Competition Bureau guidelines on conflict of interest

Table of contents

1. Introduction

The Competition Bureau Guidelines on Conflict of Interest (the "Guidelines") set out the approach of the Commissioner of Competition (the "Commissioner") and the Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”) with respect to real, apparent and potential conflict of interest situations, which may arise during and after employment in the public service.

The Bureau’s Deputy Commissioner of Compliance and Operations (the “DC C&O”)Footnote 1 is the delegated authority at the Bureau responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Treasury Board Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector (the “TBS Code”) and the Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment (the “TBS Conflicts Policy”)Footnote 2 , as supplemented by the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Values and Ethics Code (the “ISED Code”)Footnote 3 and these Guidelines.

The Bureau’s ability to preserve and secure the integrity of commercially sensitive information and other information that is not available to the public is essential to the effective enforcement and administration of the Competition Act, the Textile Labelling Act, the Precious Metals Marking Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. Public trust in the honesty and integrity of Bureau employeesFootnote 4 , who have access to commercially sensitive information, is key to the continued effectiveness of the Bureau. Accordingly, it is vitally important for all employees of the Bureau to be aware of the ethical standards to which they must adhere, and to be alert to the fact that an apparent conflict of interest could be just as damaging as a real one.

A conflict of interest is a situation in which a Bureau employee has private interests that could improperly influence the performance of his or her official duties and responsibilities or in which a Bureau employee uses his or her position for personal gain.

A real conflict of interest exists at the present time; an apparent conflict of interest exists when a reasonable, well-informed person believes that a private interest could improperly influence the performance of a Bureau employee’s duties and responsibilities, whether or not it is the case; and a potential conflict of interest is one that could reasonably be foreseen to exist in the future.

In contrast, a conflict of duties arises not because of a Bureau employee’s private interests, but as a result of one or more concurrent or competing official responsibilities. For example, these responsibilities could include his or her primary public service employment mandate and his or her powers, duties or functions in a role outside the Bureau that forms part of his or her official duties, such as participating in a standards setting organization or other outside function.

Commercially sensitive information in the possession or control of the Bureau can be any information about a person, an organization or its business activities, which has not been made public. The use of such information for personal financial gain, directly or indirectly, is unethical and would result in a conflict of interest situation. The dissemination of any type of commercially sensitive information, both internally and externally, must be strictly guarded against at the Bureau. This information should never be discussed with, or provided to, anyone who has no work-related need to know.

To avoid conflict of interest situations arising from the communication of commercially sensitive information, employees should be familiar with the prohibitions against the communication of certain classes of information, found in section 29 of the Competition Act and in the Information Bulletin on the Communication of Confidential Information under the Competition Act.

2. Purpose

The Guidelines impose obligations on Bureau employees, including a mandatory, annual Attestation confirming that the employee has read the applicable policies, has reviewed his or her personal circumstances in light of those requirements and, as required, has filed or will file a Disclosure Reporting Form (“DRF”). The Guidelines also clarify the obligations of employees, including Executive Group members, under the TBS Code and the TBS Conflicts Policy, as supplemented by the ISED Code (collectively, the “COI Policies”). The Guidelines set out procedures and establish measures for reporting and managing a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest.

3. Objective and basic principles

The TBS Code outlines the values and expected behaviours that should guide public servants in all activities related to their professional duties. The TBS Conflicts Policy ensures that in situations of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest and in situations where there is a conflict of duties, decisions are made in a manner that upholds the public interest. The TBS Conflicts Policy also facilitates ethical decision-making within organizations and by public servants to resolve conflicts between private and public interests, and establishes measures to help public servants prevent, manage and resolve conflict of interest and post-employment situations that could impair either the integrity of the public service or the public’s perception of its integrity. The ISED Code establishes a code of conduct consistent with the TBS Code. It focuses on ethical conduct, a respectful and professional workplace, and integrity. It also includes clear accountabilities for maintaining and enhancing public trust and provides direction and measures to assist public servants in effectively dealing with real, apparent and potential conflict of interest situations which may arise during or after their employment in the public service.

The Guidelines describe situations which could give rise to real, apparent or potential conflict of interest situations resulting from (i) the Bureau’s access to commercially sensitive information that is not otherwise available to the public; (ii) assets and liabilities held by employees; (iii) outside employment and activities of employees; or (iv) the receipt of gifts, hospitality and other benefits. The Guidelines also describe the compliance measures to be followed should a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest situation arise during the course of employment at the Bureau.

