Members are encouraged to consult with our Office if they are unsure about their obligations. It is preferable for requests for advice to be in writing and to ask for the Commissioner’s written opinion to avoid miscommunication and to have a formal record of the advice provided. The Commissioner’s advice remains confidential, unless the Member decides to waive confidentiality. Members are entitled to rely on the Commissioner’s advice, as long as the facts presented to the Commissioner were accurate and complete.
Accepting and Disclosing Gifts
The general rule is that Members are prohibited from accepting a fee, gift or personal benefit if it is offered in connection to the performance of their official duties, whether directly or indirectly. However, there is an exception for gifts or personal benefits received “as an incident of the protocol or social obligations that normally accompany the responsibilities of office” (see section 7 of the Act). Generally, this means some kind of token gift or hospitality offered in conjunction with an official function, such as giving a speech.
If a Member does accept a gift, it must be disclosed to the Commissioner within 30 days of receipt if its value exceeds $250, or if the total value of all gifts received from one source within a 12 month period exceeds $250. See Gifts Declaration Form (Form 5).
IMPORTANT: JUST BECAUSE A GIFT IS VALUED AT UNDER $250, DOES NOT MEAN IT IS OK TO ACCEPT IT.
Members must still determine whether it is appropriate to accept it in the circumstances (i.e. fits the “incident of protocol” exception).
Sponsored travel (travel paid for in whole or in part by a third party) is only acceptable under certain circumstances; for example, if no commercial option is available or if required in order to participate in a genuine fact finding tour. Sponsored travel is considered a gift and the same rules for acceptability and disclosure apply. For more information on this topic, please refer to the Sponsored Travel bulletin.
Letters of Reference and Support
Nothing in the Act prohibits the activities in which Members normally engage on behalf of constituents, such as writing a letter of reference or support for a constituent or local group. The Commissioner has issued Guidelines on when it is appropriate to do so.