Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison today released a report on her consultation into the role of ministers’ staff at Queen’s Park. The Commissioner is the Ethics Executive for ministers’ staff and provides them with in-service and post-employment direction on the conflict of interest rules. She launched the consultation to assess how well staff understand the rules, as well as consider whether the rules are relevant to the responsibilities staff have in fulfilling their duties to their ministers.
"Ministers’ staff are young, energetic and committed,” said Commissioner Morrison. “It is time to provide them with a professional human resources framework to clearly outline job expectations, train them to do the job, and then hold them accountable for their performance through regular job evaluations.”
The report contains five recommendations:
-That all of the staff employed in MPP offices at Queen’s Park be subject to the in-service rules under the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 (i.e., not just ministers’ staff);
-That all ministers’ staff have written job descriptions and receive regular performance appraisals;
-That all ministers’ staff receive mandatory training on their obligations under the PSOA;
-That the rules on political activity be reviewed to provide additional clarity; and
-That the premier, ministers and MPPs fulfill their leadership role in ensuring their staffs fully understand, and follow, the conflict of interest rules.
“The goal is to ensure professionalism and education about appropriate ethical behaviour in all aspects of public service so that all staff, no matter the party, have the skills and tools to tackle the difficult and ever-important job of ensuring the government serves the needs of all Ontarians,” Commissioner Morrison said.
Ministers’ staff are accountable for their actions, Commissioner Morrison outlines in the report, and must be aware of the need to act ethically in all situations. “The rules are grounded in common sense. I urge all staff to be sure that they read them and heed them.”
In conducting the consultation, Commissioner Morrison and her staff held more than 50 interviews with current and former Members of Provincial Parliament from the three major political parties, ministers’ staff, and public servants. “People were very generous with their time and ideas, which made it clear to me that the topic is important to them,” Commissioner Morrison said. “They had thought about the responsibilities, the challenges and the pitfalls of the job of a ministers’ staffer, and came with prescriptions for improvement. I am very grateful for their contributions to my report.”
The report is available on the Office of the Integrity Commissioner website at www.oico.on.ca
About the OIC
The Office of the Integrity Commissioner has five key responsibilities:
- MPP Integrity
- Public service disclosure of wrongdoing (whistle-blowing)
- Expenses review for Cabinet Ministers, Opposition Leaders, and their staff, and 21 of Ontario’s largest agencies
- Ministers’ staff ethical conduct
- Lobbyists registration
An Officer of the Legislative Assembly, the Integrity Commissioner is independent of government.