Merger with the Office of the Integrity Commissioner

I am excited to inform you that our office (the Office of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner) will be joining forces with the Office of the Integrity Commissioner to be a single entity. The Office will have responsibility for overseeing ethics for public servants and elected officials working for the Province of Ontario.

This change was included in the recent Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018 that received Royal Assent on December 6, 2018. In the coming months, we will be working with our colleagues in the Integrity Commissioner’s Office to make the transition as smooth as possible.

For information about the Office of the Integrity Commissioner and his message about the merger, please visit that Officer’s website here

Second Biennial Public Sector Ethics Conference – Publication of Proceedings

Our first public sector ethics conference, held in September, 2016, was a great success. We were pleased to continue our collaboration with IPAC, the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall law schools, as well as the federal, Ontario and Toronto integrity commissioners to host a second conference, on May 31st and June 1st of this year. Panels and breakout sessions featured distinguished speakers and moderators. There were over 150 attendees from all three levels of government, including academics, lawyers, and many other public service roles, all sharing a common concern for competent, efficient, fair and honest government. Feedback from the conference was, once again, overwhelmingly positive.

The proceedings of the conference have been recorded in an issue of IPAC’s magazine, Public Sector Management. I want to thank all the conference organizers, speakers, and panel members.

Ottawa Conference: “Back to the Future” with the Tait Report

The Ethics Practitioners Association of Canada, the Centre for Ethics and Values at Carleton University and the School of Public Ethics, St Paul’s University, are pleased to announce they are jointly hosting an ethics conference on May 8, 2018, in Ottawa, entitled Ethical Standards, Culture and Leadership: ‘Back to the Future’ with the Tait Report.

Using the Tait Report on Values and Ethics in the Public Service as a reference point, the conference will host a wide-ranging discussion that will step back to examine the contributions of the report, assess its impact on the culture and operations of the public service, look at current challenges and try to identify those yet to be faced. The conference will also explore the Public Service of Ontario Act, as a piece of legislation that successfully consolidates ethics and values expectations, obligations and mechanisms.

Click here to register.


Back by Popular Demand – 2nd Biennial Public Sector Ethics Conference

You may recall that our inaugural Public Sector Ethics Conference: Building Trust in Government, was held in Toronto in September, 2016. The goal was to bring a diverse group of professionals together to discuss public sector ethics. I believe it is fair to say, based on the feedback we received, that the event was a great success. As I have noted on many occasions, it is important for those of us who work in this field to discuss the collective challenges and issues that we face.

The proceedings of the conference, as well as a short video synopsis, have been published by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), whose partnership was critical to the conference’s success.

As it was my hope that the 2016 conference was just the beginning, I am pleased to announce that we will be hosting a second conference this year, entitled Building Trust in Government – 2018.

This all-day conference will take place on Friday, June 1st, with registration, a reception and keynote speech the night before. It will consist of four expert panels, covering, just like last time, an engaging array of public-sector ethics issues:

  • Do blind trusts work? Who can own what and who must sell what?
  • What are some of the most important recent efforts in ethics law reform?
  • What are some of the emerging issues and challenges in the areas of inclusion, equity and diversity?
  • What is the appropriate relationship between elected officials and public servants?

Our keynote speaker at the May 31 opening reception is the remarkable Penny Collenette. Former Senior Fellow of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and now Adjunct Professor of Common Law at the University of Ottawa, Ms. Collonette has enjoyed a unique career spanning the worlds of business, academia, politics and public policy. She has written and commented extensively on ethics, corporate responsibility, governance and leadership.

We are again fortunate to assemble an excellent conference advisory committee, including academic luminaries Anita Anand and Lorne Sossin, as well as Joe Friday, David Wake and Valerie Jepson, integrity commissioners in the federal government, Ontario, and Toronto respectively.

And once again, we are pleased to partner with the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), whose CEO, Dr. Robert Taylor, continues to be invaluable. As with our 2017 conference, IPAC will assist in preparation of the post-event publication.

We’re sure the conference will again prove to be a valuable contribution to public service ethics discourse.

Reserve the dates in your calendar – May 31 & June 1, 2018.

For additional information and to register for the conference go to IPAC’s dedicated website page.

Sidney B. Linden

Helping with a Major Sporting Event (C01-16/17)

The public servant is president and CEO of a public body, and as such, maintains a very senior and visible position.  In his spare time, he is involved in certain athletic activities, including volunteering with a local organizing committee for a major sporting event that is planned to be held in Ontario  As part of these volunteer activities, he anticipated being asked to draw on his government relations experience and to assist with provincial grant applications.

A perceived or actual conflict could arise in the event that the public servant participated in any vendor selection processes on behalf of the organizing committee where the vendors could also provide goods or services to the public body.  In addition, given the very senior level held by the public servant at the public body, confusion could be created as to whether there is some sort of relationship between the organizing committee and the public body if he were to become a spokesperson for or be seen to be a public representative of the organizing committee.  This could inadvertently be seen to be an endorsement of the sporting event, and result in a benefit to the organizing committee.  Finally, using his existing government contacts and relationships to push forward applications for provincial grants could result in an advantage being conferred to the organizing committee.

The public servant was advised to refrain from participating in any vendor selections where the same vendors may have, or may make bids for, contracts with the public body.  The public servant was also advised to avoid becoming the “face” of the organizing committee by limiting speaking on its behalf or taking on major promotional actions in support of it.  Finally, the public servant was advised to avoid taking any personal action to persuade or otherwise connect with provincial-level decision-makers on behalf of the organizing committee.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 6 & 8.


Maintaining Research Activities (C02-16/17)

The president and CEO of a public body continued to maintain certain research activities which predated his appointment to the public body.  The research activities were housed at an institution that received funding from the public body.  In addition, part of the research activities had the potential to be commercialized and to have an impact on the field in which the public body operates.

As president and CEO, the public servant could potentially be involved at the public body in discussions and decision-making relating to funding for programs that could be impacted by the new technology.  In addition, on a broader level, there might be a perception that he could influence decisions at the public body relating to funding for the institution that housed the research activities, which could ultimately benefit his own research.

The president and CEO agreed to continue to declare his interest in the new technology in the course of any conversations at the public body on the subject, and to withdraw from any decision-making that could impact either the commercialization or use of the new technology.  In addition, the president and CEO agreed to continue declaring his relationship with the external institution, to withdraw from any decision-making that could impact the external institution, and to delegate any decision-making and signing authority for any funding or other agreements with the external institution.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 3, 6, 8 & 9.


Involved in a Steering Committee (P01-17/18)

The public servant is a board member of a public agency.  In this capacity, she is involved in shaping the broader strategy for the public agency.  She has been invited to take part in a steering committee whose mandate is in the same general field as that of the public agency, though the two are not directly related.  As a member of the steering committee, she may be asked to comment on governance structures, funding models, and system planning, among other things.

As a board member for the public agency, the public servant is privy to confidential information touching on governance issues, funding models, and system planning.  Though there is no intersection between the public agency and the steering committee at the present time, there is a potential for the two to overlap in the future, as they operate in the same general field.  In such event, the public servant could potentially be involved in discussions or decision-making at one that could impact the other.

The public servant was reminded of her confidentiality obligations owed to the public agency, and advised to be careful not to reveal any such confidential information to the steering committee, particularly on the topic of the agency’s strategy and planning.  Additionally, she was advised to withdraw from any discussions and decision-making taking place at either the public agency or the steering committee that could impact the other.  The public servant agreed to keep the ethics executive apprised of her work with the steering committee as it progressed, to ensure that any new conflicts could be addressed in a timely manner.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 5, 8 & 9.