Political activity authorization

What is the basis for the commissioner to grant authorization to engage in political activity?
Under the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 (the Act), sections 80, 81, 90 or 92, the commissioner may authorize certain public servants to engage in certain political activity that otherwise would not be permitted.

Who may seek the commissioner’s authorization to engage in political activity?
The following persons may request that the commissioner grant authorization to engage in certain political activity:

  • A public servant who is not specially restricted, and for whom the commissioner is ethics executive, may request a leave of absence to engage in political activity pursuant to sections 80 and 81 of the Act
  • A specially restricted public servant, for whom the commissioner is ethics executive, may request authorization to (1) be or seek to be a candidate in a municipal election or (2) campaign on behalf of a candidate in a municipal election
  • A part-time specially restricted government appointee to a public body may request authorization to engage in political activity that is otherwise not permitted

How is the process initiated?
The above-mentioned persons may contact the commissioner’s office, preferably in writing, to request authorization to engage in the political activity described above. The request should include enough background information for the commissioner to understand the activity for which authorization is sought.

Will there be an opportunity for the public servant or appointee to provide comments to the commissioner?
Yes. Before making a determination, if the public servant or appointee involved has not already provided comments, the commissioner will contact the individual to seek his or her comments on the issues.

Will the commissioner contact any other individuals?
The commissioner may contact other individuals to confirm or supplement the information received. Also, the commissioner may notify other individuals involved (such as the ethics executive) of the outcome of the matter, but only to the extent required to discharge the commissioner’s duties under the Act.

What might the commissioner’s authorization decision include?
In making an authorization decision, the commissioner may include following:

  • Relevant provisions of the Act and regulations
  • Relevant factual and legal issues to be considered
  • Findings on the factual and legal issues
  • Relevant previous decisions of the commissioner, agencies, or the courts
  • A decision as to whether the public servant is to be granted an unpaid leave of absence, the terms and conditions associated with any leave of absence, and any other terms and conditions
  • Advice on how to reduce the risk of a breach of the Act

Do authorization decisions have to be followed?
Yes. An authorization decision under the Act is final and public servants must comply with its terms and conditions. A public servant who contravenes an authorization decision or its terms and conditions may be subject to disciplinary measures, including suspension and dismissal.

What happens after the authorization decision?
As necessary to address any continuing concerns about compliance with the political activity rules, the commissioner may contact the public servant or the ethics executive following the authorization decision to ensure that suggested or required actions have been followed, provide additional advice, or add further determinations or directions.

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