The Members’ Integrity Act, 1994 outlines the conflict of interest and other ethical obligations for all MPPs. When a member is appointed to cabinet, there are additional obligations and requirements outlined in sections 10 through 18 of the Act to which the cabinet minister must adhere.
New ministers have 60 days to comply with the Act.
Cabinet ministers are not permitted to hold or trade in securities, stocks, futures or commodities. Permitted investments include broadly based mutual funds (those that are not limited to one industry or one sector of the economy), fixed valued securities and assets with a value of less than $2,500.
Ministers may be able to put their restricted holdings into a trust. All trusts must be approved and supervised by the Integrity Commissioner.
Ministers are encouraged to seek the Commissioner’s advice before they make any changes to their investment portfolios. For example, it would not be permitted to change an investment which contains broad-based funds to one which is sector-specific.
Cabinet ministers are prohibited from acquiring real estate, except for residential or recreational use by:
- the member;
- a person in the member’s family; or
- any other person the Commissioner approves.
Inheritances of real estate are permitted but must be disclosed.
Cabinet ministers are prohibited from:
- engaging in other employment;
- practising a profession; or
- holding an office or directorship unless it is part of their duties of office OR is in a social club, religious organization or political party.
Cabinet ministers’ advocacy efforts on behalf of constituents and others directed at the provincial government are restricted, given their positions of influence and the fact that cabinet decisions are far-reaching. Ministers are encouraged to seek the Commissioner’s advice when considering participating in advocacy activities.
The Act imposes restrictions on the activities of former cabinet ministers. The following restrictions are in place for 12 months from the day a minister ceases to be a member of the Executive Council:
- A former minister cannot accept a contract or benefit from the Ontario government (other than from an agency, board or commission).
- A former minister cannot make representations to the Ontario government on their own or another’s behalf in relation to a contract or benefit awarded by the Ontario government.
- A former minister cannot accept a contract or benefit from any entity (e.g., third parties) which received a contract or benefit from their former ministry during their tenure as minister in the 12 months before they ceased to be a member of the Executive Council.
The following restriction is not time limited:
- A former minister is not permitted to make representations to the Ontario government in respect of any transaction or negotiation to which the government is a party and for which they were previously substantially involved as a member of the Executive Council, if the representation could result in the conferring of a benefit not of general application.
Letter of Support for a Provincial Grant
A minister asked if she could provide a letter of support for a local organization that was submitting an application for a provincial government grant. Could the minister assist?
The Commissioner advised the minister not to provide the letter of support. A minister should not appear as an advocate or supporter of a decision to be made within a ministry (government wide), pursuant to an established process. Such conduct could give rise to an appearance that the minister is using inappropriate influence on a ministry decision.
Writing to Another Minister
A minister wished to send a letter to another minister to encourage her to look at expanding the scope of a grant. Could the minister send the letter?
Since ministers are permitted to write letters to other ministers, the Commissioner advised that it was permissible in this circumstance for the letter to be sent. In addition, it is parliamentary convention that ministers have the benefit of raising such issues at the cabinet table.
Meeting With a Community Group
A minister inquired whether it would be permissible to meet with a community group to discuss an issue that was to be decided by a provincial government agency.
It was the Commissioner’s opinion that the minister could meet with the community group, because discussing a matter is not a contravention of the Act. However, the Commissioner cautioned the minister regarding actions that could be taken after the meeting, as the minister’s advocacy efforts are restricted with respect to matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial government, particularly when the matter can be appealed to Cabinet.
Parliamentary convention prohibits ministers from appearing as advocates or supporters of a decision to be made by a provincial agency, board or commission about a particular matter affecting an individual or organization. The convention has evolved to ensure that members of the agencies, boards or commissions can carry out their duties free of influence and the appearance of influence by ministers. Cabinet ministers are often responsible for appointing people to make decisions on agencies, boards or commissions.
A minister was considering purchasing a cottage. She asked whether this would be permitted under the Act.
Cabinet ministers are not allowed to purchase investment properties under section 15 of the Act. Since the cottage was for recreational purposes, it was the Commissioner’s opinion that the minister could proceed with the purchase. The minister was reminded to provide details of the property purchase in writing to the Commissioner to document the material change of assets.
Nomination of a Corporate Stakeholder for an Award
A minister was asked by a corporate stakeholder to support its nomination for an industry award by providing a letter. Could the minister write the letter?
Given that the organization was a direct ministry stakeholder, the Commissioner advised that the minister not provide the letter. It would not be appropriate to assist the organization with furthering its interest.