Conflicts of interest do not relate exclusively to matters concerning financial transactions and the transfer of economic benefit. While financial activity is important, a conflict of interest in any area of activity can negatively affect the perceived objectivity and impartiality of the public service. Avoiding apparent conflicts is especially important with respect to activities in social media and when using electronic communication devices.

4. Application

The Guidelines apply to all indeterminate and term employees (full and part-time), employees on leave with or without pay, students, persons on secondment to the Bureau and casuals, including other government employees who have access to Bureau information (e.g., employees managing IT networks at the Chief Information Office). Although they are not public servants, individuals on incoming Interchange Canada assignments are expected to comply with the requirements of the COI Policies and the Guidelines. Bureau contractors are required to respect the spirit and intent of these requirements.

The Commissioner is not subject to the COI Policies. As a Governor in Council appointee, the Commissioner is subject to the Conflicts of Interest Actand the Conflict of Interest and Post‑Employment Code for Public Office Holders. The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is responsible for the administration and enforcement of these statutes.

Bureau employees should ensure that they have read and are in compliance with the COI Policies and the Guidelines. The requirements for Bureau employees in the Guidelines form part of the terms and conditions of employment for every Bureau employee. Bureau employees should be aware that failure to comply with any of the procedures or measures set out in the Guidelines and COI Policies, including the obligations to file an annual Attestation and, where required, to file a DRF or annual financial statement, can subject an employee to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

5. General responsibilities and duties

Bureau employees’ general responsibilities and duties include:

  1. Acting at all times with integrity, and in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that may not be fully satisfied by simply acting within the law;
  2. Taking all possible steps to recognize, prevent, report, and resolve any real, apparent or potential conflict of interest between their official responsibilities and their private affairs;
  3. Refraining from having private interests, which would be unduly affected by government actions in which they participate or of which they have knowledge or information;
  4. Ensuring that any real, apparent or potential conflict that arises between their private activities and their official responsibilities as a Bureau employee is resolved in the public interest;
  5. Not knowingly taking advantage of, or benefiting from, information obtained in the course of their duties that is not available to the public;
  6. Refraining from the direct or indirect use of, or allowing the direct or indirect use of, government property of any kind, including property leased to the government, for anything other than officially approved activities;
  7. Not assisting private entities or persons in their dealings with the government where such assistance would result in preferential treatment of the entities or persons;
  8. Not interfering in the dealings of private entities or persons with the government in order to inappropriately influence the outcome;
  9. Maintaining the impartiality of the public service and not engaging in any outside or political activities that impair or could be seen to impair their ability to perform their duties in an objective or impartial manner;
  10. Treating confidential information obtained in the course of the administration or enforcement of the four above-named Acts responsibly and in accordance with the law; and
  11. Following all procedures and measures outlined in this Guideline.

6. Compliance measures

These compliance measures set out the procedural and administrative requirements to be observed by Bureau employees in order to prevent or minimize the risk of conflict of interest and to permit the resolution of a conflict of interest in favour of the public interest, should such a conflict arise. Each employee is responsible for taking the action necessary to prevent real, apparent or potential conflict of interest situations.

6.1. Procedures

Every Bureau employee must file an Attestation, indicating whether they do or do not have any reportable interests, at the time of initial appointment and at the time of any subsequent appointment, transfer or deployment. In addition, employees must attest annually that they have reviewed their personal circumstances in light of the requirements of this Guideline and the COI Policies. Employees without any reportable interests are only required to file an Attestation. Employees with reportable interests must file an Attestation and a DRF.

In particular, employees who have reportable assets or liabilities, outside employment or activities, gifts, hospitality or other benefits, or any other interest which could give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest situation as set out in the COI Policies or the Guideline, must disclose the interest by filing a DRF with the DC C&O. Such disclosure must be submitted within 60 days of any appointment, transfer or deployment, or within such other reasonable timeline as determined by the DC C&O to address any real, apparent or potential conflict of interest.

