Political Action Committee

Involvement in Political Activities as a Public Servant

July 11, 2007

The Public Service Employment Act was amended effective December 31, 2005 in this regard, and now states that public servants, are permitted to engage in any political activity as long as it does not impair or is not perceived as impairing your ability to perform your duties in a politically impartial manner.

The PSEA defines political activity as:

  • Any activity in support of, within or in opposition to a political party;
  • 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 activity within the meaning of the new PSEA:

  • Joining a political party;
  • Contributing funds to a political party, organization or candidate or attending political fund-raising functions;
  • Attending political party events e.g. meetings, conventions, rallies, fund-raising functions, or other political gatherings;
  • Carrying out administrative activities for a political party or candidate such as stuffing envelopes, answering or placing telephone calls, addressing correspondence on behalf of a party or candidate;
  • Displaying political material such as pictures, stickers, buttons, placing a sign on a lawn, accompanying a candidate during a press conference;
  • Organizing political events;
  • Expressing personal views or opinions on public issues, thereby attracting attention to themselves or their position;
  • Developing promotional material for a party or a candidate e.g. writing campaign speeches, slogans, pamphlets for candidates;
  • Signing nomination petitions and/or the official nomination paper of a candidate;
  • Distributing campaign literature in political elections;
  • Seeking the public’s views on specific issues on behalf of a party or candidate;
  • Recruiting volunteers for a party or a candidate;
  • Soliciting funds for a party or a candidate;
  • Attending a political leadership convention as a delegate;
  • Seeking to be elected as a delegate to a political leadership convention;
  • Being a member of an official group promoting a party or a candidate e.g. president of a riding association or the party’s youth association;
  • Seeking nomination in a federal, territorial, provincial or municipal election;
  • Being a candidate in a federal, territorial, provincial or municipal election.

CANDIDACY IN ELECTIONS:

For nomination or candidacy in federal, territorial, and provincial elections:

  • Employees must first obtain approval from the PSC before announcing their intention;
  • Employees must first obtain approved leave of absence without pay from the PSC;
  • Upon being declared elected, the employee ceases to be a public service employee.

For nomination or candidacy in municipal elections:

  • Employees must first obtain approval from the PSC before announcing their intention;
  • Upon being declared elected, the PSC determines if the employee continues or ceases to be a public service employee; and determines if the employee must take a leave of absence without pay.

The PSC now also has the authority to determine when a leave without pay must begin.

FACTORS THAT WILL BE CONSIDERED IN DETERMINING IF A PARTICULAR POLITICAL ACTIVITY (OTHER THAN CANDIDACY) IS PROBLEMATIC: (N.B. Voting is permissible in all instances):

  1. The Nature of the Activity (Level and Degree of Visibility):  
    The level of the political activity in question-involvement at a municipal level may be less likely to be perceived by others as affecting your ability to perform your duties in a politically impartial manner; Degree of Visibility-the extent to which the activity will draw attention to the employee and their position. The degree of visibility and the link to the employee’s position may increase in a small or isolated community.
  2. The Nature of the Employee’s Duties:
    The greater an employee’s influence and extent of contact with the public,  subordinates, colleagues, management, politicians and their staff, the more likely  that others could perceive the activity as impairing the ability to perform duties in  a politically impartial manner. Consider:
    • The type of decisions made;
    • How these decisions affect or influence others;
    • Extent of involvement in the final say in these decisions;
    • The type and extent of involvement in policy development;
    • Whether the employee has a managerial or supervisory responsibility;
    • The extent and nature of contact with politicians and their staff. 
  3. The Level and Visibility of the Employee’s Position:
    The higher in the hierarchy, the more likely the activity is to be problematic;
     Visibility may be higher in isolated or small communities, regardless of the level occupied by the employee.

All political activities must be examined on a case-by-case basis to assess whether or not the activity would impair or would be perceived by others as impairing the employee’s ability to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner in light of their specific circumstances. 

EXAMPLES OF POLITICAL ACTIVITIES ASSESSED AGAINST THESE FACTORS:

  1. Displaying political material, wearing a political button, putting up a poster, etc:
    This activity is not problematic if the employee does not deal with the public face-to-face and/or does not supervise anyone.
  2. Attending a meeting of a particular political party:
    This activity is not problematic for most employees who cannot be easily identified with their position. This activity may be problematic for employees who:
    • are required to wear a uniform and decide to attend the meeting while in uniform;
    • drive an easily identified government-owned vehicle to the meeting;
    • have recently appeared in media reports in the context of their duties;
    • reside in small communities;
    • speak publicly at all-candidates’ meeting and draw attention to themselves and their position.

THE COMMISSION’S AUTHORITY TO INVESTIGATE AND DISCIPLINE:

The PSEA also accords the PSC the ability to investigate any allegation from anyone that an employee has engaged in improper political activities and, if it concludes that the allegation is substantiated, may dismiss the employee or may take any corrective action that it considers appropriate.

If you do not agree with limitations imposed on your right to engage in a political activity, you can grieve the decision. Such complaints would not fall within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Staffing Tribunal.  Should disciplinary measures be imposed involving a financial penalty or termination of employment for failure to respect limitations set, a grievance would be subject to adjudication by the Public Service Labour Relations Board. 

FURTHER RESTRICTIONS AS A CRA EMPLOYEE:

Employees should never identify themselves as CRA employees when involved in any political activities.

The CRA’s Code of Ethics and Conduct and Conflict of Interest Code apply. Even if an activity is appropriate under the PSEA, it could still be considered a potential conflict of interest. For example, speaking to the media against the federal government may not be an improper political activity under the PSEA definition, but may well constitute a conflict of interest pursuant to the CRA’s Code.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Visit

www.psc-cfp.gc.ca/psea-lefp/political/index_e.htm. 

(new site https://www.canada.ca/en/public-service-commission/services/political-ac... )

This site includes a guidance document; a Political Activities Self-Assessment Tool; required forms for candidacy requests; and FAQs. 

Consult your manager, your Human Resources Advisor, your union representative.