Guidelines for Writing Letters of Reference and Support
MPPs are routinely asked to provide letters of reference for constituents. As a general guideline, the Commissioner recommends that a letter be provided only under the following conditions:
1. The MPP knows the individual involved.
2. The MPP maintains as much control over the letter as possible. Never prepare a letter addressed “To Whom it May Concern.” The MPP should also ensure that the letter is mailed directly to the intended recipient and may wish to not provide a copy to the person or organization that is the subject of the letter.
3. The MPP uses appropriate letterhead.
4. The MPP’s letter should not be generic, but rather as specific as possible to the matter at hand. It should directly discuss the individual, organization or cause and should address the reason(s) for which the letter is being proffered.
Request from a constituent the MPP does not know
A constituent was applying to a U.S. university, and asked the MPP to provide a letter of reference. The constituent provided a sample letter. The MPP did not know the constituent. Could the member provide the letter?
The Commissioner advised that the MPP not provide the letter because the MPP did not know the person making the request. There is no obligation on the part of MPPs to provide letters of reference to constituents.
Request from a local organization
An organization in the community was issuing a news release, and wanted the MPP to provide a quote supporting the organization’s work. The MPP had no direct involvement with the organization. Could the MPP provide a quote?
The inclusion of a quote in the news release could be interpreted as an endorsement of the organization. The Commissioner advised that the MPP should provide the quote only if he/she was comfortable being identified with the organization. Since the MPP had no specific knowledge of the organization’s work, he/she was advised not to provide the quote.
Request from constituent regarding a court appearance
The friend of a Minister asked for a letter of reference, which was to be used as a supporting document in a court appearance. Could the Minister provide the letter?
While the Minister knows the individual well, the Commissioner advised that any involvement might be interpreted as an attempt to interfere with and/or influence the legal process, contrary to the Act. The Commissioner advised that the Minister abstain from providing a character reference unless compelled to do so by subpoena.