Privy Council Office Code on Values and Ethics
Message to employees
In order to better understand the following document, it is important to note that there are two very distinct chapters. Chapter 1 is a combination of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector (VECPS) and PCO’s specific expected behaviours. Chapter 2 is the Public Service Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment, as written by Treasury Board. The PCO Executive Committee decided to include both documents in one so that employees would have easy access to the information.
Employees should read through the entire document, paying special attention to the sections in Chapter 1 on expected behaviours at PCO, and Chapter 2, Appendix B, on the Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment.
Chapter 1: The Privy Council Office Code on Values and Ethics
Values and ethics are the foundation of a quality public service. They are the essential underpinnings of everything else the organization is, and does. Having close regard for values and ethics is a key element in the success of the Privy Council Office (PCO) and in the rewarding careers of its employees.
The Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector (VECPS), established by the Treasury Board Secretariat, applies to the federal public sector at large. It was developed through a broad consultation process with public servants, public sector organizations and bargaining agents, and outlines the five core values and the expected behaviours that guide public servants in all activities related to their professional duties.
The Privy Council Office Code on Values and Ethics supports VECPS, by providing examples of behaviours that will assist PCO officials in meeting their obligations under VECPS.
The expected behaviours outlined in the PCO Code are not intended to respond to every possible ethical issue that might arise in the course of a public servant’s daily work. When these issues do arise, employees are encouraged to discuss and resolve them with their immediate supervisor. They can also seek advice and support from other appropriate sources within PCO, such as from a member of the Council of Advisors, the Human Resources Division (HRD), or the Senior Officer for Disclosure.
The PCO Code was developed after extensive consultations with those who work here. It reflects the views of PCO employees as to what makes PCO a unique organization within government. It also reflects their pride in this institution and their sense of its history.
The role of the federal Public Service
Canada’s federal public servants play a vital role in serving the public interest by providing professional, non-partisan support to the government of the day in the design and delivery of policy, programs and services. Public servants serve democracy by supporting, without bias, the program of the elected government, whatever its political orientation. As dedicated public servants, we provide ministers with our best professional advice—frankly, candidly and with faithful regard to Public Service values and ethics. Respecting the responsibility of ministers as a cornerstone of Canadian democracy, public servants recognize that they must loyally implement the lawful direction of their minister.
Ministers, in turn, support the ability of the Public Service to serve successive governments by respecting the non-partisanship of public servants and supporting their commitment to Public Service values and ethics. Ministers play a critical role in the ability of public servants to provide the best frank, candid and non-partisan advice.
The role of the Privy Council Office
The Privy Council Office, led by the Clerk of the Privy Council, serves Canada and Canadians by providing the best non-partisan advice and support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. PCO supports the Clerk in his three main roles:
- Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister: Brings together quality, objective policy advice and information to support the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
- Secretary to the Cabinet: Facilitates the smooth, efficient and effective functioning of Cabinet and the Government of Canada on a day-to-day basis.
- Head of the federal Public Service: Ensures that Canada and Canadians are served by a quality public service that delivers advice and services in a professional manner, and strives to meet the highest standards of accountability, transparency and efficiency.
People are the strength of PCO. Employees are dedicated to the effective functioning of government, and understand the special needs of the Prime Minister for timely advice and support. As a core central agency, PCO must be a model of integrity, judgment and discretion, while constantly striving to uphold professional and ethical standards across the Public Service.
Values and ethics form the cornerstone of a quality public service. This Code is meant to be a tool and practical guide that outlines the five core values and the expected behaviours of all PCO employees. The PCO Code on Values and Ethics fulfills the Clerk’s responsibility to establish a code applicable to PCO, given PCO’s unique position as an advisory body to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This Code is established pursuant to Section 6(1) of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA).
The PCO Code on Value and Ethics took effect on April 2, 2012 and applies to every person employed at PCO, including students and individuals on an exchange program, but excluding persons working at PCO pursuant to a contract for services.
Acceptance of the five core values and the VECPS is a term and condition of employment for all PCO employees, regardless of level or function. The Code is a guide to expected behaviours to help employees respect these five core values.
It is critical that all PCO employees read and understand their obligations as everyone is expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the core values outlined in this Code. Not adhering to the Code’s expected behaviours may be evidence of a breach of the actual value, the consequence of which could result in disciplinary measures.
Values and expected behaviours
Core values define the raison d’être of an organization and the principles by which it will achieve its goals; PCO adopted the same five core values of the VECPS, as detailed below, along with expected behaviours under each.
