Ombudsman Ontario

Ombudsman Ontario

November 15, 2006 10:00 ET

Ombudsman Ontario: Media Advisory-Municipal Act Amendments Flawed, Says Ombudsman André Marin

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 15, 2006) - "Newly minted municipal politicians across Ontario will be faced with implementing a flawed Municipal Act if the current Bill 130 is passed into legislation," said Ombudsman of Ontario Andre Marin.

Addressing the members of the Standing Committee on Government at the Legislature today, the Ombudsman said that the current Bill will lead to a mish-mash of complaint mechanisms across the province.

Bill 130, the Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006, will allow municipalities to create their own ombudsmen and to hold meetings that are open to the public.

"There is a real danger that if the Bill goes forward unchanged; Ontario will be left with a system of municipal oversight plagued by inequity, inconsistency and ineffectiveness," said Mr. Marin.

In his presentation to the Committee, Mr. Marin pointed out that the municipalities would be allowed to appoint their own ombudsman and set out their powers and duties; they may even select a city employee. "Under no circumstances should ombudsmen be employees of the organizations they oversee," emphasized Mr. Marin. He explained that an effective Ombudsman's Office is built on four cornerstones of independence, impartiality, confidentiality and a credible investigative process.

"An Ombudsman is intended to be a watchdog, not a lapdog," stressed Mr. Marin. He recommended that the Bill set out minimum standards for municipal ombudsmen to ensure that they are able to provide effective services to the citizens of Ontario.

The Bill allows the Provincial Ombudsman to investigate if there are complaints about the municipal council failing to hold open meetings. However, the municipality can opt to appoint its own investigator and thereby prevent the Provincial Ombudsman from conducting an independent investigation of the complaint. Mr. Marin recommended that his office should automatically investigate any complaints about open meetings.

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