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Our values and ethics code — Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying

Context

As federal public servants, we play an integral role in Canada’s democracy. As federal public servants, we have a fundamental role to play in serving Canadians, our communities and the public interest in accordance with the law and applicable federal policy. As public servants, we are subject to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector established by Treasury Board.

As individuals who work for an independent Agent of Parliament, we occupy a unique space in the federal public service. The Commissioner of Lobbying has been entrusted by Parliament to regulate lobbying at the federal level. In carrying out the mandate of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, we work independently of government or a specific minister, and the Commissioner reports directly to Parliament.

In order to effectively and credibly administer the federal lobbying regime, and fulfil our obligations under section 6(1) of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, a values and ethics code specific to our office, tailored to our perspective as guardians of the value of transparency in lobbying, has been established. The values and behaviours identified in this Code guide us in how we approach our work, arrive at decisions, make use of resources, and in how we interact with each other, lobbyists and their clients, stakeholders, partners, other public servants and all Canadians.

Objectives of this Code

This Code supplements the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and outlines additional values and expected behaviours that guide us in all activities related to our professional duties. By committing to these values and adhering to the expected behaviours, we strengthen the ethical culture of the public sector and contribute to public confidence in the integrity of all public institutions.

This Code was developed in consultation with employees. It should be read in conjunction with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector established by the Treasury Board.

Organizational values that guide our work

The values we uphold cannot be considered in isolation from each other as they will often overlap. This Code and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector are important sources of guidance for us. We are expected to take steps to integrate these values into our decisions, actions, policies, processes, and systems. Similarly, we can expect to be treated in accordance with these values by our organization.

In supplementing the values for the public sector, these four organizational values are essential to the effective administration of the federal lobbying regime.

Transparency

Transparency in government means making information available about our office and our activities. As the institution mandated with ensuring transparent and ethical lobbying at the federal level, we have a special obligation to meet a high standard of transparency. This means making information available – whenever possible – about our plans, policies, objectives, operations and regulatory activities, while also respecting our legal duties to protect privacy and ensure the confidentiality of compliance activities conducted under the Lobbying Act.

Fairness

Fairness means treating everyone equitably, hearing the other side, and providing the opportunity to be heard. Administrative decision-makers such as the Commissioner of Lobbying are expected to operate in a procedurally fair manner.

Impartiality

Impartiality means being fair and neutral, with no bias or prejudice. Administrative decision-makers such as the Commissioner of Lobbying are expected to adopt an impartial manner with respect to the parties and issues that come before them.

Independence

Independence means making decisions in the course of our work independent of the government of the day. As an independent agent of Parliament responsible for regulating lobbying at the federal level, the Commissioner of Lobbying is accountable directly to Parliament rather than through a federal minister. This arms-length relationship to Parliament is critical to our ability to regulate lobbying, to conduct impartial investigations, and to report on our activities publicly.

Behaviours associated with our organizational values

As public servants and individuals who work at the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, we are expected to conduct ourselves in accordance with the values for the public sector and our organization, the behaviours expected of the public sector, and our organizational behaviours listed below.

We have numerous opportunities to demonstrate these behaviours in our daily activities: in the way we interact with each other, lobbyists, and other stakeholders; in hiring personnel or contractors; in purchasing decisions and using resources; and, in personal choices concerning involvement in activities outside the workplace.

1 – Transparency

We demonstrate transparency by:

  1. Disclosing proactively information about our office beyond what is required by law in an open and timely manner, whenever possible.
  2. Making ourselves available to all stakeholders, including lobbyists, public office holders, the media and members of the public, in order to provide information about our office, its mandate and its activities.
  3. Being proactive in informing lobbyists, public office holders and members of the public about the lobbying regime and compliance processes without breaching the confidentiality of any ongoing compliance activities.
  4. Making the information we disseminate – including all reports tabled in Parliament – accessible, up to date, accurate, clear, and complete.

2 – Fairness

We demonstrate fairness by:

  1. Treating each other with due regard and respect for diversity and inclusion.
  2. Actively challenging discrimination and harassment at work by addressing offensive comments and behaviours as soon as they are observed.
  3. Supporting our mental well-being and the mental well-being of others.
  4. Carrying out all activities in an objective manner, giving equitable consideration to all stakeholders.
  5. Seeking representations from affected parties as appropriate.
  6. Providing clear and coherent reasons relating to compliance decisions, supported by facts.

3 – Impartiality

We demonstrate impartiality by:

  1. Avoiding real, apparent or potential conflict of interests, as well as conflict of duties that may impact our impartiality when fulfilling our professional duties, and reporting these situations as appropriate if one arises.
  2. Respecting the principles of procedural fairness, conforming to our investigative processes, and acting within the jurisdiction and powers of the Lobbying Act.
  3. Providing the Commissioner of Lobbying with all facts, analysis, and advice in an open, candid and unbiased manner.
  4. Recognizing the existence of systemic and unconscious biases and taking steps to counter them, including training.
  5. Delivering on our mandate and interacting with stakeholders free of personal bias, partisan considerations, or undue influence.
  6. Being objective in all internal processes, such as contracting, purchasing, staffing, and training.

