Councillor Patrick Wilson has asked for a waving or reduction on business license fees as well as sending a letter to the government imploring the province to offer additional support for businesses while softening health measures.
Absolutely, lets advocate for more support from the provincial government. I also support some form of local initiative to help the Cochrane business community.
I do have concerns though, the first one is to advocate to soften health measures when the Covid variants are already reversing what had been a steady downward trend.
The second concern for me involves a Conflict-of-Interest situation. Merriam-Webster defines Conflict of Interest as, “a conflict between the private interests and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust”. The fact is that both Councillor Wilson and Mayor Genung are small business owners and could financially benefit from a business licence reduction/rebate/amendment. Both Councillor Wilson and Mayor Genung are also in a position of trust as is all of council.
This will now be twice that Mr. Wilson will have put himself in an ethical bind. He was a forced to exclude himself from voting against public transit given that his business is a taxi service. I say forced because Mr. Wilson not only did not initially see the ethical issue but then only excused himself after facing a public backlash.
Here are some basic questions that should have now been asked about his latest motion. Why did Mr. Wilson not have another council member bring forth the issue? Why was it not readily apparent to all council members that Mr. Wilsons motions represented a conflict of interest?
Even if Council decided that it was appropriate for Mr. Wilson to make public comments, which they should not have, they should NOT have allowed Mr. Wilson to make the motions. Even if Council allowed Mr. Wilson to make the motions, which they should not have, they should NOT have allowed Mr. Wilson to vote on advancing these motions, which they did. And now there is the question of Councilor Wilson’s and Mayor Genung’s future involvement scheduled for Feb 22, 2021.
I feel for businesses affected by Covid, I really do. I even think Mr. Wilson’s comments were heartfelt and genuine. I am also generally supportive of this council and believe that they have done good work.
But this is NOT just a case of an administrative triviality without consequences. This matter already could and likely should be taken to Elections AB for investigation but if Mr. Wilson/Mr. Genung take part in future debates/votes on business fees then I believe that whole council would be complicit in allowing a conflict-of-interest situation to proceed.
The solution here is simple, do not allow Mr. Wilson nor Mr. Genung to speak on this matter any further and demand that they excuse themselves from any involvement in the future.
When you are elected you do so because you wish to make other peoples lives better, not to improve your personal bottom line. Even the very perception of personal gain must be a focus of council if they are to maintain a position of trust and respect.