The Toronto Public Service By-Law – City of Toronto (TPS By-Law) applies to City employees who are members of the Toronto Public Service. During the municipal, provincial and federal election periods, the TPS By-Law political activity provisions are of particular importance.

City employees who are not members of the public service, such as those working in the offices of Members of Council or in an Accountability Office, should review related applicable policies.

The Toronto Public Service By-Law – City of Toronto recognizes that most City employees have the right to engage in political activity during their personal time, with limitations on political activity at work. Specifically, City employees cannot:

  • Use City resources while engaging in political activity.
  • Engage in political activity during working hours or while wearing a City uniform.
  • Wear clothing or buttons that advertise any candidate while at work or while wearing a City uniform.
  • Use their title or position within the City in a way that would lead a member of the public to infer that the City is endorsing a candidate.

If an employee is unsure about the appropriateness of their participation in election-related political activity, such as campaigning for a candidate, they should consult their immediate supervisor, manager or Ethics Executive.

The following Policies, Resources and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) assist City staff to comply with the TPS By-Law and other applicable policies for City staff during elections.

Policies and Protocols

During elections, City staff should refer to the following policies and protocols. A full list of policies and guidelines for City staff and divisions can be found on the City Clerk’s Toronto Elections intranet page.

Resources

The following learning tools support City staff to understand their obligations under the TPS By-Law for political activity.

FAQs for City Employees During Elections

If so, review the rules for Running for Political Office and speak to your supervisor and manager or Ethics Executive for further guidance.

If so, review the rules for campaigning for or against a candidate. If you are concerned that activities you may undertake may conflict with your obligation to be politically neutral, speak with your supervisor, manager or Ethics Executive for advice.

A new online, anonymous Self-Assessment of Political Activity tool can be used to help Toronto Public Service members determine how best to proceed when considering participating in a variety of political activities during a federal, provincial, municipal, or school board election period. This Self-Assessment Tool is intended to provide advice to members of the Toronto Public Service including considerations for further discussion with their supervisor, manager, and Ethics Executive. The City has prepared a short overview  of the Political Activity Self-Assessment Tool  to help both users and supervisors, managers and Ethics Executive members better understand this staff support.

The Toronto Public Service By-Law – City of Toronto outlines additional limitations for political activity by “Designated Employees” which includes senior management, Division Heads, employees who prosecute City bylaws or provincial statutes, and employees who support the administration of the municipal election and council member offices. If you are a designated employee, review the TPS By-Law provisions and seek advice from your Ethics Executive, before undertaking political activity.

The City’s Use of City Resources During Election Period Policy  provides the rules around the use of city facilities during election periods. Speak to your supervisor or Manager if you have questions of how the policy is applied in your Division or service area.

If it is not clear to staff how the Use of City Resources during Election Period Policy relates to responding to the inquiry, or how it may apply to the specific operations of the Business Unit, staff should discuss the matter with their Supervisor, Manager, Director and/or Division Heads.

If the Division is still unclear about how to apply the Policy then they should reach out to their legal representative in order to receive further clarification and/or interpretation of the Policy.

In the interest of providing consistent and timely responses, staff must refer all requests from candidates for information about the City, its programs and services to candidaterequests@toronto.ca. Strategic Public & Employee Communications will respond to the candidate and keep the Division informed or may direct Divisions to respond directly to candidates.

Responses will also be posted on the City’s Candidates & Third Party Advertisers webpage in a question and answer format to ensure all candidates have equal access to information.

For more information, staff may refer to the protocol for responding to requests for information from candidates available on the Toronto Elections intranet page.

Although Members of Council continue to hold office until the start of the next council term and can make requests of staff related to their role, Councillors are not to access City resources for any election-related purpose.

The Code of Conduct for Members of Council states that members cannot compel City or agency staff to engage in partisan political activities. For example, this means that members cannot ask City staff to produce information or appear in campaign literature or activities or ask City staff to assist with, or participate in, any activities that support their campaign during the election period. City staff must remain neutral.

If in doubt, speak with your supervisor or manager.

The City of Toronto’s Application of City Policies to Social Media Use states that staff cannot publicly share any information that they may have access to due to their position but which is not available publicly (e.g., research for a report or an unpublished “staff recommendation”). Staff should review the information in the Application of City Policies to Social Media Use to learn more about work and personal use of social media as a City employee.

Employees should be careful to represent City values and comply with applicable policies in what they say, write or post on social media, as their use of social media may affect the City’s reputation or other interests.