Members of the National Assembly

The MNAs are subject to the ethical principles and rules of conduct established by the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly, as are the Cabinet Ministers, including anyone who is a member of the Conseil exécutif but not the National Assembly.

This section presents the main provisions in the Code concerning the values and ethical principles to which the Members must adhere and their ethical obligations. It also includes the texts published by the Ethics Commissioner related to the Code.

Rules of Conduct

The Code sets out rules applicable to all Members and other rules that are only applicable to Cabinet Ministers. These rules set clear standards that must be observed, depending on the particular circumstances of each situation. They are listed in this section.

Incompatibility of positions

Under the Code, Cabinet Ministers must devote themselves exclusively to the duties of office. They must renounce any director or officer position in an enterprise or association.

This does not apply to Members who are not Cabinet Ministers. The Code does not prohibit such Member from holding other posts while in office. However, the Member must abstain from carrying out duties that are incompatible with the office of MNA.

Incompatible positions and offices

Members cannot be members of a municipal council or school board.

In addition, Members cannot hold remunerated employment, position or post with the Government of Québec, its departments and its public bodies, subject to certain exceptions.

Remunerated employment, positions or posts with other Canadian governments, departments and public bodies are also deemed incompatible under the Code, as are those with foreign countries and international non-profit organizations.

Ethics Commissioner’s advisory opinion

It is recommended to Members to request an advisory opinion from the Ethics Commissioner to specify under what circumstances and conditions other functions can be exercised. Besides the incompatibility of offices explicitly stated in the Code, Members must also make sure that, while engaging in other professional activities, they comply with the other rules of conduct that apply to them, notably those related to conflicts of interest and attendance.

Reference: Sections 10 to 14 (MNAs) and 43 and 44 (Cabinet Ministers) of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (CQLR, chapter C-23.1)

Conflicts of interest

Basic principles

Members must not place themselves in a situation where their private interests may impair their independent judgment in carrying out the duties of office.

Members also must not act, make decisions or attempt to influence another person’s decisions so as to further their private interests, those of a family member or those of a non-dependent child. “Family member” includes the Member’s spouse and the Member’s and the spouse’s dependent children.

In addition, it is the essence of MNAs’ mandate, whether Members or Cabinet Ministers, to assist individuals and groups who request their help in their relations with the government. Inevitably, this function may further the interests of the individual requesting help, which is normal. However, the Code limits these interventions and states that Members cannot seek to “improperly” further another person’s private interests.

Lastly, in the context of parliamentary work, the Code enjoins Members to withdraw from a session of the National Assembly or its committees when they have a private financial interest, not shared by the other Members or the general public, in a matter being discussed. The Members in question must also publicly declare the general nature of the interest and withdraw from the meeting or sitting without participating in debate or voting on the matter.

Being party to a contract with the government

To avoid situations of conflict of interest, the Code provides a rigorous framework for situations where a Member would have contractual relations with the government.

The Code also prohibits Members from being party to a contract, directly or indirectly, with the government, a government department or a public body.

However, this prohibition contains different modalities. For example, a Member may:

  • have interests in an enterprise that is party to such a contract, subject to certain conditions;
  • receive a loan or any other benefit under any Act, regulation, or program; or
  • hold securities issued by the government or a public body on the same terms as are applicable to all.

Beyond this rule of general application, Cabinet Ministers must comply with additional requirements. First, they must dispose of their interests in public enterprises or place them in a blind trust. If Cabinet Ministers are authorized to hold interests in a private enterprise, whose securities are not traded on a market, they must ensure that this private enterprise abstains from becoming party to a contract with the government, a government department or a public body.

Identifying conflicts of interest

Members must be able to accurately anticipate the potential influence of a private interest to ensure that it does not impact their independent judgment.

It is crucial to identify real situations of conflict of interest, but also to pay attention to situations of apparent conflict of interest. Hence, Members must achieve the necessary distance to take into consideration the view a reasonably well-informed person might have in the circumstances.

Conflicts of interest can arise at any moment, whether caused by a change in the Member’s family situation or in the Member’s responsibilities within the party, for example. This is, in fact, one of the reasons why Members must submit a statement of their private interests and those of their family members every year. Among other things, these statements allow the Ethics Commissioner to identify any conflicts of interest that could arise and to ensure these situations are settled.

When analyzing their personal situation, Members are asked to consult with the Commissioner, who can provide the necessary advice and advisory opinions. Each situation must be analyzed based on its own facts.

Reference: Sections 15 to 26 (all MNAs) and 45 to 49 (Cabinet Ministers) of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (CQLR, chapter C-23.1)

Gifts and benefits

It is possible that, in carrying out their duties of office, Members receive or are offered gifts or benefits. These gifts and benefits, which might be free tickets for charity events or official gifts, can generally be accepted.

However, the Code includes two prohibitions:

  • A Member must not solicit, elicit, accept or receive any benefit, whether for him or herself or for another person, in exchange for speaking or taking a certain position.
  • A Member must refuse any gift, token of hospitality or other benefit that may impair his or her independent judgment in carrying out the duties of office, or that may compromise the Member’s integrity or that of the National Assembly.

