Last week, provincial New Democrat legislator John Horgan introduced a private members bill aimed at "extending the provisions of the (Members' Conflict of Interest Act) to deputy ministers and government appointees, including ministerial staff and advisors and those in charge of public sector entities." If passed, those officials would be legally prohibited from exercising power if they're in a conflict or apparent conflict of interest, as well being restricted in their post-employment lobbying activities. Those strictures presently only exist in policy. And existing restrictions on lobbying - which can be waived - don't apply to political aides. But this isn't the first time Mr. Horgan's measures have been suggested.
In his final report as the province's conflict of interest commissioner, Ted Hughes wrote that senior government officials are "more often confronted with ethical dilemmas and potential conflict of interest situations than are backbenchers in the Legislature, whether they be on the government or opposition side...I refer particularly to political exempt staff of the Premier and his Ministers and also to Deputy Ministers and those who rank at that level usually by virtue of order in council appointment. The holders of these positions often have access to extremely confidential information and some of them are in a position to exert considerable influence through input into policy decisions and legislative initiatives."
"Consideration of whether those in these positions ought to meet the standards imposed on members of the Legislature by virtue of the requirements of the Members' Conflict of Interest Act is, I believe, worthy of consideration of the decision makers in government." That report was published in 1996, when the New Democrats were still in office. Which means legislators have been, evidently, considering the issue for 11 years and counting. The following is a complete copy of the existing post-employment policy restrictions for senior management in the provincial public service. The public service's conflict of interest policy is available via the government's Website.
POST-EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS FOR SENIOR MANAGEMENT IN THE BC PUBLIC SERVICE
"confidential information" means information that is unavailable to the public;
"outside entity" means a person or entity other than a public sector employer as defined in section I of the Public Sector Employers' Act;
BEFORE LEAVING PUBLIC SERVICE
1 (1) the following are conditions of your employment with the government:
(a) you must not allow yourself to be influenced in carrying out your employment responsibilities by prospects for or an offer of
(i) employment as an employee of an outside entity; or
(ii) remuneration or other reward from an outside entity for doing anything for it in a capacity other than as an employee of the outside entity;
(b) you must immediately disclose to the Deputy Minister of the BC Public Service Agency
(i) any offer described in paragraph (a), if the offer does or could place you in a conflict of interest situation; or
(ii) your acceptance of any offer described in paragraph (a).
AFTER LEAVING PUBLIC SERVICE
2 (1) The following are conditions of your employment with the government:
(a) after your employment ends, you must not disclose confidential information that you obtained through your employment;
(b) if you had a substantial involvement in dealings with an outside entity at any time during the year immediately preceding the end of your employment then, for a year after the end of your employment, you must not
(i) accept an offer of employment, an appointment to the board of directors or a contract to provide services to that outside entity;
(ii) lobby or otherwise make representations for that outside entity to the government,
(iii) give counsel to that outside entity, for its commercial purposes, concerning the programs or policies of any organization or ministry of the government in which you were employed at any time during the year immediately preceding the termination of your employment; or
(c) until one year after your employment ends, you
(i) must not lobby or otherwise make representations for any outside entity to any ministry or organization of the government in which you were employed at any time during the year immediately preceding the termination of your employment; or
(ii) act for an outside entity in connection with any ongoing proceedings, transactions, negotiation or case in which the outside entity and the government are involved
(A) If you, during your former employment with the government, acted for or advised the government concerning the proceedings, transactions, negotiation or case; and
(B) acting for the outside entity in that connection would result in the receipt by the outside entity of a private or commercial benefit or of any benefit not for general application.
REDUCTION OF ONE-YEAR LIMITATION
The Deputy Minister of the BC Public Service Agency may reduce the one-year restriction, upon your application, after considering the following:
(a) the circumstances under which your employment ended;
(b) your general employment prospects;
(c) the significance to the government of information you possessed by virtue of your position with the government;
(d) the desirability of a rapid transfer of your skills to an employer other than the government;
(e) the degree to which the new employer might gain an unfair commercial advantage by hiring you;
(f) the authority and influence you possessed while employed by the government;
(g) the disposition of other cases.