Values and Ethics Code for the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying
Table of Contents
- Conflict of Interest and Post-employment
- Prevention of conflict of interest
- Requirements for preventing post-employment conflict of interest situations before and after leaving office
The Values and Ethics Code of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying (OCL) outlines the values and expected behaviours that guide the OCL staff in all activities related to their professional duties. By committing to these values and adhering to the expected behaviours, the OCL employees strengthen the ethical culture of the public sector and contribute to public confidence in the integrity of all public institutions.
It is the responsibility of each OCL employee to be aware of his or her ethical obligations and to use the Code as a guide in addressing and responding to ethical concerns. OCL employees are also expected to use their judgment when facing situations that challenge their values and ethics.
This Code fulfills the requirement of section 5 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA). It was developed in consultation with the OCL employees, management and bargaining agents.
Acceptance of these values and adherence to the expected behaviours is a condition of employment for every employee and manager of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, regardless of their level or position. This Code applies to all indeterminate and term employees, casual workers and students. Consultants and contractors are expected to respect the values expressed in this Code.
The Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying is named in Schedule I.1 of the Financial Administration Act (Division or Branch of the Federal Public Administration). The Values and Ethics Code of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying is based on the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-employment.
From a personal perspective, a breach of this Code may result in a loss of respect from colleagues, peers and members of an individual’s community.
From an employment perspective, a breach of this Code may result in disciplinary measures being taken (for example, oral or written reprimand, suspension, financial penalty, demotion), up to and including termination of employment.
Coming into force
The Values and Ethics Code of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying came into force on October 15, 2013.
Review of the Code
A review of the provisions and operation of this Code should be undertaken every five years after this Code comes into force.
Duties and Obligations
As public servants, OCL employees are expected to abide by this Code and demonstrate the values of the public sector in their actions and behaviour.
Managers are in a position of influence and authority that gives them a particular responsibility to exemplify the values of the public sector of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying.
As provided by sections 12 and 13 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA), if an OCL employee or manager has information that could indicate a serious breach of this Code he/she can bring this matter, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, to the attention of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
Commissioner of Lobbying
As chief executive of a public sector organization, the Commissioner has specific responsibilities under the PSDPA, including establishing a code of conduct for the office and an overall responsibility for fostering a positive culture of values and ethics in the office. The Commissioner ensures that employees are aware of their obligations under this Code. The Commissioner also ensures that employees can obtain appropriate advice within the office on ethical issues, including possible conflicts of interest.
The Commissioner ensures that this Code and the OCL disclosure procedures are implemented effectively in the office, and that they are regularly monitored and evaluated.
The Commissioner is responsible for ensuring the non-partisan provision of programs and services by the office.
The Commissioner is subject to this Code and to the Conflict of Interest Act.
Public Service Commission
The Public Service Commission is responsible for conducting staffing investigations and audits to safeguard the integrity of the public service staffing system and administering certain provisions related to political activities to maintain the non-partisanship of the public service in accordance with the Public Service Employment Act.
Avenues for Resolution
The expected behaviours are not intended to respond to every possible ethical issue that might arise in the course of our daily work. When ethical issues arise, employees are encouraged to discuss and resolve these matters with their immediate supervisor. They can also seek advice and support from any member of the Executive Management Committee.
OCL employees at all levels are expected to resolve issues in a fair and respectful manner and consider informal processes such as dialogue or mediation.
As provided by sections 12 and 13 of the PSDPA, if employees have information that could indicate a serious breach of this Code, they can bring the matter, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, to the attention of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
Members of the public who have reason to believe that an OCL employee has not acted in accordance with this Code can bring the matter to the attention of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to disclose a serious breach of this Code.
The integration of values and ethics into daily work is a cornerstone of a healthy and respectful organization and the responsibility of all employees and managers at the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying. The decisions we make and actions we take as employees of the OCL, no matter our function or level, can have far reaching impacts. It is therefore our duty to act at all times with respect, fairness and integrity.
Every day we have numerous opportunities to embody public sector values in achieving our goals: in the way we treat one another; when hiring staff or contractors; in our dealings with lobbyists and other stakeholders; and when making decisions to get involved in personal outside activities.
The following values outline in general terms the ethical conduct expected of OCL employees and sets out the values by which we should be guided in our work and professional conduct.
