Guidelines on Election issues, Election Year Tips, Lobbying and Municipal Elections.
A clear distinction must be kept between the role as Councillor and the role as candidate in an election year: Tips for communications and reminders for Member-Organized Community Events.
Election Year Tips (Printable document of the Information Below)
- June 8, 2010
- Members of Toronto City Council
- Janet Leiper, Integrity Commissioner
Ulli S. Watkiss, City Clerk
In response to questions from a number of Councillors in the past few weeks, we are writing to provide some practical tips to assist Members of Council in maintaining a clear distinction between their role as Members of Council and their role as candidates during an election year.
You may receive inquiries or other messages on your City Hall email account at either Councillor_(name)@toronto.ca or personal Toronto.ca e-mail account, or on your City Hall phone system concerning your election campaign.
To help maintain a clear line of distinction between your role as a Councillor and your role as a candidate in the election, you may wish to adopt the following strategies for your office operations:
Suggested auto-reply e-mail message:
In accordance with the Council Policy on the Use of Corporate Resources during an Election Year, this email address is being utilized exclusively for the business of the City of Toronto. As such, I will not be reading or responding to any campaign-related communications from you to this e-mail address.
Election campaign inquiries should be directed to the appropriate campaign office.
Suggested disclaimer for bottom of response e-mails:
In accordance with the Council Policy on the Use of Corporate Resources during an Election year, this email message is strictly related to the business of the City of Toronto.
Suggested voice-mail message:
Thank you for calling Councillor (name)’s Office. In accordance with the Council Policy on the Use of Corporate Resources during an Election Year, this telephone number is being utilized exclusively for the business of the City of Toronto. As such, our office will not be responding to any campaign-related telephone calls. Election campaign inquiries should be directed to the appropriate campaign office.
Suggested action for staff responding to campaign-related phone calls:
- Once staff receives the phone call and determines that it is a campaign-related call, do not engage in a long detailed conversation. End the call as quickly as possible. Refer the caller to the campaign website or the campaign phone number.
Thank you for your correspondence. As a sitting Member of Council, I must ensure my actions as an elected official are kept separate from any actions related to the forthcoming municipal election. As such, I will not be reading or responding to any campaign-related communications from you to my City Hall office.
Please remove my contact information from your distribution list as this address is intended solely for the purpose of business related to the City of Toronto.
Donations to Council Member-organized community events
There have also been some questions related to donations to Member-organized community events.
As a reminder, the restrictions during an election year, in accordance with the Policy on Donation to Member-organized Community Events 12(j), are as follows:
In an election year, a member of Council must not seek donations and sponsorships for any community event that has not been staged in the previous two years nor accept donations or stage any community event supported by donations and sponsorships after he or she has filed nomination papers for election to any office in the City of Toronto.
A community event is considered to have been staged in the previous two years if it meets the following criteria:
- Has a very similar, if not the same, event name/title
- Takes place at approximately the same time
- Has the same general purpose
Please note that under 12(h) of the Policy on Donation to Member-organized Community Events, the policy does not affect the entitlement of a member of Council to:
- Use his or her office budget to run or support community events subject to the terms of the Councillor Expense Policy;
- Urge constituents, businesses and other groups to support community events staged by others in the member’s Ward or elsewhere in the City;
- Play an advisory or membership role in any organization staging community events in the member’s Ward, e.g. a Business Improvement Area
- Team with the City and its agencies in the staging of community events, e.g. Environment Days.
Under the Councillor Expense Policy, Councillors can continue the following activities until September 6, 2010, Labour Day:
- use the office budget to supplement events organized by program areas, such as Parks openings;
- use the office budget to sponsor events co-organized with community groups;
- make a donation to community groups for their events.
- Councillor has filed nomination papers for the election. Councillor is organizing a community BBQ and Power Corp has offered to provide free BBQ equipment. Can the Councillor accept this?Avoid the dual problem of receiving donations once you have registered as a candidate, and receiving a donation from a corporation who may be a lobbyist. Pay for the use of the BBQ equipment from your office budget.
- Councillor has not filed nomination papers for the election. Can the Councillor accept a donation of free pizzas from the local store of a chain pizza company? The company has been making deputations at committee about recycling and waste and is registered as a lobbyist.No, the local store is still considered a lobbyist. Councillors may use their office budget to pay for the pizzas to avoid any issues.
These are general guidelines and specific circumstances may require additional deliberation. If you have any questions on individual cases, please contact either of us directly.