These values and expected behaviours cannot be considered in isolation from each other as they will often overlap. They are intended to be a source of guidance for PCO employees for making decisions, taking actions, drafting policies, and structuring and implementing systems. Similarly, employees can expect to be treated in accordance with these values.
Respect for democracy
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.
Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
Public servants shall uphold the Canadian parliamentary democracy and its institutions by:
- Respecting the rule of law and carrying out their duties in accordance with legislation, policies and directives in a non-partisan and impartial manner.
- Loyally carrying out the lawful decisions of their leaders and supporting ministers in their accountability to Parliament and Canadians.
- Providing decision makers with all the information, analysis and advice they need, always striving to be open, candid and impartial.
Remember that when you were appointed to the Public Service, you took an oath to swear (or solemnly affirm) that you will faithfully, truly and impartially, to the best of your judgment, skill and ability, execute and perform the duties of your position. This oath includes protecting the confidentiality of information you gather in the course of your work at PCO.
Everything you experience, both inside and outside of your job at PCO, influences you. As a public servant, keeping your personal and political views separate from your work at PCO is an essential part of your employment.
Sometimes, professional and personal worlds come together online. Before posting something online, ask yourself, "Am I commenting on government policy in a way that would raise doubts about whether I am doing my job in a non-partisan and objective manner?" If so, do not discuss, do not post, do not participate.
PCO Code on Values and Ethics
Reflecting the following behaviours in your day-to-day work will assist you as PCO employees to ensure respect for democracy:
- Understand how your work fits into the larger context of the democratic process and machinery of government, and respect confidentiality in order to preserve frank and open Cabinet discussions.
- Reflect upon and take into account personal biases and predispositions, speak truth to power, provide fearless advice and loyally implement decisions once rendered.
- Consider the setting, audience and issue at hand before discussing sensitive policy issues.
- Maintain an appearance of loyalty, impartiality and non-partisanship while engaging in all visible political activities or publicly commenting on government positions. Be mindful and prudent of the position you occupy, and consider the potential impact of your comments and actions. This applies when using social media and participating in any other activities within the public sphere.
Respect for people
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.
Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
Public servants shall respect human dignity and the value of every person by:
- Treating every person with respect and fairness.
- Valuing diversity and the benefit of combining the unique qualities and strengths inherent in a diverse workforce.
- Helping to create and maintain safe and healthy workplaces that are free from harassment and discrimination.
- Working together in a spirit of openness, honesty and transparency that encourages engagement, collaboration and respectful communication.
Many people at PCO work with other departments to help develop coordinated policy responses to problems. When you engage with other departments, do you appropriately share information? Do you encourage departments to develop options and work with other interested departments? Do you listen and help create space for free-ranging discussion before decisions are taken?
PCO Code on Values and Ethics
Reflecting the following behaviours in your day-to-day work will assist you as PCO employees to ensure respect for people:
- Practice the “golden rule” (i.e., treat others as you would have them treat you).
- Be mindful of the importance of having a healthy work-life balance, and having a safe and healthy work environment.
- Act with humility and respect, and maintain strong professional and interpersonal relationships with colleagues and stakeholders.
- Contribute to a bilingual workplace environment that is open to and reflective of diversity.
- Help ensure that your actions and those of your colleagues exemplify respect for all in a workplace that is free of harassment.
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.
Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
Public servants shall serve the public interest by:
- 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.
- Never using their official roles to inappropriately obtain an advantage for themselves or to advantage or disadvantage others.
- 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.
- Acting in such a way as to maintain their employer’s trust.
PCO Code on Values and Ethics
Reflecting the following behaviours in your day-to-day work will assist you as PCO employees to ensure that you foster integrity:
- Inform yourself about the laws and policies that relate to your work and follow them.
- When engaging in outside activities or considering whether to engage in outside activities, ensure that your participation in those activities does not jeopardize your ability to do your job loyally, impartially and in a non-partisan way.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up if you see something happening that you think is wrong—tell your supervisor, the Senior Officer for Disclosure or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
In assessing whether, in the exercise of your official duties or functions here at PCO, your private interest could be furthered and thus give rise to a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest, ask yourself, “Am I in a position to obtain/use information that is not accessible to the public?” “Do I have input into decisions that could have an effect or be perceived to have an effect on my private interest?” “Would a reasonable person view my private interest (asset or outside activities) as conflicting with my official duties?”
Federal public servants are entrusted to use and care for public resources responsibly, for both the short term and long term.
Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
Public servants shall use resources responsibly by:
- Effectively and efficiently using the public money, property and resources managed by them.
- Considering the present and long-term effects that their actions have on people and the environment.
- Acquiring, preserving and sharing knowledge and information as appropriate.
PCO employees receive and work with a lot of sensitive information. How you manage, share and use that information is the stewardship you show towards a very valuable resource. How do you share information (by handheld device, office phone, e-mail) and with whom do you share it (with other PCO colleagues, departments)? Does this exchange promote collaboration and strengthen your work? Does the other person indeed have a ‘need to know’?
PCO employees acquire a great deal of knowledge and experience during their time at PCO. When an employee leaves a position, transfer of knowledge, files and information to a new employee is essential to minimize time and resources spent searching for existing information and training resources. How will you pass on your knowledge and information when you leave a position at PCO? What can managers do to ensure that this information is stored properly and is accessible to new employees?
With advances in technology, there are more choices than ever before for connecting people across vast distances. Before getting on an airplane, ask yourself if you can hold that meeting by videoconferencing? Not only does this save taxpayers’ dollars, it reduces our environmental footprint too!
PCO Code on Values and Ethics
Reflecting the following behaviours in your day-to-day work will assist you as PCO employees to ensure stewardship of public resources:
- Share information with colleagues at PCO and across departments responsibly, in a way that promotes cooperation and collaboration but protects the confidentiality of Cabinet information so that ministers can have frank and open discussions.
- Ensure, upon your departure from PCO or from a specific position, that the knowledge and information you have acquired is preserved for your successor.
- Be aware that PCO serves the Prime Minister, and as employees in this department, try to set an example for the rest of government in managing public resources.
- Managers and employees of PCO should be guided by the notion of frugality. You should ensure that resources are allocated and used in accordance with government priorities and policies, and strive to reduce our environmental footprint.
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.
Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
Public servants shall demonstrate professional excellence by:
- Providing fair, timely, efficient and effective services that respect Canada’s official languages.
- Continually improving the quality of policies, programs and services they provide.
- Fostering a work environment that promotes teamwork, learning and innovation.
The world is fast-paced and complex, and the policy issues we face are increasingly horizontal and cross-cutting. You will need to foster, nurture and develop your relationships, both internally and externally. Interpersonal skills and the ability to work well and collaborate with others will increasingly become a core capacity for doing your job. How can we deliver excellence if we work in isolation?
Talk to others, network and share!
Even though we seek excellence, we do not work in an error-free environment. In fact, learning from mistakes is fundamental to creating the conditions to achieve excellence in our work. When something goes wrong, it is important to take the time to talk about it with your supervisor, to walk back through the series of events that led to the mistake, and consider what could have been done differently. Use this information to share lessons learned with colleagues. This will build a broader understanding of how to better manage issues and improve outcomes the next time someone faces a similar situation.
PCO Code on Values and Ethics
Reflecting the following behaviours in your day-to-day work will assist you as PCO employees to strive for excellence:
- Remember that part of the role of PCO is to ensure that departments work collaboratively. Be a role model of excellence for PCO colleagues and other public servants.
- Recognize that learning and professional development are core components of your job function.
- Always learn from mistakes and continually seek on-the-job learning opportunities.
Avenues for resolution
Employees are encouraged to discuss and resolve ethical issues with their immediate supervisor as they arise. Advice and guidance is also available from other departmental sources, such as from a member of the Council of Advisors, the Human Resources Division (HRD), or the Senior Officer for Disclosure, as discussed below.
Public Service Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA) state that if public servants have information that could indicate a serious breach of this Code, they are encouraged to bring this matter, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, to the attention of their immediate supervisor, the Senior Officer for Disclosure, or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
A Council of Advisors has been established to provide additional expertise which employees and managers can access for advice and guidance on ethical issues they encounter. The Council is composed of senior managers. Employees have the option of meeting with an advisor to discuss and seek guidance on how to handle their case. Cases may be brought to the Council of Advisors so that general guidelines and strategies on how to proceed can be developed and used in similar future situations.
HRD provides advice and guidance on values and ethics to management and employees. It also provides support and recommendations to the Senior Officer for Disclosure, as well as support and advice to the Champion and Council of Advisors. HRD worked with the Champion to develop the Values and Ethics program and maintains its tools, communication and training as well as supporting management in their ongoing dialogue with employees.