1. Respect for Democracy
The system of Canadian parliamentary democracy and its institutions are fundamental to serving the public interest. OCL employees recognize that elected officials are accountable to Parliament, and ultimately to the Canadian people, and that a non-partisan public sector is essential to our democratic system. For OCL employees, respect for our democratic system means:
- 1.1 Respecting the rule of law and carrying out their duties in accordance with legislation, policies and directives in a non-partisan, professional and impartial manner.
- 1.2 Carrying out the lawful decisions of their leaders and supporting them in their accountability to Parliament and Canadians.
- 1.3 Providing decision makers with all the information, analysis and advice they need, always striving to be open, candid and impartial.
- 1.4 Respecting and promoting the mandate of the OCL and protecting the Commissioner’s role as an independent Agent of Parliament organization.
2. Respect for People
Treating all people with respect, dignity and fairness is fundamental to our relationship with the Canadian public and contributes to a safe and healthy work environment that promotes engagement, openness and transparency. The diversity of our people and the ideas they generate are the source of our innovation. For OCL employees, respect for people means:
- 2.1 Treating every person with respect and fairness.
- 2.2 Valuing diversity and the benefit of combining the unique qualities and strengths inherent in a diverse workforce.
- 2.3 Helping to create and maintain safe and healthy workplaces that are free from harassment and discrimination.
- 2.4 Working together in a spirit of openness, honesty and transparency that encourages engagement, collaboration and respectful communication.
- 2.5 Contributing to the uniqueness of the OCL working environment that values and recognizes the importance of teamwork, camaraderie, and esprit de corps.
Integrity is the cornerstone of good governance and democracy. By upholding the highest ethical standards, OCL employees conserve and enhance public confidence in the honesty, fairness and impartiality of the federal public sector. For OCL employees, acting with integrity means:
- 3.1 Acting at all times with integrity and in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that may not be fully satisfied by simply acting within the law.
- 3.2 Using their official roles is never allowed to obtain an inappropriate advantage for themselves or to advantage or disadvantage others.
- 3.3 Taking all possible steps to prevent and resolve any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest between their official responsibilities and their private affairs in favour of the public interest.
- 3.4 Acting in such a way as to maintain their employer's trust.
OCL employees are entrusted to use and care for public resources responsibly, for both the short term and long term. For OCL employees, responsible stewardship means:
- 4.1 Using the public money, property and resources managed by them effectively and efficiently.
- 4.2 Considering the present and long-term effects that their actions have on people and the environment.
- 4.3 Acquiring, preserving and sharing knowledge and information as appropriate.
Excellence in the design and delivery of public sector policy, programs and services is beneficial to every aspect of Canadian public life. Engagement, collaboration, effective teamwork and professional development are all essential to a high-performing organization. For OCL employees, professional excellence means:
- 5.1 Providing fair, timely, efficient and effective services that respect Canada's official languages.
- 5.2 Improving the quality of policies, programs and services they provide to clients by being accessible and service oriented.
- 5.3 Fostering a work environment that promotes teamwork, learning, innovation, creativity, engagement and inclusion.
- 5.4 Promoting Canada’s official languages in their dealings with colleagues, managers, and with all individuals from outside of the organization.
Conflict of Interest and Post-employment
OCL employees contribute in a fundamental way to good government, democracy and Canadian society through the loyal, impartial, and non-partisan support they provide to the Commissioner, both Houses of Parliament and through the service they provide to Canadians. As dedicated professionals, we serve the public interest and uphold the public trust.
This chapter provides direction and measures to assist OCL employees to deal effectively with real, potential and apparent conflict of interest situations which may arise during and after employment in the public service. Preventing, managing or resolving conflict of interest situations is one of the principal means of maintaining public trust and confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the public service.
The objectives of these measures are to:
- ensure that, in situations of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest and situations where there is a conflict of duties, decisions are made in a manner which upholds the public interest;
- facilitate ethical decision-making to resolve conflicts between private and public interests; and
- prevent, manage and resolve conflict of interest and post-employment situations that could impair either the integrity of the OCL and of the public service or the public's perception of its integrity.
This includes indeterminate and term employees, employees on leave without pay, students, casual, seasonal and part-time workers.
Although they are not public servants, individuals on Interchange Canada assignments are expected to comply and to respect the requirements in this Code.
