Members of City Council: Conduct Standards & Resources
Citizens expect members of Council to meet the highest standards of conduct when carrying out public functions. The standards are set out in the Code of Conduct for Members of Council (see the Annotated Code of Conduct for Members of Council for related advice and links) and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
The Integrity Commissioner is available to members of Council to answer questions and provide advice about meeting the standards.
Members of Council can seek advice by calling or emailing the Integrity Commissioner or the Office as follows:
Members of Council can only accept fees, advances, gifts, donations, invitations, or benefits that are connected with the performance of their duties under specific circumstances specifically described in the Code of Conduct.
Examples of permissible gifts or benefits are:
- sponsorships and donations to a community event in accordance with the Policy on Council Member-Organized Community Events
- food, lodging, transportation and entertainment provided by a provincial, regional and local government, the Federal government, a foreign government or a conference or event organizer when attending in an official capacity
- gifts or benefits that normally accompany the responsibility of office and are received as an incident of protocol or social obligation
Members are required to complete a disclosure statement upon receipt of a permissible gift. Those statements are reviewed by the Integrity Commissioner and published quarterly on the Gift Disclosure Registry for Members of Council.
When Council Members are offered a fee, advance, gift or personal benefit of any kind (referred to generally as a gift) they should carry out the following steps. Gifts include meals, tickets, sponsored travel, and donations for community events.
Council Member-Organized Community Events Policy
Frequently Asked Questions – Donations to Council Member-Organized Events (2009)
Invitations, Gifts and Benefits
May a Member accept an invitation to attend a meeting from the Residents’ Association in another Member’s Ward?
It depends. If the meeting concerns a matter or matters that are of general or City-wide concern (that is, are not Ward-based), the Member can attend automatically, though simple courtesy might suggest informing the Ward Councillor. If the reason for the invitation is a Ward-based matter, the Member should contact the Ward Councillor and ascertain whether the Ward Councillor is involved. If the Ward Councillor is involved, the Member should generally refrain from attendance, unless the Ward Councillor is representing or supporting interests other than those of the Residents’ Association.
A Member receives an invitation to attend an event being hosted by a company with which the City has just entered into a commercial arrangement. The event is a celebration of the successful collaboration between the City and the company. May the Member attend?
Yes, provided that the value of what is provided does not exceed $500 and that attendance is reported if the value exceeds $300. This is a gift or benefit accepted as part of the responsibilities of office and received as an incident of protocol or social obligation.
A cultural organization supported by the City provides a Member with a pair of tickets to an event. May the Member accept the tickets?
Yes, the Member can accept the tickets (unless their value is over $500 or accepting them would mean that the Member has received gifts or benefits from that organization worth over $500 during the current calendar year). This is a gift or benefit received as part of the responsibilities of office and as an incident of protocol or social obligation. The Member must, however, report receipt of the tickets if they are worth in excess of $300 or their receipt brings the total value of gifts and benefits from that source to over $300 in the current calendar year.
A trade organization that lobbies the City on behalf of its members invites a Member to make up a foursome at an annual charitable golf tournament at no cost to the Member. May the Member accept the invitation?
No. Gifts or benefits from lobbyists, except political contributions otherwise reportable as a matter of legal obligation, are not permitted.
A developer invites a Member to an event celebrating the successful completion of a condominium development in the Member’s Ward. May the Member accept the invitation and the various forms of hospitality accompanying the event?
Yes. This too can be seen as part of the responsibilities of office and accepted as a matter of protocol. It might also serve a legitimate business purpose provided the person extending the invitation or that person’s representative is in attendance. Once again, however, the rules on reporting and upper limits apply.
A member attends an event in her or his Ward celebrating the completion of a significant property development. The property developer asks the member to pose for a photograph along with other dignitaries attending the event. Should the member agree?
Inquire as to the use that the developer intends to make of the photograph. If the answer is that it will be used for advertising or other promotional purposes, decline the invitation: see Article VIII of the Code of Conduct.
A sporting organization provides a Member with a block of tickets to an event and asks the Member to distribute the tickets among deserving constituents. May the Member accept the tickets on those terms?
No. This is not part of the responsibilities of office and therefore not something that the Member may accept as an incident of protocol or social obligation. Return the tickets and consider advising the donor to distribute the tickets through a community group of the donor’s choice.