Employees must review their compliance obligations every time a major change occurs in their personal circumstances or official duties and where such change gives rise to a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest, a DRF must be filed in a timely manner. Changes that may trigger the requirement to file a new Attestation and DRF include:

  • appointment, deployment or transfer to a new position within the Bureau;
  • a significant change in the duties of an employee’s existing position (e.g., assignment to a special project); or
  • a significant change in an employee’s assets, liabilities, outside activities or other reportable interests.

The DC C&O will review DRFs and updates and, as required, consult with Competition Bureau Legal Services, Department of Justice, and/or the employee’s manager to obtain more information on the employee’s work and responsibilities to assist in determining whether a conflict of interest exists and to determine appropriate measures to address any such conflict.

The DC C&O will keep a central repository of Attestations and DRFs and will report annually to the Bureau’s Senior Management Committee and the department in order to ensure the Guidelines remain effective and relevant. Information contained in DRFs is considered personal information and is protected under the Privacy Act. In addition, any reports will not disclose employees’ names or specific assets in order to ensure privacy rights are respected.

6.2. Determination of compliance measures

The guiding principle for resolving conflict of interest situations is that any conflict between private interests and the public interest is to be resolved in favour of the public interest. When determining which compliance measure is most appropriate, the DC C&O will attempt to achieve mutual agreement with the employee. The DC C&O takes into account such factors as:

  1. The employee's specific duties and responsibilities;
  2. The Bureau’s institutional risks related to the specific conflict of interest;
  3. The value and type of assets and liabilities involved, the nature of the outside employment or activity, or of the gifts, hospitality and other benefits;
  4. How the situation would appear to a reasonable member of the public;
  5. The possibility that an employee may be in a situation of having to choose between loyalty to the Bureau and loyalty to private interests or outside activities; and
  6. The actual cost to be incurred by implementing the compliance measure(s), as compared to the severity of the risk represented.

After considering these factors, the DC C&O may determine that the submission of a DRF is in itself a sufficient measure and does not require any additional measures.

Where the DC C&O determines that the information in a DRF raises a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest in relation to a Bureau employee’s official duties, the employee may be required to divest his or her assets, or to take other measures to resolve the conflict. All measures to be implemented in relation to a particular conflict of interest will be clearly identified in a written document. Until the implementation is complete, the DC C&O and the Bureau employee will take appropriate interim measures to mitigate the conflict of interest during that time.

Where the DC C&O determines that a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists, it is expected that measures required to manage or to resolve the conflict of interest will normally be in place within 120 calendar days, or such other appropriate time period as determined by the DC C&O.

All files and documentation for managing conflicts of interest are protected in accordance with the Privacy Actand the Treasury Board Security Organization and Administration Standard.Information pertaining to a conflict of interest will be shared only as necessary to address the conflict of interest situation.

7. Measures for managing financial conflicts of interest

Measures for managing financial conflicts of interest range from simple agreements to avoid the conflict of interest to full divestment by relinquishment, sale or transfer. Using a combination of these measures may, in some circumstances, be the most effective way to resolve a particular conflict of interest. Types of measures that may be used to manage and resolve financial conflicts of interest are set out below.

7.1. Assets and liabilitiesFootnote 5

Bureau employees are required to evaluate their assets and liabilities, taking into consideration the nature of their official duties and the characteristics of their assets and liabilities. Given the sensitive nature of the Bureau’s work, it is the policy of the Commissioner of Competition that, as a general rule, Bureau employees are not permitted to buy or sell, directly or indirectly, publicly traded securities. This includes situations where a Bureau employee manages investments on behalf of anyone (including a family member), or advises anyone on specific investments. Public servants may not sell or transfer assets to anyone (including family members) or take any measures for the purpose of circumventing the COI Policies or the Guidelines.

The subsections below provide non-exclusive lists of assets and liabilities which must be reported, and others which are exempt from reporting. If in doubt as to whether or not a planned financial transaction is reportable or might give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, Bureau employees should consult with the DC C&O before entering into the transaction.

7.1.1. Reportable assets and liabilities

Conflicts of interest arising from a Bureau employee’s assets and liabilities do not require that the employee anticipate or receive an economic benefit. The existence of the asset or liability in the context of the Bureau employee’s official duties and responsibilities can in itself give rise to conflicts. Reportable assets and liabilities must be disclosed in a DRF whether or not the employee views them as giving rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest.