The Senior Officer for Disclosure is responsible for supporting the Clerk in meeting the requirements of the PSDPA. The Senior Officer helps promote a positive environment for disclosing wrongdoings, and deals with disclosures of wrongdoing made by PCO employees. Further information on the duties and powers of the Senior Officer for Disclosure can be found below in Annex A - Duties and obligations.
Annex A - Duties and obligations
All employees of PCO must conduct themselves in a manner that is appropriate to the unique role and authority of this organization: PCO serves the Prime Minister of Canada, our head of government, and is under the leadership of the Clerk of the Privy Council, the Head of the federal Public Service. Accordingly, employees are encouraged, in their daily conduct at PCO, to set an example for the rest of the Public Service.
Public servants at PCO are expected to abide by this Code, and demonstrate the values of the public sector in their actions and behaviour. They must also adhere to the behavioural expectations specific to PCO, as set out in the Values and Expected Behaviours section above. If a PCO employee does not adhere to these values and expectations, he or she may be subject to administrative or disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of employment.
PCO managers also have a particular responsibility to exemplify the values of the public sector.
Sections 12 and 13 of the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA) state that if public servants have information that could indicate a serious breach of this Code, they can bring this matter, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, to the attention of their immediate supervisor, the Senior Officer for Disclosure, or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
The Clerk of the Privy Council has specific responsibilities under the PSDPA, including establishing a code of conduct for PCO, and an overall responsibility for fostering a positive culture of values and ethics in this organization. The Clerk must ensure that employees are aware of their obligations under this Code and that employees can obtain appropriate advice within PCO on ethical issues, including possible conflicts of interest.
The Clerk is responsible for ensuring that the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector (VECPS), the PCO Code on Values and Ethics, and PCO’s internal disclosure procedures are implemented effectively and are regularly monitored and evaluated. The Clerk is also responsible for ensuring that the programs and services delivered by PCO are done so in a non-partisan manner. The Clerk and deputy secretaries are subject to this Code and to the Conflict of Interest Act.
Senior officer for disclosure
The senior officer for disclosure helps promote a positive environment for disclosing wrongdoings, and deals with disclosures of wrongdoing made by PCO employees. Senior officers are responsible for supporting the Clerk in meeting the requirements of the PSDPA.
The senior officer for disclosure’s duties and powers within PCO also include the following, pursuant to the internal disclosure procedures established under the PSDPA:
- Provide information, advice, and guidance to PCO employees regarding PCO's internal disclosure procedures, including the making of disclosures, the conduct of investigations into disclosures, and the handling of disclosures made to supervisors.
- Receive and record disclosures, and review them to establish whether there are sufficient grounds for further action under the PSDPA.
- Manage investigations into disclosures, including determining whether to deal with a disclosure under the PSDPA, initiate an investigation, or cease an investigation.
- Coordinate handling of a disclosure with the senior officer for disclosure of another federal public sector organization, if a disclosure or an investigation into a disclosure involves that other organization.
- Notify in writing the person(s) who made a disclosure of the outcome of any review and/or investigation into the disclosure, and of the status of actions taken on the disclosure, as appropriate.
- Report the findings of investigations, as well as any systemic problems that may give rise to wrongdoings, directly to his or her chief executive, with recommendations for corrective action, if any.
The Council of Advisors
The Clerk has established a Council of Advisors to provide additional expertise which employees and managers can access for advice and guidance on ethical issues they encounter. The Council is composed of senior managers. Employees have the option of meeting with an advisor to discuss and seek guidance on how to handle their case. Cases may be brought to the Council of Advisors so that general guidelines and strategies on how to proceed can be developed and used in similar future situations.
Treasury Board Secretariat - Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer
In support of the President of the Treasury Board’s responsibilities under section 4 of the PSDPA, the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) is responsible for promoting ethical practices in the public sector. The OCHRO will work together with all relevant partner organizations to implement and promote the VECPS, and will provide advice to chief executives and designated departmental officials with respect to its interpretation.
The Chief Human Resources Officer may issue directives, standards and guidelines related to the VECPS.
OCHRO will monitor the implementation of the VECPS with a view to assessing whether the stated objectives have been achieved.
Public Service Commission
The Public Service Commission is responsible for conducting staffing investigations and audits, and administering certain provisions related to political activities in accordance with the Public Service Employment Act.
Chapter 2: Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment
- This policy took effect on April 2, 2012 .
- This policy and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector replace the 2003 Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service.
This policy applies to the core public administration, for which Treasury Board is the employer, as defined in section 11(1) of the Financial Administration Act, unless excluded through specific acts, regulations or Orders in Council.
