Nina Bifolchi

Conflict of Interest

It appears that during each election, people speak negatively about current councillors or candidates who have declared conflicts of interests or could have conflicts. They imply that it is a bad thing if a councillor declares a conflict as they can’t represent the town’s interest to the fullest. These reckless statements are based on uninformed personal opinions and are far from the truth.

What is a Conflict of Interest or a Pecuniary Interest?

A Conflict of Interest is when an individual has a direct personal or pecuniary (monetary) interest, or perceived interest, in the item before them.

The reality is that council members who declare conflicts are being open and transparent. Any councillor can find themselves in a conflict of interest at some time or another such as:

  • A councillor’s neighbour is looking for approvals to build an oversized shed or looking for variances for a house they would like to build that could affect the value of the councillor’s own home or sale of their property.
  • A councillor who is in business in town could find themselves in conflict if one of their clients were proposing something that required council approval.
  • A councillor who also sits as a member of a community service group could find themselves in a conflict if that group were to make a request of council.

Examples of where I have declared conflicts during my eight years on council are as follows:

My parents have been Business Owners in the Town of Wasaga Beach since moving here in 1987 which was years before I made the move to Wasaga Beach in 2003 and long before I was on council. My parents have a contracting and topsoil business and there are times that the town uses their services as per the town’s purchasing policy. There are times that I will declare a conflict of interest in the accounts (which are a list of cheques already paid by the town) “due to a family member.” I have no financial ownership in my parents business, but I declare as there could be a perceived conflict.

In 2003 when I moved to Wasaga Beach with my husband and boys, we purchased some land. We built a home on the property in 2004 which we sold in 2013. We went through an extensive, expensive process to sever and rezone a portion of the property for the purpose of having an outdoor storage business that we operate ourselves. During this process a building lot was also created which we built our new home on this year.

There are times that I will declare a conflict of interest regarding a development proposal or a staff policy “due to a family business.” I will declare when the discussion is regarding outdoor storage of items during policy reviews or when a new business proposal is put forward for the same type of a business.

In these cases I do not comment on these issues and excuse myself from the table. Again, declaring a conflict of interest is a councillor’s way of being open and above board. It in no way prevents the councillor from representing the town to its fullest.

In fact growing up with parents who were in business for themselves along with the experiences my husband and I have had with our own business help me to understand and relate to the issues that council deals with on a daily basis.