Commentaries (C01-15/16)

The ethics executive of a public body sought the commissioner’s advice as to whether an employee of that public body should be allowed to publish an op-ed article that was critical of a policy of a political party. Since section 72 of the Act defines political activity as including anything done in support of or in opposition to a political party, the commissioner concluded that the writing of such an article would constitute political activity.

Section 79 of the Act prohibits a public servant from engaging in certain kinds of political activity without first seeking a leave of absence without pay. Such prohibited political activity includes making public comments outside of a public servant’s duties on a matter directly related to those duties, if the matter is addressed in the policy of a political party. The ethics executive was advised to consider whether the article met this test, in particular whether the content of the article overlapped with the area of work in which the public servant was engaged. If the test was met, the employee must then request an unpaid leave of absence in order to publish the article and deal with any associated matters.

The commissioner also reminded the ethics executive that section 79(d) of the Act prohibits a public servant from engaging in any political activity if doing so could interfere with the performance of his or her public duties, and that section 79(e) prohibited public servants from engaging in any political activity if doing so could conflict with the interests of the public body.

PSOA, s. 72 & 79.