The political activity restrictions in Part V of the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 apply to current ministry employees and to public servants employed in and appointed to public bodies. The political activity rules do not apply to former public servants. A separate set of rules applies to ministers’ staff.
The political activity restrictions strive to balance the neutrality of the public service with an individual’s ability to engage in political activity.
Political activity includes the following activities:
- Doing anything in support of or in opposition to a political party or a candidate;
- Becoming or seeking to become a candidate in a federal, provincial or municipal election; or
- Making public comments on any matter dealt with in the position or policy of a political party or candidate if comments are outside the scope of the public servant’s duties and the matter is directly related to his/her duties.
The political activity restrictions that apply to public servants vary based on their roles. Some restrictions apply to all public servants, some restrictions apply to most public servants and other restrictions apply only to specially-restricted public servants. Public servants may require authorization from their Ethics Executives or the Commissioner before engaging in some forms of political activity.
All Public Servants must not:
- Conduct political activity in the workplace;
- Use government premises, equipment or supplies for political activity;
- Associate their position as a public servant with political activity (unless they are a candidate, and then only to a limited extent); or
- Conduct any political activity while wearing a government uniform.
Most public servants must be on an unpaid leave of absence to do the following:
- Be a federal or provincial candidate;
- Comment publicly on matters dealt with in the position or policy of a political party or candidate if comments are outside the scope of the public servant’s duties and the matter is directly related to his/her duties;
- Solicit funds – this is applicable only if the public servant supervises others or deals directly with the public; or
- Be involved in activities that could interfere with the public servant’s duties or conflict with the interests of the Crown or public body.
Specially restricted public servants may only do the following:
- Attend an all-candidates meeting
- Be a member of a political party*
- Donate money to a party or candidate*
- Be a municipal candidate**
- Campaign for a municipal candidate**
* except deputy ministers, and the Secretary of the Cabinet, who are not permitted to belong to a political party or donate money to a party or candidate.
** only if authorized by the appropriate Ethics Executive