A Residents’ Association holds a dinner honouring a Member for ten years of service on City Council and at the conclusion of the dinner presents the Member with a work of art worth $600. May the member keep the gift?
No. The gift is worth more than $500 and that does not take account of the value of the dinner. To avoid embarrassment, it is advisable for a Member to raise the issue of gifts in advance with the organizer of any event honouring the Member.
At an event a Member is attending as part of her or his official duties as a Member of Council, the Member (along with all others attending the event) is presented with a gift. May the Member accept the gift?
Yes, as a matter of protocol, unless the donor is a lobbyist and provided the value of the event and the gift does not in total exceed $500 and it does not lead to a situation where the Member in aggregate has received gifts and benefits from that source during the current calendar year worth more than $500. Also, if the combined value of the event and the gift exceeds $300, the Member must file a gifts and benefits report with the Integrity Commissioner: see Article IV of the Code of Conduct.
An organization seeking to renew a contract with the City sends a gift to all members of Council. May Members accept the gift?
No, whether the gift comes from a lobbyist or directly from the organization, it is not within the scope of permissible gifts and benefits: see Article IV of the Code of Conduct.
May a Member accept the personal use of a private vehicle for the duration of a community event being held in her or his Ward?
Irrespective of whether the vehicle is displaying promotional material relating to the donor, this is not a permissible gift of benefit: see Article IV of the Code of Conduct.
The Manchester City Council invites a Member to a conference in Manchester, England to speak about the new powers that the City acquired under the City of Toronto Act, 2006. It offers to pay the Member’s costs of attending the Conference, including airfare, food and lodging. The total worth of the package is $5000. May the Member accept the offer?
Yes. This comes within the category of food, lodging and transportation provided by a foreign government in a foreign company. Such gifts and benefits are not subject to the $500 upper limit. However, they must be reported if worth more than $300.
The Manchester Widget Manufacturing Company, which hopes to do business with the City, invites a Member to learn more about its product and inspect its plant in Manchester, England. It offers to pay the Member’s expenses including airfare, food and lodging. The total worth of the package is $5000. May the Member accept the offer?
No. The Member should only attend as part of an official City delegation (where otherwise appropriate) paid for by the City or, perhaps, out of the Member’s own Office Budget. In any case, consult either the Integrity Commissioner or Council and Support Services before undertaking this kind of travel.
Identifying and Declaring Pecuniary Interests at Meetings (February 2019)
Post-Employment Obligations – Former Members of Council (November 2018)
2018 Election-Related Activities (August 1, 2018)
Integrity Commissioner Guidance Regarding Councillor Conduct in Relation to the Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) (September 28, 2016)
Use of Social Media for Members of Council (October 2016)
Reference Letter Policy (December 21, 2014)
Legal Fees Incurred by Members of Council not covered by the City (May 2013)
Lobbying and Donations to Council Member-Organized Events
Unsolicited Written and Electronic Communications to Members (May 21, 2009)
This protocol, issued by the Lobbyist Registrar and Integrity Commissioner, clarifies the obligations of members of council or their staff acting on their behalf when they receive unsolicited written or electronic communications.
Chapter 140 of the Toronto Municipal Code, Lobbying defines lobbying as communication with a public office holder about listed subjects, which generally relate to decisions that Council, its committees or other City officials may make. Communication is defined as «expressive contact, including written and electronic communication».
Article XIII, Conduct Respecting Lobbyists of the Code of Conduct for Members of Council provides in part:
Members of Council and their staff are public office holders. As a matter of general principle, as public office holders, members of Council should be familiar with the terms of this Lobbying By-law inclusive of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct (Chapter 140).
Specifically, members of Council should not engage knowingly in communications in respect of the list of subject matters contained in the definition of “Lobby” as set out in Chapter 140 with a person who is not registered as required by Chapter 140. Members of Council should also not knowingly communicate with a registered lobbyist who is acting in violation of Chapter 140. (Underlining added.)
