Political Staff

Political staff members are subject to the Rules of conduct applicable to the staff of Members and House Officers of the National Assembly (Rules) and the Regulation respecting the rules of conduct applicable to the office staff of Ministers (Regulation).

The Rules apply to office staff of MNAs and House Officers of the National Assembly, including staff hired to assist a political party or an independent member for research and support purposes.  As for Regulation, they set out rules aimed at the executive secretary and other office staff appointed by a minister, including electoral division staff and regional staff.

This section presents the main provisions of both the Rules and the Regulation concerning the values and ethical principles to which the staff members must adhere and their ethical obligations. It also includes the texts published by the Ethics Commissioner related to these texts.

Rules of Conduct

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 5 to 9 of the Rules of conduct applicable to the staff of Members and House officers of the National Assembly (PDF, 128 Ko)(french only)
Sections 6 to 10 of the Regulation respecting the rules of conduct applicable to the office staff of Ministers

Gifts and Benefits

It is possible that, in carrying out the duties of their position, staff members receive or are offered gifts or benefits. These gifts and benefits, which might be free tickets for charity events or other, can generally be accepted.

However, the Rules and the Regulation include two prohibitions:

  • A staff 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 staff 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 staff member’s integrity or that of the MNA or office for which he or she works.

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 staff member must take into consideration the public’s perception to preserve the citizens’ confidence. The values prescribed by the Rules and the Regulation serve as guidance for this purpose.

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

Gift disclosure statements

The Rules and the Regulation state that gifts accepted by staff 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

Staff members can fill out a disclosure statement in the Statement Zone.

Unlike statements of donations by MNAs, statements by staff members are not published on our website.

Reference: 
Sections 10 to 15 of the Rules of conduct applicable to the staff of Members and House officers of the National Assembly (PDF, 128 Ko) (French only)
Sections 11 to 16 of the Regulation respecting the rules of conduct applicable to the office staff of Ministers

Disclosure Statement

Rules related to disclosure statements only apply to executive secretaries of Ministers and House Officers. Every year, these must file with the Ethics Commissioner a statement disclosing their private interests and those of their family members. Family members include a staff 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.

Executive secretaries must disclose the following regarding their own situation and that of their immediate family members:

  • Interest held in any enterprise or organization
  • Nature of any professional, commercial or industrial activity
  • Any fact, situation or event that could place them in a conflict of interest situation or be reasonably perceived as doing so

Reference: 
Sections 17 to 20 of the Rules of conduct applicable to the staff of Members and House officers of the National Assembly (PDF, 128 Ko) (French only)
Sections 18 to 21 of the Regulation respecting the rules of conduct applicable to the office staff of Ministers

Post-Term Issues

The Rules and Regulation set limits on the professional activities staff members may undertake after leaving their position. The Ethics Commissioner has published guidelines (PDF, 91 Ko) (in French only) for the individuals subject to these rules.

Post-term rules apply only staff members of a Cabinet Minister and some of the staff members of MNAs and House Officers, namely:

  • staff members of the Government House Leader’s office
  • staff members of the Chief Government Whip’s office
  • staff members hired to assist the governmental party for research and support purposes
  • staff members of the MNA who is Chair of the Government Caucus.

In any case, post-term rules do not apply to support staff.

Rules applicable at all times

Some general rules apply and should guide staff members at all times after they leave their position.

Former staff members covered by post-term rules are prohibited from:

  • acting to obtain undue benefit from their prior position
  • 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 which he or she acted before leaving his or her position.

Rules applicable for one year after a staff member leaves his or her position

Some rules provided for in the Rules and Regulation are specifically intended for the year after a staff member leaves his or her position.

During this year, the individual 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 his or her position
  • 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 his or her position.

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

Reference: 
Sections 21 à 25 of the Rules of conduct applicable to the staff of Members and House officers of the National Assembly (PDF, 128 Ko) (French only)
Sections 22 à 26 of the Regulation respecting the rules of conduct applicable to the office staff of Ministers

Use of State Properties and Services

The goods and services made available to staff members must be used for activities related to the duties of their position. Staff members thus are obliged to respect the intended use of government goods and services and, where applicable, to allow their usage in accordance with this intended use.

Reference: 
Section 16 of the Rules of conduct applicable to the staff of Members and House officers of the National Assembly (PDF, 128 Ko) (French only)
Section 17 of the Regulation respecting the rules of conduct applicable to the office staff of Ministers

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