Sections 6, Monitoring and reporting, and 7.2, Consequences, do not apply with respect to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the Office of the Information Commissioner, the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, and the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. The deputy heads of these organizations are solely responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with this policy within their organizations, as well as for responding to cases of non-compliance in accordance with any Treasury Board instruments that address the management of compliance.
- Public servants contribute in a fundamental way to good government, democracy and Canadian society through the loyal, impartial, and non-partisan support they provide to the elected government and through the service they provide to Canadians. As dedicated professionals, they serve the public interest and uphold the public trust.
- This policy elaborates on the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, and is aligned with its content. It provides direction and measures to assist organizations and public servants in effectively dealing with real, potential and apparent conflict of interest situations which may arise during and after employment in the Public Service. Preventing, managing or resolving conflict of interest situations is one of the principal means of maintaining public trust and confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the Public Service.
- This policy is to be read in conjunction with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. The Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the requirements for public servants in Appendix B of this policy form part of the conditions of employment for every public servant.
- This policy is issued pursuant to sections 7 and 11.1(1) of the Financial Administration Act.
See Appendix A.
The objectives of this policy are to:
- ensure that, in situations of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest and situations where there is a conflict of duties, decisions are made in a manner which upholds the public interest;
- facilitate ethical decision-making within organizations and by public servants to resolve conflicts between private and public interests; and
- establish measures to help public servants prevent, manage and resolve conflict of interest and post-employment situations that could impair either the integrity of the Public Service or the public’s perception of its integrity.
The expected results of this policy are that:
- organizations have the appropriate mechanisms in place to assist public servants to report and effectively manage real, apparent or potential conflict of interest situations when performing their duties and after employment; and
- public servants take appropriate action to avoid, reduce or manage situations of real, potential or apparent conflict of interest in the performance of their duties and after employment in the Public Service.
Deputy heads are responsible for:
Education and oversight:
- Ensuring that public servants in their organization, and anyone considering joining their organization, are informed that the requirements listed in Appendix B are a condition of employment. This obligation is fulfilled by having individuals acknowledge these requirements in their initial acceptance of an offer of employment to the Public Service and on any subsequent appointment or deployment within the Public Service;
- Ensuring that public servants in their organization are informed on a regular basis of the requirements of this policy, and that public servants who have indicated an intention to leave their employment are reminded of the requirements of this policy;
- Ensuring that the operational risks of conflicts of interest related to their organization’s specific mandate are identified and managed; and
- Ensuring that the delegation of the responsibilities and authorities for the implementation of this policy are clearly communicated to all public servants in their organization.
Managing conflict of interest and post-employment situations:
- Ensuring that public servants have access to advice and assistance when they are unsure of whether they are in a conflict of interest, and when they are considering undertaking any political activity;
- Ensuring that procedures are in place in their organization for public servants to file a report of all situations, assets or interests that might give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with respect to their official duties. These reports are to be administered in accordance with the Privacy Act;
- Ensuring that any conflict arising between the private interests and the official duties of a public servant is resolved in favour of the public interest, by considering the nature and risk of the conflict of interest in relation to the feasibility and practicality of the measures required to resolve the conflict, and communicating the decision and the reasons for the decision to the public servant. While a declaration of a possible conflict of interest to the deputy head may often be sufficient, additional requirements may be necessary, as outlined in Appendix B;
- Ensuring that benefits provided or offered to the organization by outside entities or individuals with whom the organization has past, present or potential official dealings are managed appropriately and that any resulting organizational conflict of interest is resolved in the public interest;
- Ensuring that concurrent outside appointments that are part of a public servant’s official duties, such as to a board of directors, are managed appropriately and that any resulting conflicts of duties are resolved in the public interest;
- Without unduly restricting public servants’ ability to seek other employment, reviewing their operations and organizational structure for post-employment situations:
- Determining which positions in their organizations may be at risk for post-employment concerns and designating them as subject to the requirements in Appendix B, section 3.2 (normally including all positions in the executive (EX) category); and
- When appropriate, reducing or waiving the one-year limitation period, in consideration of the criteria set out in section 3.3 of Appendix B.
- Ensuring that decisions taken to resolve conflicts of interest and post-employment situations are, where practicable, made in mutual agreement with the public servant in question, using fair and effective means to resolve disagreements regarding the decisions.
