Upcoming Fixed-Date Provincial, Territorial and Municipal Elections: Political Activities of Employees (11-13)


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The following message was sent to Deputy Heads on June 13, 2011.

Fixed-date provincial and territorial elections will be held in five provinces and one territory in 2011. Municipal elections will also be held in two provinces and one territory. I would like to take this opportunity to remind you and your employees of their rights and responsibilities regarding political activities.

Political activity (other than seeking nomination or being a candidate)

The Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) recognizes that employees may engage in any political activity as long as it does not impair, or is not perceived as impairing, their ability to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner. Whether a political activity will impair that impartiality, or will be perceived as doing so, depends on factors such as the nature of the activity, the nature of the employee's duties within the organization and the level and visibility of his or her position.

A political activity is defined by the PSEA as: carrying on 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.

Examples of political activities other than seeking nomination or being a candidate include, but are not limited to:

  • joining a political party;
  • contributing funds to a political party, organization or candidate;
  • attending political party events, such as meetings, conventions, or rallies;
  • carrying out administrative activities for a political party or candidate, such as stuffing envelopes, answering or placing telephone calls;
  • using social media or displaying political material to support or oppose a political party or candidate.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has developed a guidance document and a self-assessment tool to help employees who may consider engaging in political activities. However, these tools should not be seen as the only resource for making a decision. Employees are also encouraged to discuss their specific circumstances with their manager, the Designated Political Activities Representatives (DPAR) in their organization, or the Public Service Commission's (PSC) Political Activities Directorate.

Seeking nomination and being a candidate

An employee who wants to seek nomination and be a candidate in the upcoming provincial, territorial or municipal elections must first request and obtain permission and a leave of absence without pay (LWOP), if applicable, from the PSC. The PSC will grant permission and leave if it is satisfied that seeking nomination as, or being, a candidate will not impair, or be perceived as impairing, the employee's ability to perform his or her duties in a politically impartial manner.

When granting permission in the case of provincial or territorial elections, the PSC has the discretion to impose a LWOP before the election period in situations where there may be a risk, real or perceived, to the political impartiality of the public service. During the election period, employees must be on a LWOP granted by the PSC. Once the employee is declared elected, he or she ceases to be an employee of the public service.

In the case of municipal elections, the PSC may make the permission conditional on the employee taking a LWOP for the period, or any part of the period, where the employee is seeking nomination, or is a candidate, before and during the election period. As well, the PSC may make permission conditional on the employee taking a LWOP or ceasing to be an employee if declared elected.

Further information on this process, as well as the forms to be completed, can be found on the PSC Web site.

Allegations and investigations

The PSC may investigate any allegation that an employee has sought to be elected without having first requested and obtained permission and/or leave from the PSC, or has engaged in another political activity that impairs, or is perceived as impairing, the employee's ability to perform his or her duties in a politically impartial manner. If the allegation is founded, the PSC may take any corrective action that it considers appropriate, up to and including dismissal of the employee.

Responsibilities of deputy heads

The PSEA limits the political activities of deputy heads to voting in federal, provincial, territorial or municipal elections.

With respect to the political activities of your employees, your role is to keep them informed about their rights and responsibilities should they wish to engage in political activities, and about the process for obtaining permission to be a political candidate. In addition, you should ensure that any operational arrangements or LWOP imposed by the PSC related to a request for permission to seek nomination as, and/or be a candidate, are respected and implemented as required.

You should note that activities that do not fall under the PSEA's definition of political activity may be subject to the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service or, in cases where the Treasury Board is not the employer, to the organization's applicable code.

You will find attached a communiqué to employees which addresses both candidacy and non-candidacy political activities. Please ensure that it is forwarded to employees in your organization. Should you or your DPAR require additional information or assistance with your communication efforts, please contact Kathy Nakamura, Director General, Political Activities Directorate.

As the PSC oversees the political impartiality of the public service, we appreciate the important leadership role you play in ensuring a professional and non-partisan public service.

Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at 613-992-2788 if you need further detail.

Maria Barrados, PhD

Communiqué to employees

c.c. Designated Political Activities Representatives