Showing support or opposition to candidates and political parties on a personal Twitter account – Founded

Authority:

This investigation was conducted under section 118 of the Public Service Employment Act, S.C. 2003, c.22, ss. 12 and 13.

Issue:

The purpose of this investigation was to determine if an employee failed to comply with subsection 113(1) of the Public Service Employment Act by engaging in political activities that could have impaired, or could have been perceived as impairing, their ability to perform their duties in a political impartial manner.

Conclusions:

The investigation concluded that the employee engaged in political activities when they used their personal Twitter account to show their support or their opposition to candidates and political parties before the 2019 federal election. These activities could have been perceived as impairing their ability to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner.

Facts:

A member of the public raised concerns that the employee may have engaged in improper political activities by tweeting their support or opposition to several political parties.

Several factors were examined during the investigation, including:

The employee’s personal Twitter account has several hundred followers. Their Twitter profile is in their own name and displays their picture. From this account, the employee tweeted approximately a dozen times in the month preceding the 2019 federal election. While some of the tweets showed support for candidates of a national political party, others criticized an opposing party, its leader, and a Member of Parliament. 

The employee occupies a high-level position in their organization, and had acted in an executive level position in the period just before the federal election. In this position, some of the employee’s duties included overseeing almost 200 employees and enforcing legislation. They interacted with members of the public; other federal government departments and agencies; municipal and provincial governments; law enforcement agencies; travelling and trading communities; local business; tourism officials; municipalities; private interest groups and the media.

The employee indicated during the investigation that they had knowledge of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service and took the time to inform themselves before engaging in any political activity. They consulted the Public Service Commission’s Guidance Document for Participation in Non-Candidacy Political Activities and the code of conduct established by their department.

The guidance document states:

“Employees do not need permission from the PSC [Public Service Commission] to engage in non-candidacy political activities. However, they are responsible for ensuring that engaging in such activities does not impair, or is not perceived as impairing, their ability to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner.”

Based on their own assessment, the employee did not believe that the non-candidacy political activities they engaged in required consultation with the Public Service Commission, their department’s values and ethics team, or their immediate supervisor. They believed that tweeting their personal views was well within their rights, and within the guidelines they had examined.  

However, the investigation concluded that considering the mandate of the organization, the nature of the employee’s duties and their level and visibility, it is likely that, by tweeting their support of a federal political party and opposition to another federal political party and its leader, they would have been perceived as not being able to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner.

Corrective action:

Following the conclusion of improper political activities, the Commission ordered that:

Investigation File No.: 20-21-08

 

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