A member does not contravene this Article when a member (or the member’s staff on the member’s behalf) simply receives an unsolicited written or electronic communication. This exception applies if the member (or the member’s staff acting on the member’s behalf) does not take any action on the basis of the communication or respond to the communication. This exception also applies if the member (or staff acting on behalf of the member) sends a form letter in response to all unsolicited communications. When this exception applies, there is no duty on the member to take further action under this Article.
May 21, 2009
Constituency Services and Office Budget Policy
Human Resources Management and Ethical Framework for Members’ Staff
Questions and answers about Councillor and staff involvement in another Member’s ward, donations to community events and Council member-organized community events.
A citizen in my Ward has asked me to act as reference on his behalf for a position that the citizen is seeking with the City. I presented him with a plaque at a Residents’ Association Awards evening and we chatted briefly afterwards. Apart from that, I have no other knowledge of the person.
In terms of the policy on Members’ providing references for those seeking positions with the City, this is not a relevant relationship. Do not agree to the request.
Do the obligations imposed on Staff by the December 2004 Staff Protocol for Notifying Councillors with respect to matters in another Member’s Ward apply to the staff of Members of Council?
A citizen has asked me to assist in an issue arising in another Member’s Ward. The local councillor is in effect assisting someone who has opposing interests to the citizen who has approached me. May I help that citizen? If I do, can I call upon City staff to attend a meeting in the Ward?
If the Ward Councillor will not assist for whatever reason, you may intervene provided you give the Ward Councillor a heads up and an opportunity to assist. City Staff may attend a meeting organized in the Ward but you cannot compel them to do so. They are obliged to consider the urgency of the request, the availability of personnel and other work programme priorities.
A Member has an application before a Committee of Adjustment relating to property that the Member owns in his Ward. How should the Member deal with constituents who have an interest in the application?
There is no explicit policy on this except the rules in the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act with respect to declarations of interest and neither participating nor voting. However, a sensible course of action is to refer the matter to a neighbouring Ward Councillor and, thereafter, remain at arm’s length from both the constituents and the neighbouring Ward Councillor on the matter.
A services organization in my Ward is organizing an event and has asked me to support its approach to a business for an in-kind donation to the event. May I lend this kind of support?
There is no prohibition on Members’ approaching local businesses and encouraging them to lend this kind of support to community groups. However, you should not do so if there is any real danger that the business will see this as being in any way the cost of securing support from you for any form of permission or preference that business may be seeking from the City (or even as a payback for “past favours”).
A Councillor is organizing a community event and local businesses and developers offer assistance in the form of food, equipment, giveaways and financial support. May the Member accept?
Yes, subject to the terms of the 2008 Policy on Council Member-Organized Community Events. Note, however, that that Policy bans receipt of any form of assistance from both lobbyists and developers with pending applications. There are also reporting requirements and additional restrictions in an election year. Make sure to consult the Policy.
Staffing and Member Office Expenses
Questions and answers on hiring staff, acting as a reference, use of the office expense budget, City resources and improper influence.
Am I permitted to hire a relative of another Member of Council to work in my office?
No. The June 2000 Council policy on Members of Council hiring staff prevents Members of Council from hiring not only their own relatives (as defined) but also the relatives of other Members of Council.
May a Member of Council act as a reference for someone seeking a position with the City on the basis of work with that person on a community organization?
Yes, this is a “relevant relationship” in terms of the Council policy on members providing references for those seeking a position with the City.
A business has approached me with a request that I include an advertisement for the business in my next newsletter. They have offered to pay. I am not sure whether I want payment but am prepared in any event to do if for free as I believe this business is a great corporate citizen in my Ward. Please advise.
Do not agree irrespective of payment. To include the advertising free of charge would be using the resources of the City (your Expense Account which is paying for the newsletter) for other than the purposes of the Corporation: Article VI of the Code of Conduct. To accept payment, would involve an inappropriate receipt of a gift or benefit (Article IV) and worse if you still claim the whole cost of producing the newsletter from the City (Criminal Code). In any event, using your newsletter to promote a business, however worthy, is improper use of influence: Article VIII.
May a Member of Council use her or his City Hall Office, city-funded constituency office, or Council website to convey expressions of support for a candidate for an upcoming federal or provincial election?
No, this constitutes the use of the City’s property and facilities for other than the purposes of the Corporation: see Articles VI and VII of the Code of Conduct.