The types of assets and liabilities that must be reported are:

  1. Publicly traded securities of corporations and foreign governments, including but not limited to:
    1. Stocks, shares or bonds held individually;
    2. Shares, units or similar equity interests in Exchange-Traded Funds (“ETF”) that are industry-specific (i.e., that concentrate their investments in specific businesses or industries);
    3. Shares, units or similar equity interests in other industry-specific investment funds;
    4. Publicly traded securities, such as those described above, held in self‑directed or self‑administered Registered Retirement Savings Plans, Registered Education Savings Plans, Tax Free Savings Accounts, or similar tax related saving vehicles established for the employee’s own benefit or for the benefit of others;
  2. Interests in partnerships, proprietorships, joint ventures, private companies and family businesses;
  3. Commercially operated farm businesses;
  4. Real property that is not for the private use of Bureau employees or their family members;
  5. Commodities, futures and foreign currencies held or traded for speculative purposes;
  6. Assets described in this section placed in trust or resulting from an estate of which the Bureau employee is a beneficiary;
  7. Secured or unsecured loans granted to persons other than to members of the Bureau employee's immediate family;
  8. Direct and contingent liabilities in respect of any of the assets described in this section; and
  9. Any other assets or liabilities that could give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest due to the particular nature of the Bureau employee's official duties and responsibilities.

7.1.2. Exempt assets and liabilities

Assets for the private use of Bureau employees and their family members, assets or liabilities that are not of a commercial character, as well as certain types of investments are exempt and not required to be disclosed in a DRF. For example, such assets may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Residences, recreational properties and farms used or intended for use by Bureau employees or their families, and mortgages on such properties;
  2. Household goods and personal effects;
  3. Works of art, antiques and collectibles;
  4. Automobiles and other personal means of transportation;
  5. Cash and deposits other than foreign currencies held for speculative purposes;
  6. Securities of fixed value issued or guaranteed by any level of government in Canada or agencies of those governments;
  7. Investments in limited partnerships that are not traded publicly and whose assets are exempt assets;
  8. Public sector debt financing not guaranteed by a level of government, such as university and hospital debt financing;
  9. Assets held in Registered Retirement Savings Plans, Registered Education Saving Plans, Tax Free Savings Accounts, or similar other tax related saving vehicles that are not self-administered or self-directed;
  10. Investments in a diversified investment fund (i.e., a fund that does not concentrate its investments in specific businesses or industries, including but not limited to, diversified Exchange-Traded Funds (“ETF”), money market mutual funds and diversified mutual funds);
  11. Guaranteed investment certificates, certificates of deposit and similar financial instruments;
  12. Annuities and life insurance policies;
  13. Pension rights;
  14. Money owed by a previous employer, client or partnership;
  15. Personal loans receivable from members of Bureau employees' immediate families and small personal loans receivable from other persons where Bureau employees have loaned the moneys receivable; and
  16. Any liability, such as a car loan, home renovation loan, or credit card account, from a financial institution or business entity granted on terms available to the general public.

7.2. Management measures

7.2.1. Divestment

The DC C&O may require that a Bureau employee eliminate any risk of a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest arising from an asset or liability. Options include divesting the asset or liability through sale or transfer to another person at arm’s length, relinquishing the asset, paying the debt or extinguishing the liability.

A divestment by sale or transfer to another person must be documented, must consist of the employee’s total interest in the asset or liability, and must be made at arm’s length. The employee is to provide the DC C&O, in a timely manner, with copies of documentation verifying the sale or transfer.

Similarly, a divestment by relinquishment or payment must be documented and must consist of the employee’s total interest in the asset, debt or liability. The Bureau employee is to provide the DC C&O, with copies of documentation verifying the relinquishment or payment (in a timely manner).

7.2.2. Freeze and avoid

It is recognized that an organization such as the Bureau may consider the use of combinations of measures if the combination would be the most effective way to resolve a conflict of interest in a particular situation.

At the Bureau, the “freeze-and-avoid” agreement is such a combination, and is used to address specific conflict of interest risks unique to the Bureau. The asset-freezing element is aimed at eliminating any direct control by the Bureau employee over his or her assets that give rise to a conflict of interest. The avoidance component is aimed at eliminating any indirect control by the employee over these assets.