Ulli S. Watkiss,
Councillors and their staff can benefit from previous decisions made by the Integrity Commissioner on complaints received during past elections.
These examples provide Councillors and their staff with some perspective on the kinds of decisions made by the Office of the Integrity Commissioner during elections in the past.
Issue: publication of a City Hall newsletter as “campaign-related” activity
A Councillor was alleged to have violated the Code of Conduct for Members of Council by using the resources of the City for an “election campaign or campaign-related activity” when the Fall 2006 City Hall Newsletter was in substance a document in support of the 2006 campaign for re- election as Councillor. Because staff worked on this brochure while the City was paying them and a claim was made for the costs of producing this newsletter from the Council Member’s Office Budget, Clause VII was said to have been violated.
The newsletter did not announce or illustrate an indication of the Councillor’s re-election. It was produced and distributed prior to the election. Most importantly, despite the fact that it contained an extensive list of the Councillors, the Police Services Boards and Council’s accomplishments over the previous three years, it was not directly election-related. The document in part amounted to an accounting for the Councillor’s activities over the past three years, an accounting perfectly in order in a newsletter, irrespective of whether the Councillor was running for re-election. It also contained a number of references to important developments at or affecting the City over the past few months and since the distribution of a previous newsletter. It was a legitimate use of City resources on the basis of its recent events content and a legitimate accounting of the Councillor’s previous three years as a Councillor.
Issue: election sign business and use of City of Toronto e-mail
Two complaints were filed, one by a candidate running in the 2006 Municipal Election that a Councillor violated Clause VII (“Use of City Property, Services and Other Resources”) by conducting an election sign business using City of Toronto email services.
The Councillor involved wrote a letter of apology to the Director, Council and Support Services, copied to the City Clerk, the Director, Elections and Registry Services and the Integrity Commissioner, and shared with the complainant his response to the complaint stating that he had acted improperly and regretted the oversight.
For a member of Council to create the impression in the minds of reasonable people that he or she may be running a business out of that member’s City Hall office is a serious lapse of judgment and a lack of awareness of current Council policies on such matters. It is conduct that could well lead some candidates to actually contract for the advertised services in the expectation in the event of success at the polls of future alliances with and goodwill from an influential member of Council. It was recommended in the Report to Council that Council uphold the complaint but not impose any sanctions.
Issue: frivolous allegations in an election context
A candidate alleged that a Councillor improperly used the influence of his/her office to pressure staff to remove election signs put up by opponents in the 2006 Municipal Election campaign, and placed undue pressure on members of the Toronto Police Services to lay charges against a person caught removing his/her election flyers. The complainant asserted this was contrary to the terms of one of the key statements of principle in the Preamble to the Code of Conduct. As the statements did not create stand alone Code of Conduct offences, the complaint was treated as having been brought under Clause XII of the Code of Conduct (“Conduct Respecting Staff”).
The candidate ran unsuccessfully against the Councillor in the 2006 Municipal Elections. Following the elections, he/she filed two complaints against the Councillor with respect to his/her conduct during the Election campaign. Councillors should not be called upon to answer such allegations unless the affidavit and additional material filed in support of a complaint reveal sufficient detail of the alleged course of events to provide a factual basis for the Integrity Commissioner to conclude that an investigation is warranted. Neither of the allegations met that standard. All of the assertions were based on what was heard from others and no details provided. There was no statement from the campaign worker, and email communications contained no information as to the basis on which the Councillor had used inappropriate pressure on staff. The complainant was given the opportunity to provide additional information and did not meet the deadlines provided. Therefore, the complaint was dismissed as frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith.
Issue: conduct of an incumbent member of council on election day
A Deputy Returning Officer in the 2006 elections made a complaint against a Member of Council respecting the behaviour of that Councillor and a staff member on election day at the polling station at which the complainant was working. More specifically, the complainant asserted that the member of Council violated Clauses VII (“Election Campaign Work”), XII (“Conduct Respecting Staff”) and XIV (“Discreditable Conduct”) of the Code of Conduct.
The behaviour of an incumbent Member of Council at a polling station on election day is a matter that comes within the Municipal Elections Act, 1996, S.O. 1996, c. 32, Sch., and subject to the jurisdiction of the City Clerk as the person responsible. The City Clerk was instructed as per Clause 2(3) of Part B of the Code of Conduct Complaint Protocol to advise the complainant of this in writing.