Monitoring and reporting requirements
Deputy heads are responsible for monitoring the performance of their organization with respect to the application and administration of this policy as follows:
- assessing the organization’s service delivery structure, resource allocation, human resources competencies, performance indicators, as well as the systems, processes and procedures to prevent and effectively manage real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest in favour of the public interest;
- informing the Treasury Board Secretariat (Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer) of any major concerns or problems regarding the administration of this policy in a timely manner; and
- providing the Treasury Board Secretariat (Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer) with information that is considered necessary for assessing compliance with this policy, its related directive and other policy instruments, as required.
The Treasury Board Secretariat (Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer) is responsible for assessing departmental performance with respect to the implementation of this policy, as well as compliance with its related directive, through such instruments as employee surveys, the Values and Ethics Component of the Management Accountability Framework (MAF) or audits as required.
The Treasury Board Secretariat (Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer) will review this policy five years after the date of implementation.
A public servant who has not complied with the requirements in Appendix B may be subject to disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of employment.
Organizational consequences of non-compliance with this policy may include any measures allowed by the Financial Administration Act that the Treasury Board may determine appropriate.
Roles and responsibilities of government organizations
Treasury Board Secretariat
Treasury Board Secretariat (Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer) will promote this policy and provide guidance to support its implementation.
Public Service Commission
The Public Service Commission is responsible for ensuring that appointments in the Public Service are made on the basis of merit and are free from political influence. The Public Service Commission is also responsible for administering the provisions of Part 7, Political Activities, of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), including:
- Granting permission to an employee seeking nomination for or being a candidate in a federal, provincial, municipal or territorial election;
- Authorizing leave without pay to an employee who is a candidate in a federal, provincial, or territorial election; and
- Receiving and investigating allegations of inappropriate political activity as defined in the PSEA, and taking corrective action when the allegations are founded.
- Criminal Code
- Financial Administration Act
- Lobbying Act
- Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
- Public Service Employment Act
- Privacy Act
- Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
- Foundation Framework for Treasury Board Policies
- Policy Framework for People Management
- Management Accountability Framework
- Policy on Interchange Canada
- Policy on Privacy Protection
- Framework for the Management of Compliance
- Directive on Reporting and Managing Financial Conflicts of Interest (yet to be published)
Please direct enquiries about this policy to your responsible departmental official. For interpretation of this policy, departmental officials should contact TBS Public Enquiries.
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 Financial Administration 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.
For the purposes of this policy the term “deputy head” means deputy heads or their delegated alternates.
Public servant: a person employed in organizations defined in section 2 of this policy. This includes indeterminate and term employees, employees on leave without pay, students participating in Student Employment Programs, casual, seasonal and part-time workers.
Although they are not public servants, individuals on incoming Interchange Canada assignments are expected to comply with, and volunteers are expected to respect, the requirements in Appendix B of this policy. Order-in-council appointees, such as deputy heads, are subject to the Conflict of Interest Act, and are not subject to this policy.
Conflict of interest (COI): 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.
Appendix B: Requirements for public servants to prevent and deal with conflict of interest and post-employment situations
Following are the conflict of interest and post-employment requirements that are a condition of employment for public servants in all organizations subject to this policy. These requirements are grounded in and serve to uphold the values contained in the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. By upholding these ethical standards, public servants conserve and enhance public confidence in the honesty, fairness and integrity of the Public Service. These requirements also form part of Canada’s commitments as a signatory to international agreements on values and ethics.
Prevention of conflict of interest
A public servant maintains public confidence in the objectivity of the Public Service by preventing and avoiding situations that could give the appearance of a conflict of interest, result in a potential for a conflict of interest or result in an actual conflict of interest. Conflict of interest does not relate exclusively to matters concerning financial transactions and the transfer of economic benefit. While financial activity is important, conflicts of interest in any areas of activity can have a negative impact on the perceived objectivity of the public service. With the permanent and pervasive nature of information technology, public servants should be particularly sensitive to real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest that may arise from messages and information transmitted via the Internet and other media.
It is impossible to foresee every situation that could give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest. When in doubt, public servants should refer to the requirements found in this appendix, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and their organization’s code of conduct to guide appropriate action. Public servants can also seek guidance from their manager, from their deputy head or his/her delegate.
In addition to the requirements outlined in this appendix, public servants are also required to observe any specific conduct requirements contained in the statutes governing their particular department or organization and their profession, where applicable.