The terms of a “freeze-and-avoid” agreement must provide that:

  1. The employee not take any action involving his or her securities or other reportable assets or liabilities in the portfolio for the duration of his or her employment at the Bureau;
  2. The employee keep copies of the investment statements from his or her broker, or other official form of proof, as evidence that there have been no transactions involving the securities or other assets or liabilities in the portfolio;
  3. The employee will provide a copy of these statements to the DC C&O once a year, by April 30 of each year;
  4. The employee will avoid or withdraw from any work assignment, activity or other situation relating to his or her securities or other reportable assets or liabilities in the portfolio; and
  5. Should the name of the company(ies) in which the employee holds securities or other reportable assets or liabilities be communicated to him or her during the course of his or her employment at the Bureau, directly or indirectly, the employee will immediately withdraw from the work assignment, activity or situation and advise the DC C&O of the same.

7.2.3. Blind trusts

A blind trust places assets of a Bureau employee in a trust managed by a trustee. The trustee is empowered to exercise all of the rights and privileges associated with those assets, including the power to sell, with no direction from or control by the Bureau employee. No information is provided to the Bureau employee except as required by law or the trust agreement.

The selection of a trustee by the Bureau employee must be made with care. The trustee must be at an arm’s length relationship with the Bureau employee. The trustee would normally be an investment company, a trust, a public trustee or an individual, such as a lawyer, who performs trustee duties in the course of his or her work.

The DC C&O must approve the specific blind trust agreement and the trustee(s), including replacement and additional trustees under the instrument. The feasibility of establishing a blind trust, as well as the specific terms and conditions of the blind trust, will be determined through consultation with Treasury Board.

7.3. Cost reimbursement

The Bureau may reimburse a Bureau employee for reasonable administrative costs incurred by the Bureau employee as a result of measures taken under the COI Policies or Guidelines to manage a conflict of interest arising from the Bureau employee’s reported assets or liabilities. The Bureau may set restrictions or limits on the extent to which costs will be reimbursed in any case.

No reimbursement will be made for:

  1. charges for day-to-day operations of a business or commercial entity;
  2. charges associated with winding down a business;
  3. costs for acquiring assets using proceeds from the required sale of other assets;
  4. costs related to arrangements not directed or approved by the Bureau;
  5. costs related to conflicts of interest arising from assets or liabilities of the Bureau employee acquired after the initial appointment of the Bureau employee;
  6. costs incurred prior to the reporting of the asset or liability; and
  7. costs incurred by the Bureau employee in completing a report of assets and liabilities to the DC C&O as required under the COI Policies and Guidelines.

The Bureau employee is responsible for any income tax adjustment that may result from the reimbursement of administrative costs.

8. Measures for managing other conflicts of interest

Conflicts of interest do not relate exclusively to matters concerning financial transactions and the transfer of economic benefit. While financial activity is important, conflicts of interest in any area of activity can have a negative effect on the perceived objectivity of the Bureau and its employees.

8.1. Outside employment or activities

Bureau employees may engage in employment outside the Bureau and the public service and may participate in outside activities, unless the employment or activity gives rise or is likely to give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest or would undermine the impartiality or integrity of the public service or the objectivity of the Bureau employee.

Bureau employees are required to provide a DRF to the DC C&O when their outside employment or activities might subject them to demands incompatible with their official duties, or cast doubt on their ability to perform their duties in a completely objective manner. The DC C&O may require that outside employment or an activity be modified or terminated if it is determined that a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists.

Bureau employees who receive a benefit or income either directly or indirectly from a contract with the Government of Canada are required to report to the DC C&O on such contractual or other arrangements. The DC C&O will determine whether the arrangement presents a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, and may require that the contract be modified or terminated.

8.1.1. Avoidance measures

Avoidance measures may include:

  1. shorter-term measures such as
    1. voluntary recusal or withdrawal,
    2. rearrangement of employee duties,
    3. independent or additional internal oversight,
    4. reassignment of work tasks, and
    5. verifying access to information and involvement in activities; and
  2. longer-term measures such as
    1. deployment,
    2. leave of absence,
    3. assignment,
    4. secondment, and
    5. participation in the Interchange Canada program.

The determination of the appropriate avoidance measure will take into account the employee’s personal concerns, if any, regarding the sharing of their conflicts information with management. Notwithstanding these concerns, the DC C&O is responsible for ensuring that the conflict of interest situation is effectively resolved and will determine and document the appropriate avoidance measure.