Issue: discreditable conduct during an election
A Member of Council running for re-election complained that another Councillor violated the Code of Conduct by engaging in discreditable conduct contrary to Clause XIV of the Code of Conduct. More particularly, it is alleged that the Councillor treated the Member unfairly by asserting in a voice mail message left on a general voice mail messaging system that the Councillor was currently under police investigation.
The Councillor admitted leaving the voice mail message that gave rise to the complaint and that there was no basis for the contention that the Member was being actively investigated by police. To leave such a voice mail message on the voice mail messaging system constituted “discreditable conduct” under Clause XIV of the Code of Conduct and it was recommended to Council that it request the Councillor to make a full, unconditional written apology and if refused recommended that the Councillor be formally reprimanded.
For questions on any matters relating to the Code of Conduct and the election or other policies that Councillors should be aware of during an election year, please contact the Office of the Integrity Commissioner at 416-397-7770 or email: email@example.com.
This memo is written to provide guidance for members of Council and Lobbyists about their roles and election fundraising. It is intended to ensure that questions or concerns can be addressed well in advance of an election period, to identify potential situations of conflict of interest or undue influence and to take appropriate action.
- The City of Toronto has passed a by-law prohibiting corporate and trade union contributions to candidates for municipal office; therefore, only individuals may contribute.
- Lobbyists are permitted to make contributions in their personal capacity as individuals who are residents of Ontario, in accordance with the requirements of the Municipal Elections Act. They may not do so as part of their lobbying activities as a consultant, in-house or voluntary unpaid lobbyist.
- During the election period, City Council continues to meet and members of Council continue to hold office, whether or not they choose to seek re-election. Chapter 140 of the Toronto Municipal Code (the Lobbying By-law) continues to apply when lobbying public office holders, including members of Council. Lobbyists must register before they lobby a public office holder and they must report their lobbying activities.
- The Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct continues to apply to lobbyists in their dealings with public office holders. For example, the Code prohibits lobbying in a form or manner that includes offering, providing or bestowing entertainment, gifts, meals, trips or favours of any kind; requesting public office holders to endorse or recommend lobbyists’ services; and lobbying at a charitable event, community or civic event, or similar public gathering.
- Lobbyists must not place public office holders in a conflict of interest or in breach of their codes of conduct or standards of behavior; and they must not bestow an improper benefit or exert improper influence on a public office holder.
- A conflict of interest is any interest, relationship, association or activity that may be incompatible with the duties of the public office holder, including the duty to act in the public interest, whether real or apparent.
- Lobbyists should take all necessary measures to avoid creating any actual or apparent incompatibility between the public office holder’s private interests or obligations and his or her public duties, including the duty to act in the public interest. Certain activities may result in a perception that a public office holder’s ability to serve the public interest has been compromised by a personal interest or obligation. If so, a conflict of interest has been created.
- One type of activity that may place a public office holder in a conflict of interest is political fundraising by a lobbyist. See the “FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions” below, for a discussion of this and other types of campaign activities.
- Members of Toronto City Council and members of City of Toronto local boards (restricted definition) are also bound by Codes of Conduct. Under these Codes of Conduct, the members are required to be familiar with the provisions of the Lobbying By-law and not to knowingly engage in prohibited lobbying communications.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I am a registered lobbyist. May I contribute to the election campaign of a councillor who is running for re-election?
A. Yes, you are permitted to make a campaign contribution if you are an individual living in Ontario. You may contribute up to $750 to any candidate for Council and up to $2,500 to any mayoralty candidate. The total amount you may contribute to all candidates for office on City Council is $5,000. In addition, you must not make this contribution as a form of lobbying about an issue to be decided by Council.
Q. I am a lobbyist or a client of a lobbyist. May I volunteer to work on a candidate’s election campaign?
A. Yes. However, your volunteer work must comply with the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. If you perform a significant role in the campaign (for example, as campaign manager), this may create a perception of conflict of interest or undue influence. You should seek the advice of the Lobbyist Registrar regarding whether your volunteer work and your individual circumstances are likely to result in a conflict of interest or undue influence.
Q. May I buy a ticket for a fundraising function?
A. Yes, if you are an individual living in Ontario and this amount will not result in you exceeding the contribution limits under the Municipal Elections Act, as noted above. You must comply with the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. You must not buy the ticket as a form of lobbying.
Q. May I fundraise for a candidate?
A. Fundraising by a lobbyist creates a significant likelihood that a conflict of interest will result, should the lobbyist engage in lobbying that member of Council or candidate, once elected.
Justice Bellamy recommended:
113. Professional lobbyists should not engage in any type of political fundraising for candidates or councillors they lobby, beyond making their own donations.
