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Every time an election is called the questions are asked: What role can federal employees play in the campaign? Can I actively participate or must I stay on the sidelines because I work for the government?
This issue caused controversy for years because the federal Public ServiceEmployment Act explicitly outlawed election activity by federal employees. The Professional Institute played a major role in changing this situation. Indeed, we won a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 1991 that found the law’s restrictions violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms' guarantee of freedom of association and expression.
The result is that all federal employees except for the very top ranks are entitled to participate in elections like any other Canadian citizen. This means you may:
display an election sign at your home
speak out on election issues
publicly support a political party or candidate, for example at a public meeting
write your local newspaper to endorse a candidate or party
canvass door-to-door on behalf of a candidate
work in a campaign office
help a party or candidate on election day
solicit or contribute funds for a candidate or political party
Some restrictions still apply. As a federal employee you must not:
engage in political activity at your workplace
use the Employer’s electronic devices to communicate your political activity
publicly criticize the department or agency where you work
engage in activity that could put you in conflict with the responsibilities of your job
As to candidacy, federal employees may take leave and run for Parliament, provided they first seek and receive permission through the federal Public Service Commission.
The current rules establish a sensible boundary between what federal employees do on the job and their right as Canadians to participate in an election. The Institute is proud to have played a major role in striking down the archaic law that truly treated federal employees as “servants” rather than as citizens.
If you would like further clarification on this issue of political rights, please talk to your Institute steward or call the Institute's Help Desk at (613) 228-6310 or 1-800-267-0446.