On April 30, 2019, I will be retiring from the public service and my role as Ontario’s first, and only, Conflict of Interest Commissioner after over 40 years of public service in Ontario. As was announced in my previous blog on December 10, 2018, our Office will be merging with the Office of the Integrity Commissioner as of May 1, 2019. This merger has the potential to take the subject of public sector ethics and integrity in Ontario to new heights and to create a true centre of excellence for public sector ethics in the country.
Looking back, I am proud of the work we have done in the Office of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner since I assumed the role of commissioner in July 2007. When the Public Service Act, 2006 was proclaimed and, combined with its regulations, introduced the role and mandate of Conflict of Interest Commissioner as a separate entity outside the ambit of a ministry, this was a new and innovative concept for such a public service role in Canada. In all other provinces and the federal government, the oversight role and responsibility for adjudicating conflict of interest and political activity matters resided inside a ministry such as the Treasury Board department. Ontario set a standard that was unique and leading-edge in this regard.
Since 2007, our Office has been able to create an impressive track record in promoting the understanding and compliance with the ethics rules by public servants, encouraging the consistent application of the rules by ethics executives and generally, working with our public sector partners to promote ethical conduct among public servants in Ontario.
I fondly recall that when our current Executive Director, Derek Lett, joined our Office in April 2013, one of the first questions he asked me was what my top three goals for the organization were. I replied that first, I wanted to create a mechanism for ethics executives to learn from each other by sharing summaries of interesting cases they have dealt with and from which others could learn. We now have over 150 summaries available in our online database that is searchable by key word, relevant rule, type of matter and source of decision.
Second, I wanted us to organize and host a national public sector ethics conference to bring together folks from across the country who work in this field to share experiences and create a community of practice. We have since hosted two such conferences (2016 and 2018) in partnership with the Institute for Public Administration of Canada and other partners and produced two legacy publications, including a compendium of peer-reviewed scholarly articles in the Canadian Public Administration Journal.
Finally, I wanted to see the two ethics offices in Ontario merge their resources and expertise to create a true centre of excellence in public sector ethics.
I am proud to report that, with our small but skilled and professional team that includes our counsel, Daman Thable, senior policy advisor, James De Monte, junior business analyst, Shazeela Inshanally, administrative assistant, Zeenat Remtulla and executive director, Derek Lett, we have been able to deliver on all three of these goals. The final one, the merger of the offices, is scheduled to come into force on May 1, 2019. These achievements have enabled me to exit the office and public service with the firm knowledge that a foundation has been set, upon which others can build.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve.
All the best!