Halifax councillor floats 'cooling-off' rules for politicians, top staff

A Halifax regional councillor wants officials to prepare a report on the creation of "cooling-off" rules for municipal politicians and senior staff.

A cooling-off period would prevent councillors and managers from going directly from their municipal positions to a job with a company that does work for the Halifax Regional Municipality or makes development applications.

"If you have to wait six months or a year before you can go work for a company, then you're not likely going to do stuff in their favour and maybe not in favour of the residents because there'd be no immediate gain for you to do so," said Coun. Shawn Cleary.

In 2015, the municipality's then-CAO, Richard Butts, left to work for Clayton Developments. Cleary said the move raised eyebrows, although Butts and Mayor Mike Savage denied at the time there was a conflict of interest.

"Whether there was anything there or not is immaterial," said Cleary. "It potentially creates a lack of confidence in your government."

Other jurisdictions

Cleary's motion calls for a scan of other jurisdictions across the country to see if other municipalities have cooling-off periods.

Last April, a councillor in Winnipeg called on the provincial government in Manitoba to apply provincial cooling-off rules to city councillors and senior municipal officials.

There are cooling-off periods for some federal and provincial politicians in Canada as well as high-level public servants.

In Nova Scotia, former cabinet ministers and ministerial assistants are not allowed, for one year after leaving their jobs, to accept government contracts or benefits, or lobby for them. The period is six months for former MLAs and public employees.

They are allowed, however, to apply for an exemption under the Conflicts of Interest Act.