Judge dismisses conflict of interest case against Vancouver city councillor

Vancouver Coun. Michael Wiebe is seen in a CTV News file image.

A lawsuit seeking to unseat Vancouver city councillor Michael Wiebe over conflict of interest allegations has been dismissed in B.C. Supreme Court.

The case centred around a council vote in May 2020 that allowed restaurants and bars to expand patio seating to help the struggling industry through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wiebe took part in discussions about the proposal and ultimately voted in favour of the motion, which passed.

A group of petitioners argued that Wiebe, who is a part-owner of Portside Pub and Eight ½ Restaurant and Lounge, had a direct financial interest in the matter, putting him in a conflict of interest.

They asked the court to declare his seat vacant for failing to disclose his conflict, as required by the Vancouver Charter, and to issue an order disqualifying him from holding office – but Justice John Steeves sided with the Green Party councillor.

The judge found that while Wiebe had a financial interest in the vote, he shared that interest with other bars and restaurants in Vancouver.

"There is no evidence he asserted an interest that is personal to him in the sense of being distinct from other owners of restaurants and bars," Steeves wrote in a decision posted online this week.

"The respondent is entitled to an exception from the restrictions on conflicts of interest as set out in other provisions of the Vancouver Charter."

The judge awarded Wiebe costs in the case.

In a sworn affidavit, Wiebe stressed that he's "always taken conflicts of interest seriously," and did not believe he was in a conflict when voting on the motion.

Wiebe said he had confirmed with the city manager that the vote was a general application and that everyone in the food and drink industry were eligible to apply for the program.

When the city began allowing patio expansions, Eight ½ Restaurant and Lounge was one of the first 14 to be permitted.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Angela Jung