I am pleased to provide a response to the letter released by Mike Boudreau, President of OntORA.

To be clear, my priority with respect to crown land access is that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) ensures the greatest possible access to crown land for the enjoyment and use by all Ontarians.

Current and former Ontario government employees are governed by conflict of interest rules, which require declarations of any activities that are deemed to be in potential conflict with their duties as public servants.

If a current MNR employee wishes to obtain a right, title or interest in Crown land, section 39 of the Public Lands Act requires that this employee obtain Lieutenant Governor in Council (LGIC) approval.

MNR has a policy—public lands directive 4.11.06 Disposition of Crown Land to Ministry Employees—which clarifies when MNR employees need to declare potential conflict of interest issues or when they need LGIC approval.

While section 39 of the Public Lands Act only applies to current MNR employees, both current and former public servants are required to notify the ethics executive if they engage in an activity that may result in an actual or potential conflict of interest under the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006.

Current and former employees must fill out the Conflict of Interest Declaration Form, and must not proceed with the activity until a ruling is made.

The Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 (PSOA) requires Ontario Public Service employees to declare potential situations of conflict of interest to their Ministry ethics executive.

Prior to 2006, conflicts of interest were governed under the Public Service Act, which first took effect in 1913.

These requirements are in place to create a level playing field and ensure that ministry employees do not receive any preferential treatment, or benefit from special knowledge, by virtue of their employment with MNR.

In 2008 the Ombudsman’s office reviewed this issue and investigated a complaint that some MNR employees owned or had interests in tourism-related businesses.

“After one of our investigators reviewed the complaint and obtained clarifying information from the ministry, we determined there was no basis on which to pursue the complaint further,” said Ombudsman spokesperson Linda Williamson.

I encourage anyone who has a concern to come forward with evidence and submit it to my office, as well as to the Office of the Ombudsman.

David Orazietti
Minister of Natural Resources