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
Legal fees incurred by members of Council not covered by the City (Printable document of the information below)
Members of Council have asked in the past about how they can pay legal fees which are not subject to the City of Toronto indemnification policy or payable by the City. [See Attachment 1 for legal fees payable by the City]
Members have asked whether it is an improper gift or benefit under the Code of Conduct for Members of Council(“Code of Conduct“) if other people contribute to a member’s legal fees. This interpretation bulletin is intended to assist members of Council who may have incurred legal fees.
Article IV of the Code of Conduct: Gifts and Benefits
The City of Toronto has a “no gifts or benefits” rule unless the gift falls into one of the specific exceptions in Article IV. The Code of Conduct does not have any exception for a public official to receive funds from a member of the public to help pay for the member’s legal fees. A copy of Article IV is attached to this bulletin for ease of reference.
This means that when it comes to defraying legal expenses that are not covered by the City, members of Council may not hold public fundraisers, use the resources of their offices to seek contributions, or receive contributions for this purpose from members of the public, lobbyists, clients of lobbyists, developers, community groups, union leaders, corporations or businesses who are hoping to do business with the city. Members of Council should refrain from speaking about their debts while acting in a public capacity to avoid the impression that they are asking the public at large for a gift or benefit.
In the case of legal fees that are not covered by the City of Toronto, the Code of Conduct is not intended to apply to private arrangements for contributions. A member of Council in his or her private life may have relatives and friends who are able and willing to help defray the costs of legal proceedings. This is consistent with past advice from the Office of the Integrity Commissioner and continues to be the position of the office.
The question of whether or not a contribution is from a “private” source rather than a public source is a question of fact.
Examples may include a close relative (so long as that relative is not a lobbyist or otherwise excluded) or a long time family friend. Members are advised to err on the side of caution and decline to accept doubtful contributions from persons who might want to do business with the City. Members are also advised to keep careful records of the source, nature of the relationship to the contributor and the sums received to enable them to satisfy, if required, concerns about compliance with the Code of Conduct
Members are encouraged to consult with the Integrity Commissioner for confidential advice on this question.
Finally, this bulletin does not cover all other laws that may apply to members of Council who receive loans, donations or benefits. As set out in the Code of Conduct, members are expected to be aware of the provisions of the Municipal Elections Act and other provincial or federal statutes that may apply in those circumstances.
- Attachment No. 1 – Members of Council and Legal Fees
- Attachment No. 2 – Article IV (Gifts and Benefits) of the Code of Conduct for Members of Council
- April 20, 2011
- Members of Council
- Linda L. Gehrke, Lobbyist Registrar
Janet Leiper, Integrity Commissioner
- Lobbying During Procurements
This memo is a reminder to Members of Council that lobbyists are prohibited from communicating with public office holders during a procurement process, except as permitted by the applicable procurement policies and documents.
In City procurements, the City’s Procurement Processes Policy prohibits lobbying from the date the REOI, RFQ, RFP or other tender document is released until the award or the contract. This is commonly called a “blackout period”. If the award or the contract is made by Council or a committee of Council, the blackout period includes the period of time up to the decision awarding the contract.
The lobbying prohibition applies to all lobbyists, whether or not they are bidders in the procurement.
Lobbying is prohibited during the period before a committee or Council meeting where the award or the contract is considered. Lobbyists are permitted to make presentations and submissions to Council and committees, but they must not communicate with councillors in private conversations about a procurement during a procurement process. In addition, the Code of Conduct for Members of Council provides that members of Council should not knowingly communicate with a lobbyist who is acting in breach or the Lobbying By-law.
We would suggest as a best practice that your administrative staff ask lobbyists who wish to speak with you whether they wish to speak about a procurement. Meetings and calls from lobbyists about procurements should be declined.
We are happy to advise you about any questions you may have concerning lobbying in a particular situation. Our advice is confidential. For questions about the Members’ Code of Conduct. you may reach Janet Leiper al 416-397-7770. For questions about the Lobbying By-law and lobbyists, you may reach Linda Gehrke at 416-338-5865, a Lobbyist Registry Advisor at 416-338-5858 or Stephen Littlejohn, Inquiries and Investigations Counsel, at 416-338-6620.
Linda L. Gehrke,
Consolidated Reference Letter Policy (Printable document of the information below)
December 21, 2014
Consolidated Policy about Letters of Reference
At its July 25, 26, 27, 2006 meeting City Council passed the following rules and guidelines about the provision of references for individuals seeking employment or appointment with the City and in other capacities. What follows is a consolidation of the approved rules and guidelines.
References for City of Toronto Positions
With respect to references for those applying for employment With the City of Toronto or appointment to a City agency, board or commission, or any other position or office with the City:
A. a Member of Council shall not provide a reference in support of an applicant for employment with the City of Toronto or appointment to a City agency, board or commission, or any other position or office with the City of Toronto, unless that Member of Council has had an employment or other relevant relationship (such as that of teacher or volunteer group supervisor) with the person requesting the reference;
B. even where there is such a relevant relationship, a Member of Council shall not provide a reference for any person (a) who is a relative of the Member of Council as defined in the City of Toronto’s October 2005, policy regulating the hiring of relatives of other employees or (b) whose only relevant relationship with the Member of Council has been as a member of the public service of the City of Toronto or a City of Toronto agency, board or commission (with the exception of a Member’s own staff);
C. in the case of City of Toronto agencies, boards and commissions (and any other situations in which Members of Council participate as decision-makers in a City of Toronto hiring or appointment process), no participating Member of Council shall act as a reference for a candidate for appointment or hiring, and, where a participating Member of Council would otherwise be eligible to act as a reference, the Member of Council shall declare that fact to the appointing authority; and,
D. for the purposes of these rules, providing a reference includes both written and verbal references and any other form of intervention on behalf of the person in question. However, it does not extend to sending on (without comment) letters of inquiry about possible positions with the City of Toronto to the relevant hiring authority.
Other requests for references
With respect to reference in any context in their capacity as Members of Council, Council approved the following guidelines:
Unless the circumstances clearly indicate otherwise, Members of Council:
A. should not provide references where the only basis for doing so is to use the influence of your office or to help someone you know merely as a constituent, friend or relative; and
B. should confine the provision of references to situations where you have relevant personal experience with the candidate.
This Consolidation was prepared by the Integrity Commissioner strictly for ease of reference. In the case of any discrepancy between this consolidation and the original Council decision, the Council decision takes precedence.
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