Note: Due to changes we made to the Public Lands Act in 2021, this policy is under review.

Read the regulatory registry for more information on the recent Public Lands Act changes. If you have any questions, contact your local district office.

Subject: Disposition of Crown Land to a Ministry Employee
Policy: PL 4.11.06
Compiled by – branch: Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch
Section: Crown Lands Section
Date issued: July 23, 2018
Replaces directive title: Same
Number: PL 4.11.06
Date issued: January 23, 2011

1.0 Introduction

The purpose of this policy is to describe, as well as to provide direction for complying with, the requirements set out in Public Lands Act Section 39 which state:

  1. No person holding an office in or under the Ministry and no person employed in or under the Ministry shall, directly or indirectly, purchase any right, title or interest in any public lands either in the person’s own name or by the interposition of any other person or in the name of any other person in trust for the person without the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
  2. Subsection (1) does not apply when a purchase is made of a right, title or interest in public lands for private use at a public auction or when the purchase is made for private use and the purchaser is selected by public draw.

Other than the circumstances outlined in Public Lands Act Section 39 (2) and further clarified in Section 4.0 of this policy, approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council is required, by Order in Council, when an Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) employee seeks purchase a right, title or interest in public land.

2.0 Program direction

This policy applies provincially to the disposition of a right, title or interest in public land that is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to a Ministry employee.

In respect of the purchase of surplus acquired property, the Ministry of Infrastructure (MOI) should be consulted for any additional requirements on the purchase of surplus real property by government employees. The district staff reviewing the file should consult with MNRF’s Lands Business Unit of Program Services Section (Regional Operations Division) who will liaise with MOI regarding the requirements for disposition of surplus real property to government employees. Disposition of real property also requires approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council and, if required, Management Board/Treasury Board of Cabinet approval.

3.0 Goal

To ensure that Public Lands Act Section 39 is fully complied with when MNRF employees seek a right, title or interest in public lands.

3.1 Policy objectives and strategies

  1. To identify requirements that apply where an MNRF employee seeks to obtain a right, title or interest in public lands.

    Order in Council requirements are imposed to ensure compliance with Public Lands Act Section 39 and to ensure that MNRF employees seeking to purchase a right, title or interest in public lands do not receive any preferential treatment, or benefit from special knowledge, by virtue of their employment or office in MNRF.

    Table A of this policy identifies Order in Council requirements and/or other rules that apply when the disposition of a right, title or interest in public land is being made to an MNRF employee, unless one of the circumstances contained in Section 4.0 of this policy apply. The approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council should not be assumed.

  2. To ensure that the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council is obtained before an occupational authority document for a right, title or interest in public lands is issued.

    Except as provided in Section 4.0 of this policy, the local District Supervisor is responsible to ensure that a requisition for an occupational authority document to convey a right, title or interest in public is not submitted to the District Manager for approval or sent to the Ministry’s Crown Land Registry, without approval from the Lieutenant Governor in Council for the employee to obtain the land.

    Procedure PL 4.01.01 Obtaining Orders in Council provides details on obtaining an Order in Council under Public Lands Act Section 39.

  3. To ensure compliance with the Public Service of Ontario Act.

    Employees shall not exert any influence in decision making respecting their application or the application of their spouses or children. Where there is potential for a conflict of interest, MNRF employees must complete the Conflict of Interest Declaration Form.

4.0 Circumstances when this policy does not apply

This policy does not apply if:

  1. An employee obtains a right, title or interest in public lands by will or inheritance. In this case there is no purchase of the right, title or interest, the employee is simply owning the right, title or interest of the deceased previous owner.
  2. The spouse or child of the employee, who is also not an employee, makes an application to purchase a right, title or interest in public land. In this case the following paragraph must be added to the application:
    I make this application on my own behalf. I am neither interposing for an employee (or officer) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, nor intend to hold the subject lands in trust for an employee (or officer) of the Ministry.

    Although spouses or children of employees making the above declaration do not require approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council to acquire an interest in public lands, the employee still needs to meet their obligations to declare potential conflict of interest in some situations (e.g. an employee working in the lands program in the local district office should not review an application submitted by their spouse or child; See Section 5.0 below).

  3. An employee acquires a right, title or interest in public lands, when the public lands are disposed of for private use, by public auction or public draw. This policy exception acknowledges that the employee would not have any undue advantages in these types of dispositions.

5.0 Conflict of interest

The Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA) defines conflict of interest as any situation where a public servant’s private interests may be in conflict with their public service responsibilities. Conflict of interest rules assist public servants to act honestly and honorably in all situations. Conflict of interest rules prohibit ministry employees from:

  • using their position to benefit themselves, their spouse or children
  • accepting gifts
  • disclosing confidential information (i.e. during and after employment with the public service)
  • giving preferential treatment
  • hiring their spouse, children, parents or siblings
  • engaging in outside activities that conflict with their public servant duties
  • making personal use of government resources
  • special provisions for public servants involved in matters that involve the private sector

Employees have a responsibility to read and understand requirements set out in the Conflict of Interest Rules for Public Servants and Former Public Servants, in Part IV of the Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA) and in O. Reg. 381/07 of the PSOA. Under the Act and its regulation current and former public servants are required to advise their ethics executive if they think they have an actual or potential conflict of interest. The employee must complete an internal Conflict of Interest Declaration Form, submit the form to the Deputy Minister, and allow sufficient time for the process to be completed. The employee must not proceed with the activity until a Conflict of Interest ruling has been made. Any employee who does not follow direction provided in a Conflict of Interest ruling is subject to disciplinary measures, up to and including dismissal.

