As it was originally enacted, the Public Service Employment Act did not allow federal public sector workers to take part in political activities beyond simply casting their vote. PSAC and other federal unions challenged this in court and finally, in 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a Federal Court of Appeal decision that struck down restrictions on the political rights of federal public service employees. The Court also confirmed that restrictions on political activities should not apply to the vast majority of federal workers.
One of the hallmarks of a healthy democracy is the ability of citizens to participate freely and actively in determining who they elect to govern and make decisions on their behalf.
As the fall federal election approaches, PSAC members are reminded that they have political rights and encouraged to take an active role in exercising them by …
- Signing a candidate’s nomination papers.
- Wearing a party or candidate button in public.
- Placing an election sign on your property.
- Giving political opinions in public or elsewhere.
- Working as a canvasser for a political party or candidate.
- Working in a campaign office.
- Participating in the formation of party or candidate policies.
- Taking part in election-day activities on behalf of a party or candidate.
- Attending peaceful demonstrations on political topics.
- Soliciting funds from the public for political campaigns and parties.
- Attending a political convention as a delegate.
- Writing letters to the editor endorsing a candidate or party.
For some PSAC members – those covered by the Public Service Employment Act – some restrictions apply. None of the activities listed in the previous column should be carried out during your working hours.
There are also separate and special rules that apply if you wish to be a candidate in a federal, territorial, municipal or provincial election.
When determining how you want to exercise your democratic rights, follow some guiding principles:
- Don’t conduct any political activity on the job.
- Don’t identify yourself as a federal public sector worker when working on a campaign, e.g. canvassing, making phone calls, etc.
- Don’t identify yourself as a federal public sector worker when communicating opinions about election issues, political parties and politicians through blogs, Facebook, Twitter or other social media.
- Don’t wear your uniform if you are required to wear one at work, or your government identification, at public meetings such as candidates’ meetings.
- Don’t drive a government identified vehicle when participating in election activities.
If you are disciplined in any way for participation in a political activity, this can be grieved. If you are disciplined, contact your Local/ Branch or your Component for representation and advise your PSAC regional office. Any attempts by management to restrict your political rights should also be brought to the attention of the PSAC regional office.