A public servant’s general responsibilities and duties include
- Taking all possible steps to recognize, prevent, report, and resolve any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest between their official responsibilities and any of their private affairs;
- Unless otherwise permitted in this appendix, refraining from having private interests, which would be unduly affected by government actions in which they participate, or of which they have knowledge or information;
- Not knowingly taking advantage of, or benefiting from, information that is obtained in the course of their duties that is not available to the public;
- Refraining from the direct or indirect use of, or allowing the direct or indirect use of government property of any kind, including property leased to the government, for anything other than officially approved activities;
- Not assisting private entities or persons in their dealings with the government where this would result in preferential treatment of the entities or persons;
- Not interfering in the dealings of private entities or persons with the government in order to inappropriately influence the outcome;
- Maintaining the impartiality of the Public Service and not engaging in any outside or political activities that impair or could be seen to impair their ability to perform their duties in an objective or impartial manner; and
- Ensuring that any real, apparent or potential conflict that arises between their private activities and their official responsibilities as a public servant is resolved in the public interest.
Requirements for preventing and dealing with situations of conflict of interest during employment
Public servants are required to report in writing to the deputy head, in accordance with their organization’s procedures, all outside activities, assets and interests that might give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest in relation to their official duties. Such a report is to be made within 60 days of their initial appointment or any subsequent appointment, transfer or deployment.
On a regular basis thereafter, and every time a major change occurs in their personal affairs or official duties, every public servant is required to review his or her obligations under this policy, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and their organizational code of conduct. If a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists, he or she is to file a report in a timely manner.
When negotiating financial arrangements with outside parties, public servants are to comply with the requirements listed in this appendix as well as other related directives or policies issued by the Treasury Board. When in doubt, public servants are to immediately report the situation to their managers in order to seek advice or direction on how to proceed.
Public servants are required to evaluate their assets, taking into consideration the nature of their official duties and the characteristics of their assets. If there is any real, apparent or potential conflict of interest between the carrying out of their official duties and their assets, they are to report this matter to their deputy head in a timely manner.
Where their deputy head determines that any of these assets results in a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest in relation to their official duties, public servants may be required to divest those assets, or to take other measures to resolve the conflict. Public servants may not sell or transfer assets to family members or anyone else for the purpose of circumventing the compliance requirements.
The types of assets that should be reported and the procedures for reporting and managing such assets are set out in the Directive on Reporting and Managing Financial Conflicts of Interest.
Outside employment or activities
Public servants may engage in employment outside the Public Service and take part in outside activities unless the employment or activities are likely to give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest or would undermine the impartiality of the Public Service or the objectivity of the public servant.
Public servants are required to provide a report to their deputy head when their outside employment or activities might subject them to demands incompatible with their official duties, or cast doubt on their ability to perform their duties or responsibilities in a completely objective manner. The deputy head may require that the outside activities be modified or terminated if it is determined that a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists.
Public servants who receive a benefit or income either directly or indirectly from a contract with the Government of Canada are required to report to their deputy head on such contractual or other arrangements. The deputy head will determine whether the arrangement presents a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, and may require that the contract be modified or terminated.
Any public servant considering involvement in political activity should seek the advice of their manager, a designated departmental official, the Public Service Commission (PSC) or a human resources advisor before acting.
Public servants are required to seek and obtain permission from the PSC to seek nomination for or be a candidate in a federal, provincial, territorial, or municipal election, in accordance with Part 7 of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).
Political activities” are defined in Part 7 of the PSEA as “any activity in support of, within or in opposition to a political party; carrying on any activity in support of or in opposition to a candidate before or during an election period; or, seeking nomination as or being a candidate in an election before or during the election period.
Any public servant who wishes to engage in a political activity not covered by Part 7 of the PSEA that could constitute a conflict of interest is required to report the proposed activity to their deputy head.
Similarly, any public servant who is subject to this policy but who is not subject to Part 7 of the PSEA, including casual and part-time workers, who wishes to engage in any political activity that could constitute a conflict of interest, is to report the proposed activity to the deputy head.
Gifts, hospitality and other benefits
Public servants are expected to use their best judgment to avoid situations of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest by considering the following criteria on gifts, hospitality and other benefits and in keeping with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, their organization’s code of conductand this policy.
Public servants are not to accept any gifts, hospitality or other benefits that may have a real, apparent or potential influence on their objectivity in carrying out their official duties and responsibilities or that may place them under obligation to the donor. This includes activities such as free or discounted admission to sporting and cultural events, travel or conferences.
The acceptance of gifts, hospitality and other benefits is permissible if they are infrequent and of minimal value, within the normal standards of courtesy or protocol, arise out of activities or events related to the official duties of the public servant concerned, and do not compromise or appear to compromise the integrity of the public servant concerned or of his or her organization.
