Legal protection for municipal leaders revisited

Councillors want same legal protections as MPs and MLAs

Municipal politicians are welcoming a move that could result in them being given a form of parliamentary privilege.

After a series of lawsuits against councils, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities recommended in 2009 that mayors, reeves and councillors be protected from being sued from comments they make while in a council session. The provincial government rejected the idea but has now agreed to review the matter.

That’s good news, said Doug Dobrowolski, Association of Manitoba Municipalities president.

“AMM believes municipal councillors should be able to carry out their duties without fear of legal actions,” he said.

Three councils in Manitoba are currently facing lawsuits. 

The matter will require extensive consideration, however. The defence of “absolute privilege” — or freedom to speak in a public assembly — has not been extended to municipal-level government historically because these bodies are not considered, under common law, to be of the same nature as provincial legislatures or Parliament. As well, there is also no verbatim record like Hansard of discussions held at municipal meetings.

Dobrowolski said the AMM “welcomes and sees as all positive” a series of amendments the province has proposed on another matter of governance. The amendments include enacting a code of conduct to which all leaders are held accountable, requirements for public notification and input on capital projects that require borrowing, and expanding existing legislation to reduce the potential for conflict-of-interest situations.  

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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