Complaints to Ombudsman up by almost 30%: Annual report 2011-2012
Ontario Ombudsman André Marin is calling on the government of Ontario to protect the public interest in tough economic times by ensuring citizens have the opportunity to complain to his office – as more than 18,500 of them did in 2011-2012 (up 27% from the previous year).
"Ontario’s watchdog is sniffing out more problems than ever before — but needs more teeth to properly guard the public."
- Toronto Star
Read the full report
Watch the new Annual Report summary video
Ombudsman's opening remarks
Complaints by riding
As the province grapples with the deficit and looks for ways to reduce costs, the Ombudsman can help ensure accountability and fairness in public services, as long as those services fall within his mandate, the Ombudsman says in his latest Annual Report, released on June 19.
“While Ontarians understand the need for belt-tightening, it is crucial that efficiencies and savings are not achieved at the expense of fairness and good public administration,” Mr. Marin writes in the report. “The issue is not privatization, but the spectre of these services – without proper legislative safeguards – being removed from Ombudsman scrutiny, leaving Ontarians no recourse to complain about them or have them independently investigated.”
The Ombudsman urges the government to ensure that any public services that are privatized or otherwise delegated remain subject to Ombudsman oversight. MPPs should heed the lessons learned from the scandal-plagued air ambulance service Ornge, he says. “Who knows? If we’d had the ability to investigate allegations about Ornge received from patients and their families, industry insiders and whistleblowers, we might have been able to prompt the government into taking action. This is exactly the kind of proactive work we have done with many ministries and organizations.”
The Ombudsman’s report details how his office helped Ontarians in the past year, and updates major systemic investigations and case resolutions. He also draws the government’s attention to Ontario’s “dead last” position, compared to other provinces, in allowing ombudsman oversight of the “MUSH” sector – municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals and long-term care homes, children’s aid societies and police – despite a record 2,539 complaints about these areas.
Proactive work by Ombudsman staff also helped resolve serious issues involving driver’s licences, services for inmates, disabled people, and clients of the Family Responsibility Office and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee – two of the top 10 sources of complaints. Mr. Marin’s office also dealt with a record 119 complaints about closed municipal meetings (a responsibility it has had since 2008), which will be detailed in a separate report, to be released later this year.
The Ombudsman’s Office oversees and investigates about 500 provincial ministries, agencies, tribunals, and Crown corporations.
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A young couple living in rural Ontario complained to the Ombudsman that road salt from the highway next to their property was affecting their drinking water. They had the water tested and found it had high levels of salt, so they asked the Ministry of Transportation to provide them with a water treatment system.
The Ministry hired a hydrogeologist, who found that elevated amounts of salt in the water were not due to road salt, but the natural composition of the shale bedrock – known for high salt content – under their property. The Ministry denied the couple’s request.
Ombudsman staff learned that a specialist from the Ministry of the Environment had been testing the well water in the area for several months, and determined the source of the salt to be road salt. They then contacted the Ministry of Transportation, which agreed to arrange for isotope testing – the definitive test for establishing what kind of
salt is in the water. This test showed the source was road salt.
The Ministry then agreed to arrange for a water filtration system to be installed and a replacement well to be drilled away from the highway, at a total cost of $20,374.68.
The Ombudsman now has more than 7,500 Twitter followers and more than 1,750 Facebook fans.
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