8.1.2. Board of directors

The Bureau recognizes that the participation of a Bureau employee as a member of a board of directors of an organization, society or association can present certain benefits to the employee as well as the Bureau. However, whether the membership arises from an appointment to a board either from his or her personal interests or as part of his or her official duties, it can also involve significant risks of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest or of real, apparent or potential conflict of duties, respectively. Other risks related to the participation on boards of directors involve legal, financial, civil and other liabilities to the Crown. These risks must be managed effectively because the effect on the Bureau could be significant if any of these risks were to occur.

To assist Bureau employees and their managers in determining whether or not participation on a board of directors would create a situation of a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest or conflict of duties, or a potential liability to the Crown, an assessment tool can be found in section 10 of the Guidelines.

If Bureau employees are currently sitting on, or are thinking of joining, the board of directors of an organization, society or association, or where Bureau employees are being considered by the Commissioner for an appointment to a board of directors as part of their official duties, they should complete the Board of Directors Assessment Tool to assist them in determining whether such activity could result in a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest. Employees are encouraged to consult with their manager in making this determination and should seek direction from the DC C&O where they are uncertain.

In most cases, membership on a board that is limited to the employee’s personal family affairs, for example, their church, their family members’ school or sports organizations, their condominium association where they reside, does not give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest. This said, every situation should be assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into account the employee’s official duties, existing files and general Bureau business at that time.

8.1.3. Political activities

The Public Service Employment Act defines “political activity” as any activity in support of, within or in opposition to, a political party; any activity in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate before or during an election period; or seeking nomination as, or being a candidate in, an election before or during the election period. Political activities include joining a political party; contributing funds to a political party or attending political fund-raising functions; attending political party events; carrying out administrative activities on behalf of a political party; or supporting a political party or candidate by, for example, displaying political material, organizing political events, expressing personal views or opinions on public issues, and developing promotional material for a political party or candidate. Of course, voting in an election is a political activity that is permissible in all instances.

Bureau employees taking part in any political activity should ensure that the nature of their participation does not conflict with their ability to remain loyal to the Government of Canada; to maintain an impartial and effective public service; and to be politically neutral, in consideration of their position and visibility as Bureau employees.

Bureau employees are encouraged to use the political activities self-assessment tool on the PSC website or to discuss the matter with their manager or the DC C&O.

Bureau employees are required to seek and obtain permission from the Public Service Commission (the “PSC”)Footnote 6 prior to seeking nomination as a candidate in a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal election. The PSC Political Activities Regulations describe the process that employees must follow to request permission from the PSC. To ensure that the political activities do not raise a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, Bureau employees are encouraged to consult the DC C&O.

8.1.4. Avoidance of preferential treatment

Bureau employees are responsible for demonstrating objectivity and impartiality in the exercise of their duties and in their decision making. This means that they are prohibited from granting preferential treatment or advantages to family, friends or any other person or entity. They are not to offer extraordinary assistance to any entity or persons already dealing with the Bureau or government. They also are not to disadvantage any entity or persons dealing with the Bureau or government because of personal antagonism or bias.

Providing information that is publicly accessible is not considered preferential treatment.

8.2. Gifts, hospitality and other benefits

Bureau employees are expected to use their best judgment to avoid situations of real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest by considering the following criteria on gifts, hospitality and other benefits, while keeping in mind the full context of the COI Policies.

Employees are not to accept any gifts, hospitality or other benefits that may have a real, apparent or potential influence on their objectivity in carrying out their official duties and responsibilities or that may place or appear to place them under obligation to the donor. This includes activities such as free or discounted admission to sporting or cultural events, travel or conferences.

Although the normal expectation is that a Bureau employee will not accept gifts, hospitality or other benefits, such acceptance is permissible if the gift, hospitality or other benefit:

  1. Is infrequent and of minimal value (normally equal to or less than $50CAD);
  2. Is within the normal standards of courtesy or protocol;
  3. Arises out of activities or events related to official duties of the Bureau employee; and
  4. Does not compromise or appear to compromise the integrity of the Bureau employee or that of the Bureau in any way.

In case of doubt, it is best to decline the gift, hospitality or other benefit.

Soliciting or accepting a commission, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind from a person or commercial organization that has dealings with the Bureau or the Government of Canada, without obtaining the required written consent of the DC C&O, may be an offence under the Criminal Code, as well as a serious breach of the COI Policies. Such solicitation or acceptance could be considered a bribe.