Public servants are to seek written direction from their deputy head where it is impossible to decline gifts, hospitality or other benefits that do not meet the principles set out above, or where it is believed that there is sufficient benefit to the organization to warrant acceptance of certain types of hospitality.
With the exception of fundraising for such officially supported activities as the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign (GCWCC), public servants may not solicit gifts, hospitality, other benefits or transfers of economic value from a person, group or organization in the private sector who has dealings with the government. When fundraising for such official activities, public servants should ensure that they have prior written authorization from their deputy head in order to solicit donations, prizes or contributions in kind from external organizations or individuals.
Similarly, if an outside individual or entity, with whom the organization has past, present or potential official dealings, offers a benefit to the organization such as funding for an event or a donation of equipment, public servants are to consider whether any real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists, and obtain the consent in writing of the deputy head prior to accepting any such benefit.
The deputy head may require that the activities be modified or terminated where it is determined that there is a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest or an obligation to the donor. These provisions are designed to ensure that this policy is consistent with paragraph 121(1) (c) of the Criminal Code.
Avoidance of preferential treatment
Public servants are responsible for demonstrating objectivity and impartiality in the exercise of their duties and in their decision-making, whether related to staffing, financial awards or penalties to external parties, transfer payments, program operations or any other exercise of responsibility.
This means that they are prohibited from granting preferential treatment or advantages to family, friends or any other person or entity. They are not to offer extraordinary assistance to any entity or persons already dealing with the government without the knowledge and support of their supervisor. They also are not to disadvantage any entity or persons dealing with the government because of personal antagonism or bias.
Providing information that is publicly accessible is not considered preferential treatment.
Requirements for preventing post-employment conflict of interest situations before and after leaving office
All public servants have a responsibility to minimize the possibility of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest between their most recent responsibilities within the federal Public Service and their subsequent employment outside the Public Service.
Before leaving employment
Before leaving their employment with the Public Service, all public servants are to disclose their intentions regarding any future outside employment or activities that may pose a risk of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with their current responsibilities and discuss potential conflicts with their manager or their deputy head or his/her delegate.
Post-employment limitation period for public servants in designated positions
Deputy heads are responsible for designating positions of risk for post-employment conflict of interest situations as per section 6.1.2.(f)(i). of this policy.
Public servants in these designated positions are subject to a one-year limitation period after leaving office. Before leaving office and during this one-year limitation period, these public servants are to report to their deputy head all firm offers of employment or proposed activity outside the Public Service that could place them in a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with their Public Service employment. They are also to disclose immediately the acceptance of any such offer. In addition, these public servants may not, during this one-year period, without their deputy head’s authorization:
- accept appointment to a board of directors of, or employment with, private entities with which they had significant official dealings during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service. The official dealings in question may either be directly on the part of the public servant or through their subordinates;
- make representations to any government organization on behalf of persons or entities outside of the Public Service with which they had significant official dealings, during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their serviceFootnote 1 . The official dealings in question may either be directly on the part of the public servant or through their subordinates; or
- give advice to their clients or employer using information that is not publicly available concerning the programs or policies of the departments or organizations with which they were employed or with which they had a direct and substantial relationship.
Waiver or reduction of limitation period
A public servant or former public servant may apply to the deputy head for a written waiver or reduction of the limitation period. The public servant is to provide sufficient information to assist the deputy head in making a determination as to whether to grant the waiver taking into consideration the following criteria:
- the circumstances under which the termination of their service occurred;
- the general employment prospects of the public servant or former public servant;
- the significance to the government of information possessed by the public servant or former public servant by virtue of that individual's position in the Public Service;
- the desirability of a rapid transfer of the public servant's or former public servant's knowledge and skills from the government to private, other governmental or non-governmental sectors;
- the degree to which the new employer might gain unfair commercial or private advantage by hiring the public servant or former public servant;
- the authority and influence possessed by that individual while in the Public Service; and/or
- any other consideration at the discretion of the deputy head.
With respect to the arrangements necessary to prevent real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, or to comply with the requirements set out above, it is expected that situations will be resolved through discussion and agreement between the public servant and the deputy head or delegate. When a public servant and the deputy head or delegate disagree on the appropriate arrangements to resolve a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, the disagreement will be resolved through the resolution procedures established by the deputy head.
A public servant who does not comply with the requirements set out in this appendix may be subject to disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of employment.
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