Conflict of Interest
A situation in which an OCL employee has private interests that could improperly influence the performance of his or her official duties and responsibilities or in which the OCL employee uses his or her office for personal gain. A real conflict of interest exists at the present time, an apparent conflict of interest could be perceived by a reasonable observer to exist, whether or not it is the case, and a potential conflict of interest could reasonably be foreseen to exist in the future.
Conflict of Duties
A conflict that arises, not because of an OCL employee's private interests, but as a result of one or more concurrent or competing official responsibilities. For example, these roles could include his or her primary employment at OCL and his or her responsibilities in an outside role that forms part of his or her official duties, such as an appointment to a board of directors, or other outside function.
Prevention of conflict of interest
Preventing and avoiding situations that could give the appearance of a conflict of interest, result in a potential for a conflict of interest or result in an actual conflict of interest will maintain public confidence in the objectivity of the OCL and of the public service. Conflict of interest does not relate exclusively to matters concerning financial transactions and the transfer of economic benefit. While financial activity is important, conflicts of interest in any area of activity can have a negative impact on the perceived objectivity of the OCL and the public service.
It is impossible to foresee every situation that could give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest. When in doubt, we should refer to the requirements found in the Values and Ethics Code of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-employment to guide appropriate action. OCL employees can also seek guidance from their manager and any member of the Executive Management Committee.
OCL employees should take the following steps to prevent and manage conflict of interest situations:
- Recognize, report, and resolve any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest between their official responsibilities and any of their private affairs;
- Refrain from having private interests that could be affected by government decisions.
- Refrain from knowingly taking advantage of, or benefiting from, information that is obtained in the course of our duties that is not available to the public;
- Refrain from the direct or indirect use of, or allowing the direct or indirect use of, OCL and government property of any kind, including property leased to the government, for anything other than officially approved activities;
- Refrain from assisting private entities or persons in their dealings with the OCL and the government where this would result in preferential treatment of the entities or persons;
- Refrain from interfering in the dealings of private entities or persons with the OCL and the government in order to inappropriately influence the outcome;
- Maintain the impartiality of the OCL and public service and not engage in any outside or political activities that impair or could be seen to impair their ability to perform their duties in an objective or impartial manner; and
- Ensure that any real, apparent or potential conflict that arises between their private activities and their official responsibilities as an OCL employee is resolved in the public interest.
OCL employees are required to report in writing to the Deputy Commissioner or the Commissioner all outside activities, assets and interests that might give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest in relation to their official duties. This Confidential Report must be made within 60 days of initial appointment (or any subsequent appointment, transfer or deployment) to the Deputy Commissioner or the Commissioner who will advise them on whatever action that may be required under the circumstances.
On a regular basis thereafter, and every time a major change occurs in their personal affairs or official duties, OCL employees are required to review their obligations under this Code. If a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists, they are to file a report in a timely manner.
When negotiating financial arrangements with outside parties, OCL employees are to comply with the requirements listed in related directives or policies issued by the Treasury Board. When in doubt, employees are to immediately report the situation to their manager in order to seek advice or direction on how to proceed.
With the permanent and pervasive nature of information technology, OCL employees should be particularly sensitive to real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest that may arise from messages and information transmitted via the Internet and other media.
For instance, when using social media platforms, OCL employees must always:
- Maintain political neutrality and impartiality.
- Respect the duty of loyalty by not causing harm to the OCL, the federal government and the Parliament and their reputation and programs.
- Avoid statements that would appear to impair their ability to perform official duties.
- Respect confidentiality and privacy.
- Make clear that they do not represent the OCL’s views when not acting as a designated spokesperson.
- Avoid using the OCL, federal Government or Parliament logos or other visual markers on their blogs or social media networking profiles.
- Use personal email address rather than the OCL email address, unless for professional purposes.
OCL employees are required to evaluate their assets, taking into consideration the nature of their official duties and the characteristics of their assets. If there is any real, apparent or potential conflict of interest between the carrying out of their official duties and their assets, they are to report this matter to the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner in a timely manner.
Where the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner determines that any of these assets results in a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest in relation to official duties, OCL employees may be required to divest those assets, or to take other measures to resolve the conflict. OCL employees may not sell or transfer assets to family members or anyone else for the purpose of circumventing the compliance requirements.
The types of assets that should be reported and the procedures for reporting and managing such assets are set out in the Directive on Reporting and Managing Financial Conflicts of Interest. Examples of assets include, but are not limited to, publicly traded shares; interests in partnerships, proprietorships, joint ventures, private companies and family businesses, especially those doing business with the federal public sector; real property that is not for the private use of the OCL employees or their family members.
