Council should be no place for criminal past: Conmee

By Carl Clutchey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Chronicle-Journal

About a dozen Ontario municipalities are supporting a Conmee Township resolution calling on the province to bar those with a criminal record from being elected to a municipal council, unless that record has been expunged.

The resolution, which was put forward by Conmee Coun. Grant Arnold, is similar to an earlier proposal the municipality passed in 2021.

The rationale behind the current resolution is to ensure that municipal candidates and council members are “above reproach, and conduct themselves with integrity, truth, justice, honesty, transparency and courtesy.”

It also demands that “an elected local government official be disqualified from office upon conviction of a criminal offence and must resign.”

None of the municipalities that have so far thrown their weight behind Conmee’s resolution are located in the Thunder Bay district.

The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association is to discuss the resolution at its next meeting on Wednesday.

The association’s president, Wendy Landry, who is Shuniah Township’s mayor, said whether or not to disqualify elected members or candidates based on their past actions “is a tricky one.”

“What if someone has a record from when they were 19, and are now 49, and has since contributed well and more to society and their community and learned the lesson?” Landry said on Friday.

In the House of Commons and the Senate, sitting members are required to give up their seats if they have been convicted of a crime and have been sentenced to jail for two years or more, under Section 750 of the Criminal Code.

The section also prevents someone sentenced to two years or more in jail from running for election as an MP or being appointed to the Senate.

While those currently in jail are barred from becoming an MP, federal rules don’t address candidates who are currently not incarcerated but have a criminal record.

However, the House of Commons and the Senate both have the power to expel members at their discretion, and political parties have the right to decide which candidates are entitled to represent them.

The federal Conservative party, for instance, requires candidates seeking to be nominated to submit criminal background and credit checks.

Meanwhile, federal election candidates who have committed an offence under the Canada Elections Act — such as voting more than once, or offering bribes — can’t seek office for seven years after the date of the conviction, according to federal rules.

What qualifies or disqualifies electoral candidates can vary, depending on the jurisdiction.

A jailed Canadian can’t seek to become prime minister, but in the U.S., presidential candidates can seek the highest office in their country even while they are behind bars.

That prospect began being mulled by American political observers when former U.S. president Donald Trump — who is facing several criminal prosecutions, but has not been convicted — announced his intention to seek a second term in November’s presidential election.