Ombudsman Ontario

Ombudsman Ontario

October 17, 2005 11:30 ET

Ombudsman Announces MPAC Transparency and Integrity Investigation

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 17, 2005) - Ombudsman of Ontario Andre Marin announced an investigation today into whether the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation's (MPAC) process for valuing properties in Ontario is fair and transparent. Pursuant to the Ombudsman Act, Ombudsman staff served MPAC officials with legal notice of the investigation this morning.

At a press conference held in Ottawa, the Ombudsman said that he has tasked the Special Ombudsman Response Team to investigate the MPAC valuation process as a result of the increasing number of complaints received from members of the public. The Ottawa City Council and Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley have publicly called on the Ombudsman to investigate inequities in the property tax system. In addition, Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli wrote to the Ontario Premier describing the assessment process as "a mess."

" The public outcry on this issue is palpable. There are profound concerns expressed concerning MPAC's operations which has caused me to invoke the mandate of the office," said Mr. Marin.

The Ombudsman's investigation will focus on two main themes: an alleged lack of transparency in the property assessment system and the integrity and efficiency of the decision making process.

"Homeowners in Ontario have complained to us that they are unaware of the criteria their property assessments are based on and the facts relating to their individual assessments," Mr. Marin said. The Ombudsman noted that he was also troubled by allegations from homeowners that MPAC has refused to recognize past decisions by its own staff and the Assessment Review Board reducing assessments and that property owners are continually forced to go back to the drawing board each year to appeal their assessments.

Mr. Marin is calling on anyone who would like to share their specific concerns about the property assessment process in Ontario to come forward and provide any information they may have about their experience with the system.

Anyone with information who can assist in this investigation can call 1-866-623-SORT (7678) or visit www.ombudsman.on.ca and fill out a SORT Information Form online.

Backgrounder attached.

This press release is also available in French.

The Ombudsman is an officer of the Legislature and is independent of both the political process and government administration. Generally an office of last resort, the Ombudsman investigates and resolves complaints about provincial governmental organizations and recommends corrective action. Services are free and confidential. Other languages can be arranged. For further information, call 416-586-3300, 1-800-263-1830 (English); 1-800-387-2620 (French); TTY 1-866-411-4211 or visit our website: www.ombudsman.on.ca

BACKGROUNDER

Re: Ombudsman Investigation into the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation

- On June 15, 2005, the Ombudsman notified the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) of his intention to pursue an investigation into whether MPAC had failed to consider reductions in property assessments identified in the Request for Reconsideration process and in Assessment Review Board (ARB) decisions, causing property owners to repeatedly appeal their assessments.

- In the past several years, the Ombudsman has received complaints from property owners who have been successful in obtaining a reduced assessment when their complaint was reviewed through MPAC's internal reconsideration process, or on appeal to the ARB. They complain that their assessments were over estimated the following year, suggesting that the MPAC's records were not amended to reflect the previously reduced assessment. Property owners alleged that because their next market value assessment is out of line they must challenge it again. They complained that these repeated requests and appeals are both time-consuming and costly.

- Ombudsman investigators have been interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents, and navigating through the complexities of Ontario's property assessment system.

- Recently, Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli brought public attention to the assessment system, which he labelled a "mess" in an October 3, 2005 letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty.

- In the last few days the Ombudsman has received over 75 complaints and information submissions from property owners, who recently received notices for the 2006 assessment year, and from other interested individuals. Ottawa City Councillor, Clive Doucet, complained to the Ombudsman and the Ottawa City Council passed a resolution, on his motion, on October 12, 2005, calling upon the Ombudsman to investigate inequities in the property tax system, including MPAC, and make recommendations to remedy them. The resolution refers to the "secretive" and non-transparent process of property evaluations, and to appeal processes that do not meet the minimum standards of natural justice.

- Sarnia's Mayor, Mike Bradley, also wrote to the Ombudsman and publicly stated support for the Ombudsman's proposed investigation, referring to the "reverse onus on the citizens to justify a value that is mysteriously placed on their residential or commercial business" and the fact that MPAC is "inaccessible in providing the data needed for citizens to assess how they devise their formulas and other information that would allow them to launch re-considerations or appeals." He described the situation as being "Monty-Python like".

- The complaints received by the Ombudsman demonstrate a prima facie case of the following two issues:

1. Ontario property owners feel the system is not transparent and complain they are not made aware of the criteria their property assessments are based on.

2. The owners also complain that when they contest the valuation of their property they find the system to consider their objections is inefficient and unfair. Reductions in assessments are not considered and applied from year to year.

- Ombudsman staff served legal notice of the expanded investigation on MPAC this morning.

- The Ombudsman's investigation will examine systemic issues related to the process that MPAC follows in arriving at property assessment values. Individuals who would like to raise issues relating to these two themes are encouraged to come forward and provide any information that they think might be relevant to the Ombudsman's Office.

- Anyone who believes they have information that might assist the Ombudsman in his investigation, please visit our website at www.ombudsman.on.ca and fill out a SORT Information Form online or call 1-866-623-SORT (7678).

Contact Information

  • Ombudsman Ontario
    Gail Scala
    Manager, Communications
    (416) 586-3402