The ethics executive for current Ministry employees is the Deputy Minister of MNRF and, for former public servants, the ethics executive is the Public Service Commission. The ethics executive is responsible for:

  • determining where a conflict of interest exists (i.e. rulings)
  • providing direction where there is a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest
  • answering questions about the application of conflict of interest rules
  • referring any matter to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner
  • promoting ethical conduct by current and former public servants

6.0 Definitions

In this policy,

employee
means any person employed by the Government of Ontario in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, whether on classified staff, probationary staff, unclassified staff, fixed term staff, and any person holding an office in the Ministry
former public servants
means a former public servant as defined by section 3 of the Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA)
non-private use
means a use which is not a private use and includes commercial or industrial use (e.g. a commercial use is a non-private use)
right, title or interest in public land
means the acquisition of a freehold estate, a leasehold estate or an easement but does not include interests less than estates (i.e. licenses of occupation or land use permits)
spouse
as outlined in O.Reg. 381/07 of the Public Service of Ontario Act:
  1. means a spouse as defined in section 1 of the Family Law Act or
  2. either of two persons who live together in a conjugal relationship outside marriage

7.0 References

7.1 Statutory references

  • Public Lands Act, Section 39
  • Part IV of Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA)
  • PSOA Regulation O.Reg. 381/07 – Conflict of Interest Rules for Public Servants and Former Public Servants

7.2 Directive cross references

  • PL 4.01.01 (PRO) Obtaining Orders in Council
  • PL 4.02.01 (Policy and Procedure) Application, Review and Land Disposition Process
  • MNRF Conflict of Interest Declaration form

Table A: Order in council requirements and/or special rules

Acquisition method

Order in council requirements/special restrictions or rules

Assignment from another party

An Order in Council is required prior to consenting to the assignment of a sale, Crown lease or summer resort lease from one party to a Ministry employee.

First Come-First Served

Where public lands are being disposed of on a first-come, first-served basis, without first having been offered to the public by tender, auction or draw, an employee’s application shall not be accepted until one year has passed from the first date on which the lands were advertised as being available to the public. There must be ample evidence that the lands have been sufficiently advertised to the public. Approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council must be obtained before the employee’s application can be processed.

Note: Crown shoreline reserves, road allowances and title enlargements are not First Come - First Served dispositions (See Restricted Offering).

First Come-First Served

Following a public auction, draw or tender, where an undisposed lot remains, an employee may apply for the lot after a minimum waiting period of 60 days. During the 60 day period the lot must have been available to the public on a first come, first served basis. The application shall not be processed until the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council is obtained.

MNRF Advertisement

Where Crown land has also been offered through MNRF Advertisement, and not on a first come, first serve basis (see PL 4.02.01 Sec. 4.1.6), no offers are accepted for 30 days, and all offers are irrevocable for 45 days from the date of offer. While this process is open and competitive, it is not at total Arm’s Length. As a result, Offers to Purchase will not be accepted from a MNRF employee until after an initial advertising of a minimum of 60 days. Any acceptance of an Offer to Purchase from a MNRF employee must be conditional on being able to obtain an Order In Council. Only the deposit that accompanies the Offer to Purchase is required at the time of the request for the OIC being submitted. Once a request for an OIC is submitted, the ministry should no longer accept for review any additional applications requesting the same land, until such time as it is known whether the MNRF employee’s application will be processed for further review (i.e. if approved by the LGIC) or if the application must be declined.

Public Auction for Non-private Uses

An Order in Council is required when disposing of a right, title or interest in public land to an MNRF employee for non-private uses.

Public Draw for Non private Uses

An Order in Council is required when disposing of a right, title or interest in public land to an MNRF employee, for non-private uses.

Public Tender

An Order in Council is required when disposing of a right, title or interest in public land to an MNRF employee.

 

Realty Listing

As a form of alternate service delivery, Crown lands are sometimes made available through the services of a private real estate broker. Under the listing agreement, no offer from any purchaser is to be accepted for a period of 30 days after the commencement of formal advertising. This process is considered to be open and competitive.

The Ministry employee would not enjoy any benefit as a result of the position. As a result, a Ministry employee can make an offer to purchase Crown land through the real estate broker, but that offer shall not be accepted until after the 30 day initial advertising period, and only if at the expiration of that time, it is the highest offer.

If and when accepted, the acceptance must be conditional on the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council (by Order in Council).

Only the deposit required in accordance with Policy and Procedure Directives PL 4.02.01 need be collected with the application. The balance of the purchase price owing, plus HST, on the total purchase price/lease rent must be collected, should approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council be granted.

Restricted Offering (i.e. shorelines reserves, road allowances, water lot to riparian owner, title enlargement - leasehold to freehold)

There is no requirement to make the lands available to the public. However, the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council is required before the application is approved.

Upgrade of occupational authority

Where an employee has existing tenure to Crown land obtained without the authorization of an Order In Council (i.e. land use permit, license of occupation, or by inheritance, by auction or draw) and subsequently makes application to increase tenure to sale, lease or easement, the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council is required before the application is approved. There is no requirement to make the lands available to the public.

Note: Acceptance of an employee’s application for review is always conditional upon approval from the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

Only after the Lieutenant Governor in Council approval is granted can the MNRF employee’s application for Crown land be accepted for review.