Ombudsman Ontario

Ombudsman Ontario

December 09, 2014 12:00 ET

Ontario Ombudsman Welcomes Historic Expansion of Mandate

Public will be able to file complaints about municipalities, universities, school boards

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec. 9, 2014) - Ontario Ombudsman André Marin today welcomed the historic passage of a new law that will allow his office to investigate complaints about municipalities, universities and school boards for the first time.

"Today, Ontario takes a great step forward in ensuring accountability in the broader public sector," said Mr. Marin. "It has been almost 40 years since the province's first Ombudsman, Arthur Maloney, called for these institutions to face the same scrutiny as other provincially-funded bodies.

"This new legislation was driven by the people of Ontario, who increasingly became troubled by being dead-last when it came to holding the broader public sector accountable. This was reflected in the number of petitions and private member's bills introduced over the years, calling for Ombudsman oversight of the MUSH sector."

Bill 8, the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014, was passed on third reading in the Legislature this morning. It will also create a separate Patient Ombudsman within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and empower the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth to investigate children's aid societies.

Mr. Marin noted that Bill 8 will double the agencies his office oversees by adding some 548 bodies (443 municipalities, 22 universities, 83 school boards) to the 500-plus provincial ministries, agencies, boards, corporations, commissions and tribunals already within his mandate. Although the bill was amended to say the Ombudsman will not oversee matters dealt with by the City of Toronto Ombudsman, his office will still be able to conduct "own-motion" investigations, including systemic investigations, relating to Toronto.

"We will bring the same independent scrutiny to municipalities, universities and school boards that we have provided to provincial government bodies for nearly 40 years," Mr. Marin said. "We look forward to finally being able to help the thousands of complainants who have come to us from these sectors."

Bill 8's provisions relating to the Ombudsman Act bring Ontario closer in line with the rest of Canada. All other provincial and territorial ombudsmen have had jurisdiction in the "MUSH" sector (comprising municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals and long-term care homes, children's aid societies and police) for years.

Since 2005, the Ombudsman's office has tracked the complaints from the MUSH sector that it has been forced to turn away - 21,752 in total (as of November 30). The number of MUSH complaints per year has more than doubled since 2005. In that time, municipalities accounted for 9,316 complaints; some 405 were about universities and 1,019 related to school boards. They ranged from basic customer service problems to allegations of conflict of interest, corruption and other complex systemic issues. Some 130 petitions and 18 private member's bills calling for the extension of the Ombudsman's mandate have been tabled in the Legislature since 2005.

Mr. Marin noted that his office will serve, as it always has, as a last resort - referring complaints for resolution by existing authorities wherever possible. "We will be happy to work with local watchdogs where they exist, and refer complaints to be resolved at the ground level whenever appropriate, just as we have always done with provincial agencies," Mr. Marin said. "We are there to root out the thorny, systemic problems and find solutions that benefit everyone, not to duplicate the work of existing officials."

The Ombudsman's new jurisdiction will take effect on a date to be determined by the government once the provisions of the new legislation are proclaimed in force. Members of the public who wish to make complaints relating to municipalities, universities and school boards should continue to check the Ombudsman's website and social media for updates.

The Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario is an independent office of the Legislature that resolves individual complaints and conducts systemic investigations relating to problems with government services. Recommendations stemming from the Ombudsman's dozens of systemic investigations have prompted such broad government reforms as life-saving newborn screening, stronger lottery security, improved compensation for crime victims, better access to drug funding and fairer property tax assessments. The Ombudsman is also the investigator for complaints about closed meetings in municipalities that have not appointed their own. In 2013-2014, his office received 26,999 cases.

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Background information about Bill 8 and Ombudsman oversight of the MUSH sector can be found here: https://ombudsman.on.ca/About-Us/Who-We-Oversee/Bill-8.aspx

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