KAMLOOPS — When Peter Milobar was first anointed the Liberal candidate in Kamloops-North Thompson, the plan was always to take a leave of absence from his mayoral chair when the writ drops April 11.
But now, Kamloops resident John McNamer is asking Milobar to take a leave of absence on all things Ajax.
"I approached the mayor several times with communications, as well as the entire city council for that matter, telling him that there were a number of reasonable people here in Kamloops who have the perception that he is in a conflict of interest," says McNamer.
KGHM-Ajax has donated $55,000 to the B.C. Liberal Party, and that's where McNamer feels there's a conflict. He has formally submitted a complaint to the B.C. Ombudsperson.
"He is in a conflict of interest because he's now affiliated, has loyalties to, and is under the party disciplines of the B.C. Liberal Party, which is strongly pro-mining," he believes.
But Milobar feels he hasn't done anything wrong. At Tuesday's council meeting, he announced he was removing himself from the negotiating committee on Ajax, not due to a conflict of interest but more for logistical reasons.
"Conflict of interest is thrown around a lot these days, and I think we have to be very careful when we use those terms because it's something that connotates something very serious, and it should be taken that way," says Milobar. "I feel the 14 years I've been elected, I've always taken that. In fact, I've been criticized in the past of taking it too seriously and being out of the room too often as far as conflict of interest. So I think I'm well aware and have a good sense of when I feel I am or am not in conflict. At this point, I don't feel I am."
Milobar is garnering support from fellow councillors, who say both he and Donovan Cavers, running for the Green Party in Kamloops-South Thompson, won't take their eyes off city matters.
"I think he's very focused on his job," says Councillor Ken Christian on Milobar. "So is Councillor Cavers, and they're both running for the provincial election. But in so far as the time they're in this room, I'm quite confident they are focused on what matters to the citizens of Kamloops."
But McNamer says he won't stop his campaign until Milobar isn't involved in Ajax discussions.
"I'm not saying there's anything illegal that's been done, but it's ethical. It's an ethical conflict, and it's easy for him to do. I don't know why he doesn't just step up and do it."
Milobar adds that "we have to be mindful with where we're at with the process, and whether or not we're commenting as a council as part of an official, clock-ticking commentary to the application or not. Trying to guess what an upcoming election result will or won't be, that's not a threshold, in my opinion, for conflict of interest. There's been a lot of people say councillors that are adamantly opposed have put themselves in a conflict by not being willing to hear other sides of the argument as well."
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