Councillors clarify conflict of interest concerns
A day after two Waterloo Region councillors announced conflict of interest concerns when it comes to voting on rapid transit plans, more details are emerging about those conflicts.
At Tuesday's regional council meeting, Regional Chair Ken Seiling and Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig both announced they would be stepping back from the rapid transit issue because their children own properties near the proposed routes.
In addition, North Dumfries Mayor Robert Deutschmann declared his conflict earlier this year due to property he owns along the proposed route.
Seiling says "Quite frankly the legal opinion was indicating the law in this area was rather grey and I chose to err on the side of caution."
Seiling's family owns three properties near both recommended rapid transit routes.
His daughter owns a home on Mary Street in Kitchener while his son owns a student rental house on Dunbar Road North in Waterloo. Both have owned the properties for about five years.
A second student rental house was purchased by Seiling's son on Moore Avenue in the last few months.
"I really never turned my mind to it because I was thinking of the bigger picture and only recently when someone raised questions about property…did I think I should check it out," Seiling says.
If an 800 metre radius is drawn around the proposed route, almost 17,000 properties could be affected, but whether the value will go up or down is unclear.
Craig's son recently bought a property near the Ainslie Street Transit Terminal, and Craig says he hasn't voted on anything relevant to the transit issue since the purchase.
"We have an obligation as elected politicians to declare conflicts. That's what we've done. And I think it's unfortunate in some respects that we're taken out of the argument, out the debate, out of representing our communities, however we must follow the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act."
Deutschmann, who is part owner of a building along the proposed route, declared his conflict of interest shortly after he was elected in October 2010.
"I hadn't taken a close look at the route, was actually coming right down the street in front of this building…I realized this would enhance the value of my property and therefore put me in a conflict."
With three regional councillors now choosing not to vote, 13 will decide the future of rapid transit in Waterloo Region, but not until the public has a few more opportunities to weigh in.