As of January 1, 2016, the Ontario Ombudsman can take general complaints about the province’s 444 municipalities. This is in addition to complaints about closed municipal meetings, which were added to the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction in 2008.
Anyone with an unresolved concern about a municipality including citizens, councillors, or special interest groups can contact the Ombudsman by using the online complaint form here. Complaints can also be filed by phone (1-800-263-1830), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently asked questions about municipalities, universities, and school boards
WEBINAR: COMPLAINTS ABOUT MUNICIPALITIES
What kinds of issues can the Ombudsman help with?
The Ombudsman can review complaints about the administrative actions and decisions of municipalities. The Ombudsman is an office of last resort. This means that you should try to address your issue through any available complaint or appeal mechanisms before contacting our Office.
The Ombudsman may be able to help with issues such as concerns about municipal services (e.g., snow removal, parking, garbage collection); programs (e.g., recreation programs, housing, Ontario Works), administration of taxes, municipally-owned hydro utilities, conduct of council members, conflicts of interest, or the work of local accountability officers. If you're not sure whether or not an issue falls within our jurisdiction, contact us, and our team can refer you appropriately.
If I have a complaint about a municipality, what should I do first?
You may be able to resolve your complaint directly with your municipality, by contacting the relevant officials or following local complaint processes. If your municipality has an integrity commissioner, dispute resolution office or ombudsman, they may be able to help. We will refer complainants to the appropriate local officials wherever possible. If you are unsure about where to go with your complaint, you are welcome to contact our Office and we will try to point you in the right direction. When you do contact us, please have any relevant documentation available.
I called your office to complain before Bill 8 was in effect. Will you investigate my complaint?
If you made a complaint to our Office before January 1, 2016, you will need to contact us again and we will assess it and any updated information you can provide.
What should I do if I have a complaint about:
The conduct of a councillor or mayor?
If the municipality has an Integrity Commissioner in place, we would refer complainants to that mechanism. If not, we'll look at each complaint and determine on a case-by-case basis what our involvement might be.
The City of Toronto?
If the issue is within the jurisdiction of Ombudsman Toronto, we will refer the complaint to that office. Our Office can only look at matters outside the Toronto Ombudsman’s mandate, such as issues involving council members or matters within the authority of other accountability officers, such as the Integrity Commissioner, Lobbyist Registrar, and Auditor General. Our Office can also look at systemic issues, which may affect the City of Toronto, on the Ombudsman’s own motion. We'll look at each complaint and determine on a case-by-case basis what our involvement might be.
My municipality’s Integrity Commissioner, Auditor General, Ombudsman, etc.?
We will only review a complaint once existing complaint mechanisms have reviewed the issue. We will be able to step in where local officers fail or simply cannot go, as well as tackle broader systemic issues, just as we do at the provincial level.
A closed municipal meeting?
I work for a municipality and have questions, not complaints. WhoM do I contact?
Our Communications team can determine where best to direct your question.
What happens if the municipality I work for or represent is the subject of a complaint?
An Ombudsman staff member may contact a representative of the municipality and advise them of the substance of the complaint. The staff member may request information relevant to the complaint and attempt to resolve the issue. If a formal investigation is necessary, the municipality will receive a written notice and an opportunity to respond. Representatives, officials and staff may also be interviewed and asked to provide documentation in response to the complaint. For the integrity of our process, the Ombudsman’s Office determines which officials we need to contact and/or interview.
What should I do if I am an employee of a municipality and have a complaint?
The Ombudsman does not replace the role of public sector unions or grievance processes, or interfere in collective bargaining. Employment-related matters should be directed to the relevant union officials or managers first. If you have concerns about wrongdoing at a municipality, please call our Office so we can see if we can help. Complaints are confidential – we do not identify complainants without their consent.
Why should municipalities set up local accountability offices when the Ontario Ombudsman is available?
The Ombudsman is an office of last resort. We strongly encourage municipalities to put local complaint mechanisms in place, because it is in the public interest to ensure citizens can get help with local issues in their communities. Our Office does not replace any local integrity commissioner, ombudsman, or other office that deals with complaints, but we can review decisions of those bodies to ensure the appropriate policies and procedures were followed.
Where can I find information about creating a local accountability office, like an integrity commissioner or ombudsman, or a code of conduct?
In future, our Office will share information on best practices with municipalities, based on our experiences with municipal complaints.