4 – Independence

We demonstrate independence by:

  1. Safeguarding the Commissioner of Lobbying’s role as an independent agent of Parliament accountable to members of the Senate and the House of Commons.
  2. Supporting the Commissioner of Lobbying when appearing before Parliamentary committees by providing facts, analysis, and advice in an open and candid manner that is free of improper influence.
  3. Ensuring that our office is free from improper influences that could appear to affect the independence of decision making.

Application

Acceptance of these values and adherence to the expected behaviours is a condition of employment for every employee of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, regardless of level or position. This Code applies to all indeterminate and term employees, casual workers and students. A breach of these values or behaviours may result in disciplinary measures being taken, up to and including termination of employment.

Contractors engaged by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying are expected to respect the values and behaviours expressed in this Code.

The Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying is included in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act definition of “public sector,” as a portion of the federal public administration named in Schedule 1.1 of the Financial Administration Act.

Our Values and ethics code for the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying came into force on June 15, 2021.

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, we are encouraged to discuss and resolve these matters with our immediate supervisor. We can also seek advice and support from other appropriate sources within our organization, including senior management.

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 Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, if we as employees have information that could indicate a serious breach of this Code, we can bring the matter, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, to the attention of our immediate supervisor, senior management, or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.

Members of the public who have reason to believe that an employee has not acted in accordance with this Code can bring the matter to the attention of the Commissioner of Lobbying or to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to disclose a serious breach of this Code.

Duties and obligations

Employees of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying

As public servants, we are expected to abide by this Code and demonstrate the values of the public sector and the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying in our actions and behaviour. If we do not abide by these values and expectations, we may be subject to administrative or disciplinary measures up to and including termination of employment.

Employees who are also managers are in a position of influence and authority that gives them a particular responsibility to exemplify the values of the public sector and the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying.

If we have information that could indicate a serious breach of this Code we can bring this matter, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, to the attention of our immediate supervisor, senior management or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.

Commissioner of Lobbying (chief executive)

As chief executive of a public sector organization, the Commissioner of Lobbying has specific responsibilities under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, including establishing this Code and an overall responsibility for fostering a positive culture of values and ethics in our organization. The Commissioner of Lobbying ensures that employees are aware of their obligations under this Code and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the Directive on Conflict of Interest established by the Treasury Board. The Commissioner of Lobbying also ensures that employees can obtain appropriate advice within the organization on ethical issues, including possible conflicts of interest.

The Commissioner of Lobbying ensures that this Code, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector established by the Treasury Board, and disclosure procedures are implemented effectively in our organization, and that they are regularly monitored and evaluated.

The Commissioner of Lobbying is responsible for ensuring the non-partisan provision of programs and services by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying.

The Commissioner of Lobbying is subject to this Code, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector established by the Treasury Board, and the Conflict of Interest Act.

Senior management

Senior management helps promote a positive environment for disclosing wrongdoing and deals with disclosures of wrongdoing made by personnel of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying. Senior management is responsible for supporting the Commissioner of Lobbying in meeting the requirements of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

Senior management’s duties and powers in this context also include the following, similar to those of senior officers of disclosure outlined in the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector established by the Treasury Board:

  1. Provide information, advice and guidance regarding disclosure procedures, including the making of disclosures and the handling of disclosures made to supervisors.
  2. Assist the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in receiving and recording disclosures for assessment of whether there are sufficient grounds for further action under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
  3. Refer possible investigations into disclosures to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
  4. Coordinate handling of a disclosure with the senior officer of another federal public sector organization, if a disclosure or an investigation into a disclosure involves that other organization.
  5. Assist the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in notifying the person(s) who made a disclosure in writing of the outcome of any review or investigation into the disclosure and on the status of actions taken on the disclosure, as appropriate.
  6. Assist the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in reporting the findings of investigations, as well as any systemic problems that may give rise to wrongdoing, directly to the Commissioner of Lobbying, with recommendations for corrective action, if any.

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner investigates wrongdoing in the federal public sector and helps protect from reprisal whistleblowers and those who participate in investigations.

The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada contributes to strengthening accountability and increases oversight of government operations by:

  • providing an independent and confidential process for receiving and investigating disclosures of wrongdoing in, or relating to, the federal public sector from public servants and members of the public;
  • reporting founded cases of wrongdoing to Parliament and making recommendations to chief executives on corrective measures;
  • providing a mechanism for handling complaints of reprisal from public servants and former public servants for the purpose of coming to a resolution, including through conciliation and by referring cases to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal.
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