Residences, recreational properties used by OCL employees or their family; household goods and personal effects; works of art, antique and collectibles; automobiles and other personal means of transportation; cash and deposits and Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) held through units in mutual funds do not need to be reported.
Outside employment or activities
OCL employees may engage in employment outside the OCL or the public service and take part in outside activities, unless the employment or activities are likely to give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest or would undermine the impartiality of the OCL or their objectivity.
OCL employees are required to provide a report to the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner when their outside employment or activities might subject them to demands incompatible with their official duties, or cast doubt on their ability to perform their duties or responsibilities in a completely objective manner. The Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner may require that the outside activities be modified or terminated if it is determined that a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists.
OCL employees who receive a benefit or income either directly or indirectly from a contract with the Government of Canada are required to report to the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner on such contractual or other arrangements. The Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner will determine whether the arrangement presents a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, and may require that the contract be modified or terminated.
The following activities may give rise to a conflict of interest and should be discussed with the Deputy Commissioner or the Commissioner:
- Engaging in volunteer work involving lobbying the Federal government;
- Sell a service or product to the Federal government that relates to the employee’s official duties;
- Work part-time for a company that has dealings with the OCL.
When considering involvement in political activity, OCL employees should seek the advice of the Deputy Commissioner, as the OCL designated departmental official, or the Public Service Commission before acting.
OCL employees, as public servants, are required to seek and obtain permission from the PSC to seek nomination for or be a candidate in a federal, provincial, territorial, or municipal election, in accordance with Part 7 of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA). Permission from the PSC is not required to undertake non-candidacy related political activities.
"Political activities" are defined in Part 7 of the PSEA as "any activity in support of, within or in opposition to a political party; carrying on any activity in support of or in opposition to a candidate before or during an election period; or, seeking nomination as or being a candidate in an election before or during the election period."
OCL employees are encouraged to use the PSC Political Activities Self-Assessment Tool to make an informed decision about whether to engage in non-candidacy related political activities. At all times, employees must keep in mind the context of working for an independent Agent of Parliament which might place additional constraints.
Any OCL employee who wishes to engage in a political activity not covered by Part 7 of the PSEA that could constitute a conflict of interest is required to report the proposed activity to the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner.
Similarly, any OCL employee who is subject to this Code but who is not subject to Part 7 of the PSEA, including casual and part-time workers, who wishes to engage in any political activity that could constitute a conflict of interest, is to report the proposed activity to the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner.
Gifts, hospitality and other benefits
OCL employees are expected to use their best judgment to avoid situations of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest by considering the following criteria on gifts, hospitality and other benefits and in keeping with this Code and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector.
OCL employees are not to accept any gifts, hospitality or other benefits that may have a real, apparent or potential influence on their objectivity in carrying out their official duties and responsibilities or that may place them under obligation to the donor. This includes activities such as free or discounted admission to sporting and cultural events, travel or conferences.
The acceptance of gifts, hospitality and other benefits is permissible if they are infrequent and of minimal value, within the normal standards of courtesy or protocol, arise out of activities or events related to the official duties of the OCL employee concerned, and do not compromise or appear to compromise the integrity of the employee or of the OCL.
OCL employees are to seek written direction from the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner where it is impossible to decline gifts, hospitality or other benefits that do not meet the principles set out above, or where it is believed that there is sufficient benefit to the organization to warrant acceptance of certain types of hospitality.
OCL employees, because of the nature of the OCL’s mandate, may have official dealings with private sector corporations, organizations, associations or individuals. On certain occasions, these dealings may result in the private sector organization offering a gift, hospitality or other benefit to the employee.
When considering whether or not it is appropriate to accept a gift, hospitality or benefit, the following criteria should be considered:
- What relationship does the OCL have with whomever is offering the benefit?
- are they subject to the Lobbying Act, the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct and regulations?
- Are they or could they be subject of an administrative review or investigation?
- Are they in, or seeking, a contractual relationship with the OCL?
- Would a reasonable person conclude that accepting a gift or benefit would influence the employee, or appear to influence the employee, in his or her judgement and performance of duties and responsibilities?
- Is the gift or benefit of minimal value, considered modest or reasonable?
When in doubt, employees may consult with the Deputy Commissioner.
