• Update on Conflicts of Interest Act: Deadline Looming for Post-Secondary Institutions
  • March 1, 2018 | Authors: Leah McDaniel; Anne Côté
  • Law Firm: Field Law - Edmonton Office
  • As we outlined in an earlier article, the Alberta Legislature recently introduced Bill 27: the Conflicts of Interest Amendment Act. This Act, which is now in force, expands the reach of the Conflicts of Interest Act to all public agencies, boards and commissions in the province.

    One of the significant changes in the Act means that any “public agency” (which includes the Boards of most post-secondary institutions) is required to establish a Code of Conduct for all employees, members, and senior officials.

    Agencies are expected to prepare a draft Code of Conduct and submit it to the Ethics Commissioner for review. The deadline for the submission of the draft Code of Conduct has been extended to April 30, 2018. Early indications are that any further extensions will not be granted by the Ethics Commissioner. Accordingly, post-secondary institutions must act quickly to develop draft Codes of Conduct to be submitted to the Ethics Commissioner for review by April 30, 2018.

    The Ethics Commissioner must complete her review by March 31, 2019, and the Codes of Conduct must be finalized and published by institutions no later than April 30, 2019.

    The Ethics Commissioner has acknowledged that post-secondary institutions are a unique form of public agency, and more leeway may be given to such institutions in the drafting of their Codes of Conduct. However, at the same time, the Ethics Commissioner has indicated that all Codes of Conduct should address at a minimum the following topics:
    • Impartiality: rules governing impartial conduct;
    • Private interests: restrictions on acting in self-interest or furthering private interests by virtue of one’s position;
    • Disclosure: disclosure of real and apparent conflicts of interest;
    • Gifts: restrictions on gifts (including monetary limits);
    • Concurrent employment: limitations on concurrent employment/other offices (including a process for seeking approval); and
    • Discipline: a process for dealing with violations of the Code of Conduct.
    The Act also imposes further restrictions and obligations on senior officials of public agencies (including Board Chairs and Presidents). More information is still forthcoming regarding other types of positions that will be covered by the changes, as the Government is expected to announce in early 2018 which other “designated senior officials” will be captured by the additional restrictions.