The Ontario Ombudsman’s Top 10 Things to Know for 2016
December 31, 2015
31 December, 2015
A year-end Top 10 list is an annual tradition here at the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman. As we wrap up our milestone 40th year and welcome an historic expansion of our mandate on January 1, Acting Ombudsman Barbara Finlay has designed this list to help Ontarians get to know us better. Without further ado, here are her Top 10 Things To Know for 2016.
A year-end Top 10 list is an annual tradition here at the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman. As we wrap up our milestone 40th year and welcome an historic expansion of our mandate on January 1, Acting Ombudsman Barbara Finlay has designed this year’s list to help Ontarians get to know us better. Without further ado, here are her Top 10 Things To Know for 2016.
1. Our new mandate under Bill 8 will be in full effect.
Thanks to the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014 we will have full oversight of municipalities, universities and school boards – in addition to provincial government bodies. Simply put, this means our Office will finally be able to help people with issues in all of these areas – by referring or resolving their complaint, or conducting an investigation and recommending solutions. Learn more about how we work here.
2. We will resolve complaints quickly and informally wherever possible.
Quick, simple resolutions of problems are an Ombudsman’s bread and butter – and our services are confidential and free. Our staff are experts in navigating the bureaucracy – they know how to cut through red tape and point complainants in the right direction to resolve issues, usually without need for a formal investigation. As of January 1, we’ll be able to help with problems in municipalities, universities and school boards, just as we always have at the provincial level. Read some of our recent success stories here.
3. We are an office of last resort.
Whether the problem is with a provincial government body, or a municipality, university or school board, we always seek to help complainants resolve the issue through existing complaint mechanisms first. Read more about how we will work in our new areas of jurisdiction: Municipalities, universities and school boards.
4. We will encourage municipalities, universities and school boards to have their own accountability officers and codes of conduct.
The role of an Ombudsman is not to replace local accountability officers or to redo their work – it’s to ensure they work as they should, to intervene when they fail, or where they cannot go. Ideally, local issues are best resolved at the local level. Several universities already have their own ombudsmen, some municipalities are setting up their own, or sharing ombudsmen services, and some school boards are considering doing so too. Our Office supports these efforts. Read more about municipal accountability officers here.
5. We will continue to handle tens of thousands of complaints about the provincial government.
For 40 years, the Ombudsman has helped Ontarians with complaints about virtually every aspect of the provincial government – more than 500 ministries, agencies, board, commissions, tribunals and corporations. We handled more than 23,000 complaints in 2014-2015 – most of which were resolved informally and in less than two weeks. The statistics in our latest Annual Report detail the Top 10 most complained-about organizations and the most common types of complaints.
6. We will continue to work constructively and proactively to improve governance.
Along with resolving and investigating individual complaints, we track complaint trends and alert public sector bodies to brewing problems. In this way, we help improve public services and forestall more complaints, often nipping problems in the bud without need for a large-scale investigation. Read about the trends we tackled in provincial government organizations last year here.
7. We will continue to investigate complaints about closed municipal meetings and recommend best practices for local government transparency.
Since 2008, our Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team (OMLET) has handled hundreds of complaints about closed meetings. The Ombudsman is now the closed meeting investigator for more than 200 municipalities, and has recommended improvements to municipal legislation to further bolster local transparency – read more here.
8. We will continue to do systemic investigations and issue special reports.
Along with resolving thousands of individual complaints, our Office is known for conducting field investigations into broad, systemic issues affecting large numbers of people. From newborn screening to lottery security, these investigations have prompted dramatic government reforms affecting millions of Ontarians. At present, we have two such investigations pending and plan to issue reports on both in the new year. Read more about our systemic investigations here.
9. We will be coming to a community near you – and we want to hear from you.
It’s important that Ontarians know they have an Ombudsman who can help them resolve issues with public sector bodies. The more people we reach, the more good we can do. That’s why we’re available on social media, by email and web, and at public and stakeholder events across the sectors we oversee. If you’d like to request brochures or reports, or have a representative from our office speak to your group about our services, please get in touch.
10. We are growing – and hiring!
The full implementation of Bill 8 more than doubles the number of organizations under our jurisdiction. We are hiring additional staff to handle and resolve complaints, as well as investigators and other personnel. If you’re interested in government transparency and making a difference, find out more here.