Political activity advice

What is the basis for the commissioner to give political activity advice to an ethics executive?
Under the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 (the Act) the commissioner may provide advice on the interpretation and application of the political activity rules of the Act and its regulations.

Who may seek political activity advice from the commissioner?
The following persons may seek political activity advice from the commissioner:

  • Ethics executives
  • Public servants for whom the commissioner is ethics executive

How is the process initiated?
The above-mentioned persons may contact the commissioner’s office, preferably in writing, to request that the commissioner provide political activity advice. The request should include enough background information for the commissioner to understand the nature of the activity in which the public servant wishes to engage. The commissioner may request additional information.

What is the commissioner’s role in giving advice?
The commissioner’s role in giving advice is mainly to assist the decision-maker in interpreting and applying the Act in the context of a specific political activity matter. More broadly, the commissioner’s advice is intended to enhance the quality and consistency of decision-making by ethics executives across the Ontario public service and increase general understanding of the Act.

What might the commissioner’s advice include?
In giving advice, the commissioner may include the following:

  • Relevant provisions of the Act and regulations
  • Relevant factual or legal issues to be considered
  • Information about relevant previous decisions of the commissioner, other agencies, or the courts
  • Possible interpretations of the Act that may be useful in analyzing the issue
  • Suggestions for a course of action that may reduce the risk of a breach of the political activity rules under the Act

What will the commissioner’s advice not include?
In general, the commissioner’s advice will not include the following:

  • The commissioner’s own findings of fact
  • Definitive, conclusive or binding statements on the matter
  • Endorsement or rejection of a specific analysis or finding

Will the commissioner always provide advice if asked?
Generally, the commissioner will provide advice if requested to do so. However, in some cases the commissioner may decide that another process under the Act, such as a determination by the commissioner, is more appropriate in the circumstances.

What form will the advice take?
Usually, the commissioner will provide advice in writing. Depending on the circumstances, however, the commissioner may choose to provide advice in another form.

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