Bureau employees are to seek written direction from the DC C&O where it is impossible to decline gifts, hospitality or other benefits that do not meet the principles set out above, or where it is believed that there is sufficient benefit to the Bureau to warrant their acceptance.

8.3. Use of social media

With the permanent and pervasive nature of information technology, Bureau employees should be particularly sensitive to real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest that may arise from messages and information transmitted via the Internet and other media. Interactions on the Internet and on social media can be republished or repurposed without their original context and may be permanently accessible.

When using social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, Bureau employees are required to follow the ISED Code and respect the Network Usage Policy. Bureau employees using social media are expected to apply the same kind of judgment they would use for any other workplace activity, such as sending email or talking on the phone.

When using social media, Bureau employees should always:

  1. Make it clear that they do not represent the Bureau’s views if they are not designated spokespersons, which includes refraining from using Government of Canada symbols or signatures,
  2. Avoid statements that would appear to impair their ability to perform official duties,
  3. Respect confidentiality and privacy,
  4. Maintain political neutrality and impartiality, and
  5. Respect their duty of loyalty by not causing harm to the Bureau, ISED or the Government of Canada and their reputation and programs.

If in doubt about an online activity, Bureau employees should contact the DC C&O.

9. Post-employment conflict of interest situations

Before leaving the Bureau, employees are to disclose their intentions regarding any future outside employment or activities that may pose a risk of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with their current responsibilities, and are to discuss potential conflicts with their manager and the DC C&O.

Bureau employees in certain designated positions (classified as EX, EX minus 1, EX minus 2, and equivalent)Footnote 7 are subject to a one-year limitation period after leaving office, during which they are required to refrain from certain activities. Before leaving office and during this one-year limitation period, these employees are to report to the DC C&O all firm offers of employment or proposed activity outside the public service that could place them in a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with their public service employment. They are also to disclose immediately the acceptance of any such offer.

9.1. Post-employment limitations

Bureau employees may not, during the one-year limitation period, without the DC C&O’s written authorization:

  1. accept appointment to a board of directors of, or employment with, private entities with which they had significant official dealings during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service. The official dealings in question may either be directly on the part of the public servant or through his or her subordinates;
  2. make representations on behalf of persons or entities outside of the public service to any government organization with which they had significant official dealings, during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service.Footnote 8 The official dealings in question may either be directly on the part of the public servant or through his or her subordinates; or
  3. give advice to their clients or employer using information that is not publicly available concerning the programs or policies of the Bureau or of departments or organizations with which they had a direct and substantial relationship.

9.2. Waiver or reduction of limitation period

A Bureau employee or former employee may apply to the DC C&O for a written waiver or reduction of the one-year limitation period. The employee is to provide sufficient information to assist the DC C&O in making a determination as to whether to grant the waiver, taking into consideration the following criteria:

  1. the circumstances under which the termination of service occurred;
  2. the general employment prospects of the Bureau employee or former employee;
  3. the significance to the Bureau or the government of information possessed by the employee or former employee by virtue of that individual’s position in the public service;
  4. the desirability of a rapid transfer of the Bureau employee’s or former employee’s knowledge and skills from the government to private, other governmental or non-governmental sectors;
  5. the degree to which the new employer might gain unfair commercial or private advantage by hiring the Bureau employee or former employee;
  6. the authority and influence possessed by that individual while at the Bureau; and
  7. any other consideration at the discretion of the DC C&O.

10. Useful links

Attestation

Board of Directors Assessment Tool

Competition Bureau Procedures for Publishing Articles

Disclosure Reporting Form

Guidance on the Use of Social Media

The Handling and Disposal of Protected and Classified Records

Information Bulletin on the Communication of Confidential Information under the Competition Act

ISED Conflict of Interest Guideline – Gifts and Hospitality

ISED Instrument of Sub-Delegation of Human Resources Authorities

ISED Values and Ethics Code

ISED Values and Ethics Disclosure Review Guidelines

Political Activities Guidelines and Requesting Leave to be a Candidate

Political Activity Self-Assessment Tool

Treasury Board Contracting Policy

Treasury Board Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment

Treasury Board Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector

Values Alive: A Discussion Guide to the “Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector”

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