OCL employees may not solicit gifts, hospitality, other benefits or transfers of economic value from a person, group or organization in the private sector who has dealings with the OCL, whether in their official capacity or for personal benefit.
Similarly, if an outside individual or entity, with whom the OCL has past, present or potential official dealings, offers a benefit to the organization such as funding for an event or a donation of equipment or services, OCL employees are to consider whether any real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists, and obtain the consent in writing from the Commissioner prior to accepting any such benefit.
The Commissioner may require that the activities be modified or terminated where it is determined that there is a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest or an obligation to the donor. These provisions are designed to ensure that this rule is consistent with paragraph 121(1) (c) of the Criminal Code.
Avoidance of preferential treatment
OCL employees are responsible for demonstrating professionalism, objectivity and impartiality in the exercise of their duties and in their decision-making, whether related to staffing, financial awards or penalties to external parties, contracts, transfer payments, program operations (such as registrations, investigations, outreach activities, media relations and corporations services) or any other exercise of responsibility. The objective is to avoid favouring someone to the detriment of someone else.
This means that OCL employees are prohibited from granting preferential treatment or advantages to family, friends or any other person or entity. They are not to offer extraordinary assistance to any entity or persons already dealing with the federal public sector without the knowledge and support of the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner. They also are not to disadvantage any entity or persons dealing with the federal public sector because of personal antagonism or bias.
OCL employees will work with each other in a fair and transparent manner in order to avoid the appearance of, or to avoid granting preferential treatment.
Providing information that is publicly accessible is not considered preferential treatment.
Requirements for preventing post-employment conflict of interest situations before and after leaving office
Responsibility for all OCL employees
OCL employees all have a responsibility to minimize the possibility of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest between their most recent responsibilities within the OCL and the federal public service and their subsequent employment outside the public service.
Before leaving employment
Before leaving their employment with the public service, OCL employees are to disclose their intentions regarding any future outside employment or activities that may pose a risk of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with their current responsibilities at the OCL and discuss potential conflicts with their manager or any member of the Executive Management Committee.
For designated positions, one year post-employment limitation period
At the OCL, the following positions are subject to a one-year limitation period after leaving office.
- EX and equivalent (EX-2, EX-01, LA-2B)
- EX minus one (AS-07, PM-06, FI-04, EC-07)
- EX minus two (PM-05, EC-06, IS-05, CS-04)
Before leaving office
Before leaving office and during this one-year limitation period, these OCL employees in a designated position are to report to the Commissioner all firm offers of employment or proposed activity outside the public service that could place them in a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with their employment at the OCL and their public service employment. They are also to disclose immediately the acceptance of any such offer.
In addition, these OCL employees may not, during this one-year period, without the Commissioner's authorization:
- accept appointment to a board of directors of, or employment with, private entities with which they had significant official dealings during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service. The official dealings in question may either be directly on the part of the OCL employee or through their subordinates;
- make representations to any government organization on behalf of persons or entities outside of the public service with which they had significant official dealings, during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service. The official dealings in question may either be directly on the part of the OCL employee or through their subordinates; or
- give advice to their clients or employer using information that is not publicly available concerning the programs or policies of the OCL and of any other departments or organizations with which they had a direct and substantial relationship.
Waiver or reduction of limitation period
An OCL employee or former OCL employee may apply to the Commissioner for a written waiver or reduction of the limitation period. The OCL employee is to provide sufficient information to assist the Commissioner in making a determination as to whether to grant the waiver taking into consideration the following criteria:
- the circumstances under which the termination of their service occurred;
- the general employment prospects of the OCL employee or former OCL employee;
- the significance to the government of information possessed by the OCL employee or former OCL employee by virtue of that individual's position in the OCL and in the public service;
- the desirability of a rapid transfer of the OCL employee’s or former OCL employee’s knowledge and skills from the government to private, other governmental or non-governmental sectors;
- the degree to which the new employer might gain unfair commercial or private advantage by hiring the OCL employee or former OCL employee;
- the authority and influence possessed by that individual while in the OCL and in the public service; and/or
- any other consideration at the discretion of the Commissioner.
With respect to the arrangements necessary to prevent real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, or to comply with the requirements set out above, it is expected that situations will be resolved through discussion and agreement between the OCL employee and the Commissioner or delegate. When there is a disagreement on the appropriate arrangements to resolve a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, the disagreement will be resolved through the resolution procedures established by the Commissioner.