Saskatoon city councillors voted to seek the judge’s ruling after the Ward 1 councillor missed the deadline to file his civic election campaign expense disclosure by just over two weeks.
A city bylaw states an elected official who misses the deadline “is disqualified from council and shall resign immediately.”
Justice Richard Danyliuk said although the case might seem “simple” to onlookers, it is not a “black and white case.”
Danyliuk said Hill breached the bylaw for filing his campaign expenses, making a prima facie case for disqualification as a councillor.
However, Danyliuk said a number of factors weighed in his decision not to disqualify Hill.
Hill said he was dealing with symptoms of COVID-19, including brain fog, confusion and fatigue. Combined with the effects of a head injury in late 2016, Hill said he made “an inadvertent and honest mistake.”
He was also dealing with the loss of his partner’s son and then the end of his 19-year relationship with his partner.
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The councillor said he provided his colleagues and the city clerk with a medical note confirming his medical issues.
“(A) reasonable person knowing the totality of Mr. Hill’s circumstances at the time he missed the filing deadline would not perceive his breach to be deleterious toward democracy,” Danyliuk said in his decision.
“A reasonable person would understand how the surrounding circumstances would place Mr. Hill in a position where, for the first time in his 15 years as a city councillor, he could miss a deadline.”
Danyliuk said the combination of factors caused Hill to miss the filing deadline.
“The evidence, taken as a whole, satisfies me that this is not a situation where Mr. Hill ‘would not’ file the documents. It is, instead, a situation of ‘could not.’”
“Frankly, if Mr. Hill suffered a serious heart incident or been diagnosed with cancer in early February 2021 and therefore been late with filing his disclosure as a result of symptoms and treatment, I have doubts we would even be here at all or that this matter would have been referred to this court for a decision.”
Hill was first elected to city council in 2006. He held onto his seat in the 2020 November civic election by a 56-vote margin. Runner-up Kevin Boychuk was also among the nine people who failed to meet the campaign disclosure deadline.
— With files from Ryan Kessler