ACOA's Values and Ethics Code

Table of Contents


To fulfill its mandate under the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act, ACOA administers numerous programs and initiatives and provides repayable and non-repayable contributions. As a result, the Agency must adhere to the highest level of professionalism, honesty and ethics in all its activities, following the prescribed legal and regulatory frameworks and respecting public service values and ethics.

As public servants of the Government of Canada, all ACOA employees must ensure that their actions and decisions respect the established values and conform to ethical standards outlined in both the Public Sector Code and ACOA’s Values and Ethics Code.

The following document outlines the policies, practices and standards of conduct required of ACOA employees to maintain and enhance public trust, while upholding the standard of excellence that is reflected in ACOA’s priorities, policies, programs and processes. 

ACOA’s Values and Ethics Code

1.0 Objectives

This code puts forward the values and ethics that guide Agency personnel in the performance of their duties and in their professional conduct. It contains general statements concerning the five core values of the Public Sector Code as well as ACOA’s expectations and additional guidance for Agency personnel. The five core values are:

  1. Respect for Democracy
  2. Respect for People 
  3. Integrity
  4. Stewardship
  5. Excellence

This code will be reviewed as required to determine its effectiveness by considering Public Service Employee Surveys, internal ACOA surveys and other performance indicators as determined by ACOA’s Values and Ethics Committee.

2.0 Values

ACOA employees are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with both the values established for the public sector and the related expected behaviours. These values are a compass to guide public servants in everything they do. They cannot be considered in isolation from each other as they will often overlap.

We understand and embrace our role to provide the best objective advice and to implement government decisions dutifully.

The system of Canadian parliamentary democracy and its institutions are fundamental to serving the public interest. Public servants recognize that elected officials are accountable to Parliament, and ultimately to the Canadian people, and that a non-partisan public sector is essential to our democratic system.

Public servants shall uphold the Canadian parliamentary democracy and its institutions by:

  1. respecting the rule of law and carrying out their duties in accordance with legislation, policies and directives in a non-partisan and impartial manner;
  2. loyally carrying out the lawful decisions of their leaders and supporting ministers in their accountability to Parliament and Canadians; and
  3. providing decision-makers with all the information, analysis and advice they need, always striving to be open, candid and impartial.

ACOA staff have a particularly important role to play when exercising due diligence in assessing project proposals for potential funding. It is important that project evaluations present a complete and balanced view of any proposed opportunity, identifying both its strengths and weaknesses to ensure and enable the dedicated official and the minister to make a fully informed decision. It is therefore imperative, regardless of any pressures that may arise, that program delivery staff provide honest and impartial advice as well as relevant information to support decision making.

Our success is driven by the quality of our relationships. As such, we are dedicated to supporting each other and to serving our clients. We are also committed to staying at the forefront through ongoing professional development.

Treating all people with respect, dignity and fairness is fundamental to our relationship with the Canadian public and contributes to a safe and healthy work environment that promotes engagement, openness and transparency. The diversity of our people and the ideas they generate are the source of our innovation.

Public servants shall respect human dignity and the value of every person by:

  1. treating every person with respect and fairness; 
  2. valuing diversity and the benefit of combining the unique qualities and strengths inherent in a diverse workforce;
  3. helping to create and maintain safe and healthy workplaces that are free from harassment and discrimination; and
  4. working together in a spirit of openness, honesty and transparency that encourages engagement, collaboration and respectful communication.

Openness, trust, courtesy, respect and fairness are the cornerstones of the Agency’s approach to creating a positive work environment. In order to achieve a workplace of choice, the Agency encourages its managers and employees to integrate people values into the different facets of working life, such as in-house communications, health, safety, well-being and staffing, in an environment free of harassment, based on openness and trust, and characterized by courtesy, respect and equity. The Agency also uses an integrated approach to employee growth, creating opportunities for learning new skills as well as for leadership development.

We ensure our actions are above reproach in order to maintain the public’s trust and confidence.

Integrity is the cornerstone of good governance and democracy. By upholding the highest ethical standards, public servants conserve and enhance public confidence in the honesty, fairness and impartiality of the federal public sector.

Public servants shall serve the public interest by:

  1. acting at all times with integrity and in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that may not be fully satisfied by simply acting within the law;
  2. never using their official roles to inappropriately obtain an advantage for themselves or to advantage or disadvantage others;
  3. taking all possible steps to prevent and resolve any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest between their official responsibilities and their private affairs in favour of the public interest; and
  4. acting in such a way as to maintain their employer’s trust.

