Safeguarding Non-partisanship in the public service

Did you know that under the Public Service Employment Act (2003) the Public Service Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over questions of political influence in hiring and political activities by public servants?

Non-partisanship is an essential element of both a professional public service and responsible democratic government. A non-partisan public service is one where appointments are based on merit and free of political influence and where public servants perform their duties, and are seen to perform their duties, in a politically impartial manner.

In Canada, the Public Service Commission (PSC) has protected the non-partisanship of the public service since 1908, when the merit principle was first adopted in an effort to eliminate political patronage. In 1991, a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case recognized the need to balance the importance of the political impartiality of the public service and the constitutional right of all Canadians, including public servants, to participate in political activities. This was reflected in the new Public Service Employment Act (2003).

Upholding the non-partisan nature of the public service is the responsibility of all employees, whatever their level and duties. In particular, deputy heads play a leadership role in safeguarding non-partisanship as they oversee the conduct of their employees. The PSC, in collaboration with other stakeholders, plays a key role in ensuring that the public service remains non-partisan through a focus on the following areas:

Non-partisanship is closely related to the democratic and professional values of the public service, which are addressed in the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector.

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