July 22, 2021 - The Senate Ethics Officer (SEO) is pleased to announce that, for the first time since the adoption of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators (the Code), he is publishing two guidelines: (1) one on gifts and other benefits; and (2) the other on sponsored travel.
These guidelines provide information about the interpretation of certain rules in the Code and, as required by the Code, have been approved by the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators. They are based on actual cases.
These guidelines are general in nature and should not be considered an opinion or advice under the Code. They are only to be used as tools of reference in order to better understand the Code and how the SEO interpret and apply it as of the date of their publishing.
Guideline on Gifts and Other Benefits (Section 17 of the Code)
The following are a few key points with respect to the Guideline on Gifts and Other Benefits (Section 17 of the Code):
- Senators may not accept a gift or other benefit if it could reasonably be considered to relate to the senator’s position.
- The prohibition also applies to a senator whose family member has been offered a gift or other benefit because of the senator’s position.
- A prohibited gift or benefit is one that is given to senators in an attempt to influence them, or could be perceived as such.
- If a reasonable person would conclude that the gift or benefit was given to the senator or the senator’s family because of the senator’s position, it is unacceptable.
- Senators may accept gifts or other benefits from family and friends that are not related to their position as senators.
- Gifts and benefits that are an expression of courtesy, protocol, or hospitality are exceptions to the prohibition against receiving gifts and other benefits.
- If the value of such a gift or other benefit exceeds $500, or if the total value of gifts or benefits that a senator receives from one source in a one-year period exceeds $500 in value, these must be reported to the SEO by filing Statements of Gifts or Other Benefits within 30 days of receiving the gift or other benefit, and they will be made public in the Public Registry found on the SEO Office’s website.
Guideline on Sponsored Travel (Section 18 of the Code)
The following are a few key points with respect to the Guideline on Sponsored Travel (Section 18 of the Code):
- Travel paid for by a third party is permissible as long as the travel arises from or relates to a senator’s position.
- Sponsored travel is an exception to the prohibition under the Code against accepting gifts and other benefits.
- Sponsored travel is only acceptable where senators are travelling in their capacity as public officials, as legislators, and not in their personal/private capacity.
- In order to accept such travel, a senator must be performing a function as a public official or legislator in the context of that travel.
- Travel paid for by a third party simply because a senator holds the position of senator, but that does not involve the senator performing a function as a public official or a legislator, is unacceptable and would fall under the prohibition in the Code against receiving gifts and other benefits.
- Sponsored travel offered to a senator that arises in the context of that senator’s role as a public official but which would result in the senator, the sponsor, or the payor violating legislation -- such as the Criminal Code or the Lobbying Act -- in respect of that travel is not acceptable.
- If the travel costs of a senator and any guest of the senator exceed $500, the senator is required to report the trip to the SEO by filing a Statement of Sponsored Travel within 30 days after the end of the trip, and the Statement will be made public in the Public Registry found on the SEO Office’s website.
- Senators are not required to report sponsored travel to the SEO if the travel is paid for through the programs for international and interparliamentary affairs of the Parliament of Canada, nor if the travel is paid for by the Senate, the Government of Canada, or by the senator’s political party, even if the travel costs exceed $500.
These two new guidelines are available here.