Given the nature of ACOA’s operations – providing government funds to the private sector in a decentralized, delegated-authority environment – the Agency has the obligation to ensure the transparent and impartial delivery of services and programs. In this light, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act is an instrument that encourages public-sector employees to disclose, in good faith, information concerning possible wrongdoing in the workplace, without fear of reprisal.

We take ownership of our responsibilities and carry out our work with diligence, pride, efficiency and transparency.

Federal public servants are entrusted to use and care for public resources responsibly, for both the short term and long term. 

Public servants shall use resources responsibly by:

  1. effectively and efficiently using the public money, property and resources managed by them; 
  2. considering the present and long-term effects that their actions have on people and the environment; and
  3. acquiring, preserving and sharing knowledge and information as appropriate.

The Government of Canada has implemented a series of measures to strengthen public-sector management by enhancing transparency and oversight of public resources in the federal government.

One of those measures includes the proactive disclosure of financial and human resources-related information by departments and agencies. By making this information readily available on departmental websites, Canadians and Parliament are better able to hold government and public-sector officials accountable. Opportunities for transparency are welcomed and embraced at ACOA as demonstrated by its long-standing practice of proactive disclosure in the following areas:

We proactively strive to make a difference in our community through our activities. We value collaboration, promote innovation and strive to be highly effective.

Excellence in the design and delivery of public-sector policy, programs and services is beneficial to every aspect of Canadian public life. Engagement, collaboration, effective teamwork and professional development are all essential to a high-performing organization. 

Public servants shall demonstrate professional excellence by:

  1. providing fair, timely, efficient and effective services that respect Canada’s official languages;
  2. continually improving the quality of policies, programs and services they provide; and
  3. fostering a work environment that promotes teamwork, learning and innovation.

Excellence is practised through collaboration, embracing new technologies, continuous learning and accountable governance. ACOA’s employees are professionals who will use their expertise in making effective, efficient and reliable decisions. Serving the Canadian public in the official language of its choice, ensuring that personnel is able to work in English or French, and ensuring courteous service of equal quality for both official language communities are core values that reflect the culture of ACOA.

3.0 Avenues for Resolution

Should an ACOA employee encounter a situation or question pertaining to ethics and values, they are encouraged to consult their immediate supervisor or any of the many additional resources listed on the Agency’s internal Values and Ethics web portal.

ACOA personnel at all levels are expected to resolve issues in a fair and respectful manner and consider informal processes such as dialogue or mediation.

As provided by Sections 12 and 13 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, if a public servant has information that could indicate a serious breach of this code, they can bring the matter, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, to the attention of their immediate supervisor, their Senior Officer for Disclosure of Wrongdoing or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.

Senior Officers for Disclosure are responsible for supporting the chief executive in meeting the requirements of the PSDPA. They help promote a positive environment for disclosing wrongdoing and deal with disclosures of wrongdoing made by employees of the organization.

Members of the public who have reason to believe that a public servant has not acted in accordance with this code can bring the matter to the Agency’s Senior Officer for Values and Ethics or to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to disclose a serious breach of this code.

4.0 Consequences

The Agency expects its employees and managers to comply with the Public Sector Code as well as the ACOA Values and Ethics code, and to subscribe to their principles and provisions. It also counts on its personnel to follow the statutes, policies and guidelines governing their conduct. Failure to comply could lead to disciplinary measures, which may, in the case of serious misconduct, include dismissal.

Appendix A – Definitions

Deputy head: a) in relation to a department named in Schedule I of the Financial Administration Act, its deputy minister; and b) in relation to any portion of the federal public administration named in Schedule IV of the Act, its chief executive officer or, if there is no chief executive officer, its statutory deputy head or, if there is neither, the person who occupies the position designated by the Governor in Council in respect of that portion.

Public servant: a person employed in organizations defined in subsection 11(1) of the Financial Administration Act. This includes indeterminate and term employees, employees on leave without pay, students participating in Student Employment Programs, casual, seasonal and part-time workers.

Conflict of Interest: a situation in which the public servant has private interests that could improperly influence the performance of his or her official duties and responsibilities or in which the public servant uses his or her office for personal gain. A real conflict of interest exists at the present time, an apparent conflict of interest could be perceived by a reasonable observer to exist, whether or not it is the case, and a potential conflict of interest could reasonably be foreseen to exist in the future.

Conflict of Duties: a conflict that arises, not because of a public servant’s private interests, but as a result of one or more concurrent or competing official responsibilities. For example, these roles could include his or her primary public service employment and his or her responsibilities in an outside role that forms part of his or her official duties, such as an appointment to a board of directors, or other outside function.

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