These prohibitions apply based on the facts concerning each specific situation and regardless of the source and value of the gift.  

When analyzing a situation, a Member must take into consideration the public’s perception to preserve the citizens’ confidence. The values prescribed by the Code serve as guidance for this purpose.

The Commissioner has published guidelines (PDF, 285 Ko) to help Members choose between accepting and refusing a gift. Members are encouraged to contact us if they have doubts about certain situations they are faced with.

Gift disclosure statements

For the sake of transparency, the Code states that gifts accepted by Members worth over $200 must be disclosed in a statement filed with the Commissioner within 30 days following their receipt.

The statement includes the following information:

  • Description of the gift
  • Name of donor
  • Date and circumstances under which it was received

Members can fill out a disclosure statement in the Statement Zone

You may consult the Public Register where the Commissioner keeps these statements.

Reference: Sections 29 to 34 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (CQLR, chapter C-23.1)

Disclosure statements

Every year, Members must file with the Ethics Commissioner a statement disclosing their private interests and those of their family members. Family members include a Member’s spouse and dependent children. Personal and financial information is disclosed confidentially to the Commissioner for the purpose of prevention and to provide advice. The Ethics Commissioner analyzes the statements in depth and publishes a summary of each. These summaries are made public. To consult these summaries, go to the Public Registers section of the website.

The content of the statements varies depending on whether it concerns a Member or a Cabinet Minister. All must disclose the following:

  • Value of income and benefits
  • Immovable property
  • Notice of expropriation
  • Nature of any professional, commercial or industrial activity
  • Interest held in an enterprise
  • etc.

Besides this information, Cabinet Ministers must provide additional information regarding their assets and liabilities.

Reference: Sections 37 to 40 (MNAs) and 51 to 55 (Cabinet Ministers) of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (CQLR, chapter C-23.1)

Post-term rules

The Code sets limits on the professional activities Cabinet Ministers may undertake once their term has ended. Post-term rules apply only to Cabinet Ministers, not MNAs. The Ethics Commissioner has published guidelines (PDF, 91 Ko) (in French only) for the individuals subject to these rules.

Rules applicable at all times

Some general rules apply after Cabinet Ministers leave office and should guide them at all times after they leave politics.

Cabinet Ministers who have ceased to hold office as Ministers are prohibited from:

  • acting to obtain undue benefit from their prior office
  • disclosing confidential information or giving advice based on information not available to the public
  • acting in the name of or on behalf of another person in a proceeding, negotiation or other transaction in connection with their service while in Cabinet

Rules applicable for two years after Ministers leave office

Some rules provided for in the Code are specifically intended for the two years after Cabinet Ministers leave office.

During these two years, the individuals in question cannot:

  • accept any appointment to a board of directors or as a member of any body, agency, enterprise or other entity that is not a government entity and with which they had official, direct and significant dealings in the year before leaving office; or
  • intervene on behalf of anyone else with any department or other State entity with which they had official, direct and significant dealings in the year before leaving office, except if they are still Members.

To see what constitutes a government entity, you can consult the first annex of the guidelines (PDF, 91 Ko) (in French only) concerning post-term rules (in French only).

Serious undertakings to take on new functions

The Code states that, for the purpose of prevention and information, Cabinet Ministers in office must inform the Ethics Commissioner in writing of any serious undertakings or participation in such undertakings related to any appointment to employment, a position or a post they could hold after ceasing to be a Minister.

If the Ethics Commissioner deems it necessary, he or she can then ask a Cabinet Minister to withdraw from the undertaking or to comply with the conditions imposed by the Commissioner.

The individuals to whom the post-term rules apply can request advice at all times to analyze their specific situation.

Reference: Sections 56 to 61 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (CQLR, chapter C-23.1)

Other

Attendance

Attendance is one of the values prescribed by the Code and a rule of conduct also states that Members cannot be absent from sittings of the National Assembly for an unreasonable length of time without a valid reason.

The Commissioner can thus perfome verifications to ensure that an MNA has valid reasons to be absent for an extended period of time.  

Reference: Section 35 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (CQLR, chapter C-23.1)

Remuneration

The Code prohibits Members from receiving any form of salary from a political party or party authority, except for reimbursements for reasonable expenses incurred in the course of a partisan activity.

Reference: Sections 27 and 28 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (CQLR, chapter C-23.1)

The use of state property and services

The goods and services made available to Members must be used for activities related to their duties. Members thus are obliged to respect the intended use of government goods and services and to ensure that their staff members also respect it.

Reference: Section 36 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (CQLR, chapter C-23.1)

Acts contrary to the Code

Members must show good collaboration in their relationship with the Commissioner. Hence, Members act contrary to the Code if they:

  • refuse or fail to respond to a written request of the Ethics Commissioner within a reasonable time;
  • refuse or fail to provide within a reasonable time information or a document the Ethics Commissioner has required in writing;
  • mislead or attempt to mislead the Ethics Commissioner in the exercise of the Ethics Commissioner’s duties; or
  • in any way hinder the Ethics Commissioner in the exercise of the Ethics Commissioner’s duties.

Reference: Section 41 of the Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (CQLR, chapter C-23.1)

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