B.C. Supreme Court judge clears Michael Wiebe of conflict of interest in votes on temporary patio permit program

According to the ruling, Wiebe's pecuniary interest met the legal test of being "in common with electors of the city generally"

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      A Green party councillor can heave a sigh of relief this morning, thanks to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling.

      Michael Wiebe was cleared of being in a conflict of interest in connection with votes he made in May 2020 on the city's temporary patio permit program.

      Justice John Steeves acknowledged in his decision that Wiebe has a financial interest in the restaurant and bar sectors.

      However, the judge concluded that Wiebe's pecuniary interest was in common with other restaurant and bar owners.

      As a result, Wiebe was entitled to vote on this issue under section 145.6(1)(a) of the Vancouver Charter.

      It grants an exception from conflict rules if "the pecuniary interest of the Council member is a pecuniary interest in common with electors of the city generally".

      Steeves declared in his ruling that "there is no need to proceed to consider whether the respondent acted inadvertently or made an error in judgment in good faith".

      “This has been a humbling experience, and I am thankful to my colleagues and close friends for supporting me during this time,” Wiebe said in a news release. “I was doing exactly what I ran on—standing up for small business and helping Vancouver businesses survive COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.”

      The issue came to the public's attention after the Straight reported on Wiebe's votes on temporary patio permits on June 5, 2020. His Eight 1/2 Restaurant was among the first to receive them from the City of Vancouver.

      That prompted retired Vancouver lawyer Mike Redmond to file a conflict-of-interest complaint.

      A subsequent report by independent investigator Raymond Young determined that Wiebe was disqualified from holding local office until the next election.

      Unlike Steeves, Young concluded that Wiebe's interest could not be considered a "pecuniary interest in common with the electors of the city in general".

      That's because only 10 percent of the city's restaurants and bars had benefited from the temporary patio program by July 24, 2020.

      Council could have obtained an order to force Wiebe's resignation with the support of two-thirds of the mayor and council. Council chose not to act in the wake of Young's report.

      That prompted Redmond and 14 other petitioners to pursue their legal rights under the Vancouver Charter seek a judicial declaration ordering Wiebe to vacate his office.

      Among the petitioners was NPA president David Mawhinney.

      Steeves awarded costs to Wiebe, which means that Mawhinney and the other petitioners will have to pay much of his legal bills if they don't appeal the ruling.