Rules at a glance

Purpose of the rules*

The Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 (PSOA) includes political activity rules intended to balance the neutrality of the public service with a public servant’s ability to engage in political activity. The political activity rules that apply to public servants in public bodies and ministries, including both employees and appointees, are set out under Part V of the PSOA. Political activity rules apply to public servants at all times, not only during election periods, and public servants should be mindful of the rules whenever they take part in political activity.

What “political activity” includes

Under the PSOA, public servants participate in political activity when they engage in any of the following activities:

  • Do anything in support of or in opposition to a political party (federal or provincial) or a candidate (federal, provincial or municipal)
  • Become or seek to become a candidate in a federal, provincial or municipal election
  • Make public comments on any matter dealt with in the position or policy of a political party (federal or provincial) or candidate (federal, provincial or municipal) if comments are outside the scope of the public servant’s duties and the matter is directly related to his/her duties

 

Types of restrictions on political activity

The type of restrictions imposed on public servants depends on the public servant’s position. Some prohibitions apply to all public servants. Other restrictions apply to most public servants except those public servants identified as specially restricted. Finally, some rules apply only to specially restricted public servants. A separate set of rules apply to ministers’ office staff (for information, visit the Integrity Commissioner’s website: http://oico.on.ca).

Specially restricted public servants include:

  • The Conflict of Interest Commissioner
  • The Secretary of the Cabinet
  • Every deputy minister or associate deputy minister in a ministry
  • Every assistant deputy minister in a ministry
  • Every director in a ministry
  • Every deputy director of a legal services branch of a ministry
  • Every crown attorney
  • Every commissioned officer and detachment commander in the Ontario Provincial Police
  • All appointees to tribunals listed in Ontario Regulation 377/07

 

All Public Servants

What is prohibited?

  1. Political activity in the workplace
  2. Political activity while wearing a uniform associated with the public service of Ontario
  3. Using government premises, equipment or supplies for political activity purposes
  4. Associating public service positions with political activity (except in specified circumstances)

 

Most Public Servants

(except specially restricted public servants and ministers’ staff)

What is permitted?

Most public servants may engage in any political activity that is not prohibited (see above) or restricted. Public servants who wish to engage in restricted activity must be on a leave of absence while they do so.

What is restricted?

Restricted activities are set out in section 79(1) of the PSOA and include the following:

  1. Becoming or seeking to become a candidate in a federal or provincial election during an election period (if elected as an MP or MPP, the public servant’s employment will be terminated; if elected in a municipal election, the public servant’s employment may be terminated)
  2. Soliciting funds for a political party or candidate (applies to public servants who supervise others or deal directly with members of the public)
  3. Make public comments on any matter dealt with in the position or policy of a political party (federal or provincial) or candidate (federal, provincial or municipal) if comments are outside the scope of the public servant’s duties and the matter is directly related to his/her duties
  4. Political activity that could interfere with the public servant’s duties
  5. Political activity that could conflict with the interests of the Crown (in the case of a ministry employee) or a public body (in the case of a public body employee)

 

Specially Restricted Public Servants

What is permitted?

Specially restricted public servants may only engage in political activity that is specifically permitted. All other political activity is prohibited for most specially restricted public servants.

What is specifically permitted?

Specifically permitted political activities are set out in sections 89 and 90 of the PSOA.

All specially restricted public servants may:

  1. Vote
  2. Attend an all-candidates meeting
  3. Become, seek to become, or campaign for a candidate in a municipal election (but only if the public servant’s ethics executive has determined that doing so would not interfere with the interests of the Crown or public body). If elected the public servant’s employment may be terminated.) [1]

All specially restricted public servants, except deputy ministers, the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and the Secretary of Cabinet may also:

  1. Contribute money to a political party or candidate
  2. Hold membership in a political party

Only part-time specially restricted appointees may seek the Conflict of Interest Commissioner’s authorization to engage in activities not otherwise permitted. [2]


* The Rules at a Glance are provided for information only. For the authoritative text, refer to the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 and regulations.

[1] & [2] “conditions may be imposed, which can include mandatory leave of absence”

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