120. When registering, lobbyists should certify that they have not engaged in political fundraising at the City beyond making their own allowable donations.
Therefore, we advise that lobbyists should not fundraise for a candidate, if their intent is to lobby that candidate once elected, or if they are concurrently lobbying a candidate who is a member of Council during the election period. Alternatively, they should not lobby a public office holder for whom they fundraise. For further advice on particular situations, lobbyists should contact the Lobbyist Registrar.
Q. May an organization that lobbies hold an all candidates meeting or a similar election event?
A. Yes, if it is an all candidates debate. All candidate debates to which the public is invited are not considered to be lobbying activities. In some circumstances, though, an organization may be required to report an election event as a lobbying activity. Lobbyists should seek advice from the Lobbyist Registrar on whether to report an election event as a lobbying activity if:
- The holder or sponsor of the event is registered to lobby about subjects that will be considered in the current term of Council and these subjects will be discussed at the event; and
- The invited candidates include members of the current Council; and
- The event is not open to the public, is by invitation only or by purchase of a ticket.
Q. What steps might a public office holder be expected to take if a lobbyist violates Chapter 140, for example by fundraising for a member of Council whom they are lobbying or intend to lobby?
A. The Code of Conduct for Members of Council advises that the member of Council ought to terminate the conversation or, where appropriate draw the person’s attention to the obligations imposed by the Lobbying By-law. If the violation is significant and not made in good faith, the member must report such violation to the Lobbyist Registrar. Similar provisions apply to members of local boards (restricted definition), with additional restrictions applying to members of adjudicative boards. (See Part XIII of the Codes of Conduct for Members of Council and Members of Local Boards (Restricted Definition) and Part XV of the Code of Conduct for Members of Adjudicative Boards at Legislation, Codes of Conduct and Policies.
For more information, please see the websites of the Integrity Commissioner and the Lobbyist Registrar, or contact these offices as follows:
- For more information about individual contributions, see the City’s Elections website, www.toronto.ca/elections
- In Toronto, the “election period” runs from January 1 of an election year (the first date a nomination may be filed) until the date of the election.
- “Public office holders” are members of City Council and their staff; an officer or employee of the City; members of local boards (restricted definition) of the City and their staff; officers, directors or employees of local boards (restricted definition) of the City; members of the Board of Health; and individuals appointed by Council, a Standing Committee or a Community Council under delegated authority, or a local board (restricted definition) to an advisory body to provide advice to Council, the Standing Committee, the Community Council or the local board (restricted definition) or to employees of the City or local board (restricted definition). See the City of Toronto Act, 2006, s. 156 and § 140-1 “PUBLIC OFFICE HOLDER”.
- § 140-42, Toronto Municipal Code, Lobbying (the Lobbying By-law)
- § 140-45, Toronto Municipal Code, Lobbying (the Lobbying By-law)
- In her report on the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry and Toronto External Contracts Inquiry, Madam Justice Denise E. Bellamy, Commissioner, wrote that “conflict of interest is essentially a conflict between public and private interests”:Conflicts of interest confuse decision-makers and distract them from their duty to make decisions in the best interests of the public, which can result in harm to the community. The driving consideration behind conflict of interest rules is the public good. In this context, a conflict of interest is essentially a conflict between public and private interests. … The core concern in a conflict is the presumption that bias and a lack of impartial judgement will lead a decision-maker in public service to prefer his or her own personal interests over the public good.… conflicts of interest extend to any interest, loyalty, concern, emotion, or other feature of a situation tending to make the individual’s judgement less reliable than it would normally be. (Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry, Toronto External Contracts Inquiry, Report, Vol. 2, Good Government, pp. 38ff)
- In Democracy Watch v. Campbell, 2009 FCA 79, a lobbyist hosted a fundraising dinner for a federal minister who was seeking re-election. The Court discussed the definition of conflict of interest as follows:“The common element in the various definitions of conflict of interest is … the presence of competing loyalties … the idea of conflict of interest is intimately bound to the problem of divided loyalties or conflicting obligations … Any conflict of interest impairs public confidence in government decision-making. Beyond that, the rule against conflicts of interest is a rule against the possibility that a public office holder may prefer his or her private interests to the public interest.” (paras. 40-51)
- See the Codes of Conduct on the Integrity Commissioner’s web site at: Legislation, Codes of Conduct and Policies.
- Democracy Watch v. Campbell, 2009 FCA 79 (CanLII) (Federal Court of Appeal).
- See http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-46327.pdf