Guidance on Letters of Reference & Support
MPPs are routinely asked to provide letters of reference. As a general guideline, the Commissioner recommends that a letter be provided only under the following conditions:
- The MPP knows the individual involved and/or has an awareness of the organization.
- The MPP maintains as much control over the letter as possible. The letter should be specifically addressed to the intended recipient. Never prepare a letter addressed “To Whom it May Concern.”
- The MPP uses appropriate letterhead.
- The MPP’s letter should not be generic, but rather as specific as possible to the matter at hand. It should directly discuss the individual, organization or cause and should address the reason(s) for which the letter is being proffered.
Request from a constituent the MPP does not know
A constituent was applying to a U.S. university, and asked the MPP to provide a letter of reference. The constituent provided a sample letter. The MPP did not know the constituent. Could the member provide the letter?
The Commissioner advised that the MPP not provide the letter because the MPP did not know the person making the request. There is no obligation on the part of MPPs to provide letters of reference to constituents.
Reference Letter for a Volunteer
An MPP was asked to provide a reference letter for an individual who volunteered on his political campaign. The individual was applying for an Ontario government job. Could the MPP write the letter?
The Commissioner advised that the MPP could provide the letter on MPP letterhead. It was explained that while ministers face restrictions when writing reference or letters of support addressed to the Ontario government, in many circumstances it is permissible for MPPs to write such letters. The MPP was advised to follow the Commissioner’s guidelines for writing letters of reference and support.
Letter of Support to a Federal Agency
Can an MPP write to a federal government agency about a decision that is pending with respect to a matter pertaining to his riding?
Given that the agency is federal and not provincial, the Commissioner advised that it would not be a violation of the Act for an MPP to write the letter.
Request from constituent regarding a court appearance
The friend of a Minister asked for a letter of reference, which was to be used as a supporting document in a court appearance. Could the Minister provide the letter?
While the Minister knows the individual well, the Commissioner advised that any involvement might be interpreted as an attempt to interfere with and/or influence the legal process, contrary to the Act. The Commissioner advised that the Minister abstain from providing a character reference unless compelled to do so by subpoena.