Hearing on Tuesday, April 17, from which clients of his employer, the lobbying and communications firm Pace Group, may benefit financially. Will Bremner do the right thing, declare conflict of interest, and recuse himself from participating in discussion and voting on this item? He should. This could be considered a test, and people should also watch to see how he conducts himself.
The April 17 problem relates to this Public Hearing item: “Minor Amendments to the Zoning and Development By-law to Enable Liquor Retail Stores in Grocery Stores.” If approved by Council vote, the proposed bylaw will limit liquor sales to only very large footprint grocery stores (over 929 square meters) and exclude small and mid-sized stores. If approved, the bylaw changes will benefit his firm’s clients.
Incidentally this is not the first case of potential conflict of interest for him. On April 12, theBreaker reported about other areas of concern with Bremner. “NPA mayoral hopeful Bremner accused of conflict of interest: NPA Coun. Hector Bremner’s continued vice-presidency of a firm that lobbies for real estate, construction and retail companies has sparked a citizen’s complaint to city hall that the rookie politician is breaching the code of conduct.”
Back to the bylaw on liquor retail sales. Overwaitea Food Group (which includes Save on Foods) is a client of Pace Group. So is the BC Wine Institute. Bremner is on record having lobbied on the side of large grocers and liquor (BC Wine Institute).
For example, here are the minutes of a Public Hearing in Maple Ridge in 2015.
Meanwhile, at a Public Hearing in the City of North Vancouver, on Monday, Oct 26, 2015, “Hector Bremner, 200 Water Street, Vancouver, Vice President Public Affairs, The Pace Group, expressed support of licences in grocery stores without a distance restriction.” (At the same meeting a Save on Foods/Overwaitea Food Group representative spoke in favour as well.)
Below is the relevant text from the Vancouver Charter, which governs issues like this. As of February 1, 2016 there are public records that Bremner was still working for the wine industry. Even if he claims that his is not currently assigned to clients that will benefit from this Public Hearing decision, the public has no way to verify such a thing, nor any past or present arrangements for direct or indirect benefit for him or his employer.
Disclosure of conflict
(2)If a Council member attending a meeting considers that he or she is not entitled to participate in the discussion of a matter, or to vote on a question in respect of a matter, because the member has
the member must declare this and state in general terms the reason why the member considers this to be the case.
(4)As an exception to subsection (3), if a Council member has made a declaration under subsection (2) and, after receiving legal advice on the issue, determines that he or she was wrong respecting his or her entitlement to participate in respect of the matter, the member may
(b)unless a statement is made under subsection (4), the person presiding at that meeting or any following meeting in respect of the matter must ensure that the member is not present at any part of the meeting during which the matter is under consideration.
(3)A person who contravenes this section is disqualified from holding office as described in section 145.911 [disqualification for contravening conflict rules] unless the contravention was done inadvertently or because of an error in judgment made in good faith.