Skip to main content

“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FRANK LEONARD: From tires to sewage, I followed my Dad’s advice on conflict of interest - "the only thing you can take to the grave is your last name, your reputation"


Dad’s advice on conflicts of interest

I approached the civic election in the fall of 1986 with some purpose and determination.  I really had a sense that this was something I could do well so although a victory was not at all certain, I was thinking through the logistics that would flow from a win.  How would I manage family, work and a public life; what business and social organizations would I resign from; and how would we resolve the potential conflict of interest.  While my focus was to be elected Alderman, I needed to address the fact that Saanich was one of our family tire business’ biggest customers.

In 1986 the legislation was not as clear as it is now regarding how a Council member could be a supplier to the local government where they were elected – or even if they could.  Most relied on case law to define ‘the rules’ rather than legislation.  I approached our family lawyer who gave a verbal opinion which amounted to ‘don’t worry about it.’

This seemed too good to be true so I went to another firm and got a written opinion. It cited case law to conclude it was a conflict and that I would likely be challenged by some in attempt to have me disqualified from office.  So there I was – two opinions, exactly opposite - what to do?


So I presented a strategy my Dad: if I win, we can keep the business and I’ll excuse myself when the annual tender comes up; in addition, if I am challenged we fight the case by pointing out that I never voted on the awarding of the contract.  My Dad didn’t hesitate with his reply: if I win, we give up the business because the only thing you can take to the grave ‘is your last name.’  That was it.  No legal wrangling, no case law – just gut instinct.  My Dad said he never wanted our last name to be tainted by accusations so we would give up our largest customer if I won.   

In fact, after my first year led to other appointments, we ended up giving up not only the Saanich contract, but the regional district, the water board and transit.

I use the phrase ‘the only thing you can take to the grave is your last name, your reputation’ when I give advice to newly-elected council members.  When in doubt, get out’ is the other way to ensure you go beyond what is written in legislation and live up to a higher standard.

While adhering to this mantra had a financial cost at the start of my political career, it was ironic it had a political cost at the end.  Nothing was crazier than the sewage debate in Greater Victoria over the years ... but when we went from ‘if’ we should treat our sewage to ‘how’, I was in an awkward position.  I served in Board roles within BC’s public pension investment world and they owned a firm which was courting the project. In addition, my oldest son worked for an engineering firm that was a supplier to the regional district. 

For a while I took part in the meetings on the project when it was at a high conceptual level, and looked to excuse myself when it moved to procurement, but I was on edge and uncomfortable the whole time. Ultimately, I chose to send another member of Saanich Council in my place to these particular committee meetings rather than someday be accused of a conflict.

The irony was that I ended up being accused of neglecting this project by ‘missing’ so many meetings and thus there was a political price.  

In hindsight, I have no regrets.  You see if my Dad was willing to pay a financial price to ensure our good name goes with us to the grave then I don’t mind it having a political price as well.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

It seems the call for blood donors is being responded to, however ... “This effort is a marathon, not a sprint” says Canadian Blood Services

A week and a half ago I wrote the commentary ... “ While the national inventory is currently strong, an increase in blood donor cancellations is a warning sign of potential challenges to maintaining a health inventory of blood ” It was written as a result of talk about a potential blood shortage that would occur if people stopped donating due to the COVID-19 virus. It seems the call to Canadians was responded to, however, as I was told this afternoon ... “ T his effort is a marathon, not a sprint ”. As it now stands now, donors are able to attend clinics which are held in Vancouver (2), Victoria, Surrey, and in Kelowna, so I asked if there any plans to re-establish traveling clinics to others communities - for example in Kamloops, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Revelstoke or Cranbrook, and perhaps further north at perhaps Ft. St. John? According to Communications Lead Regional Public Affairs Specialist Marcelo Dominguez, Canadian Blood Services is still on

FEDLSTED -- Rules will have to relax-- the question is how and when

The media has created a fervour over the mathematical models that allegedly help governments predict the future of Coronavirus infections in the general population. Mathematical modelling has limited use and value. We need to understand is that the data available on Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in Canada is far too small for statistical reliability. The data available for the whole world is useless due to variables in how nations responded to Coronavirus infections. There is no commonality in steps taken to combat virus spread and no similarity in the age demographics of world nations, so the numbers you see on the daily tracking of world infections are not useful in developing a model of infection rates that can be relied on. Mathematical models of the future spread of Coronavirus are better than nothing, but not a whole lot better.  Mathematical models must include assumptions on virus spreads, and various factors involved. As they are used in projections, a small erro

WUN FEATHER -- can we just put those two names to bed for a while? You can call me an ‘Indian’ and I won't mind. And let's not call the farmers and ranchers ‘Settlers’ anymore

Hey there # TeamCanada !   I can't take it any more! Well, I guess I can, but I don't want to. I want to talk about the names we call each other. My very best friends, and all my Elderly Aunts and Uncles call me an Indian. I have walked into the most magnificent dining hall at the Air Liquide Head office, Quai D'orsay in Paris, France, surrounded by the worlds top producing Cryogenics team, and Patrick Jozon, the President of Air Liquide, has seen me enter the room, and yelled: " Bonjour! There is Warren! He is my Indian friend from Canada! He and I chased Beavers together in Northern BC!" And over 400 people turned to look at me and then they all smiled, and nodded. To most European people, an Indian is an absolute ICON!   The ultimate symbol of North America. They love us. And then, one time I had just gotten married and took vacation days off to take my new wife to meet my Grandmother; I was so proud. But as soon a

Labels

Show more