Bill 8 good news for Ontarians: Ombudsman Andre Marin (Toronto Sun)

Bill 8 good news for Ontarians: Ombudsman Andre Marin (Toronto Sun)

January 5, 2015

5 January, 2015

The mood was festive at Queen’s Park when Bill 8, the MPP and Public Sector Accountability and Transparency Act was passed Dec. 9.

The Toronto Sun
By André Marin
Section: Editorial/Opinion
January 3, 2015


The mood was festive at Queen’s Park when Bill 8, the MPP and Public Sector Accountability and Transparency Act was passed Dec. 9.

Members of all parties shook my hand and acknowledged the act’s historic expansion of the Ombudsman’s mandate to include municipalities, universities and school boards. Adding 548 new bodies to the 500-plus provincial organizations we already oversee feels a bit like opening a long-anticipated gift and finding out it’s in 5,000 pieces.

Luckily, making sense of complex bureaucratic issues is what we do.

Complaints are already rolling in, but we can’t take them on until the government proclaims the relevant parts of Bill 8, and we haven’t been given a date yet. As soon as I know, you’ll know (watch my Twitter).

Unfortunately, a few self-proclaimed experts have enlisted straw men to stoke fears about what will happen when we step into these new areas. So, to clear the air, I’d like to share eight simple facts about Bill 8 with you:

  1. We will provide the same oversight to municipalities, universities and school boards that we do to provincial bodies; The Ombudsman’s office will work as it has for almost 40 years, resolving complaints quickly wherever possible, escalating them for investigation where warranted.

  2. We will keep complaints confidential. Under our legislation our investigations are conducted in private and complainants’ names aren’t made public.

  3. We don’t charge fees to complainants or to the organizations we oversee.

  4. We have strong powers to investigate but none to enforce our recommendations. I can’t force any organization to accept my recommendations, only persuade them, through public reporting, that my proposals make sense.

  5. We will handle individual complaints. Since I became Ombudsman in 2005, we’ve handled more than 165,000 individual cases, compared to about 30 systemic investigations. Although the latter draw a lot of public attention, our bread and butter work is quick, efficient resolutions of individual complaints. The positive impact of our systemic work encourages more individuals to come to our office — this past year, we had a record 26,999 complaints.

  6. We will continue to do systemic investigations. Since 2005, we’ve had dramatic results with these — tackling high-profile problems and forestalling thousands of recurring complaints. Our systemic investigations have prompted the government to improve everything from newborn screening to property assessments to lottery security. Our made-in-Ontario methodology is now in use in ombudsman offices across Canada and around the world.

  7. We will work with local accountability mechanisms and refer issues back to them wherever possible. My job is to oversee and ensure government bodies work properly, not do their work for them. When we investigated the effectiveness of the Special Investigations Unit, or the monitoring of the use of force by correctional officers, we didn’t redo the provincial bodies’ investigations. We figured out ways to help them work better. So it will be for municipalities, universities and school boards. If there’s a municipal integrity commissioner or a university ombudsman in place, great! Local authorities are best placed to handle local issues. We will step in where they can’t — or won’t — be effective. (Your municipality can still hire its own closed-meeting investigator instead of using the free services of our office if it chooses, but that’s a topic for another day.)

  8. We will have “own-motion” oversight in Toronto. Since Toronto has its own ombudsman, Toronto complaints will go to that office, not ours. Local authorities lobbied to keep us from handling individual Toronto cases. However, Bill 8 allows me to launch investigations on my own initiative, including in Toronto, and into problems outside of the Toronto ombudsman’s mandate — e.g., issues involving council.


Bill 8 brings Ontario closer in line with many other provinces, whose ombudsmen already oversee municipalities, universities and school boards. The first Ombudsman, Arthur Maloney, decried the lack of oversight in these sectors when his office was established in 1975. As we approach our 40th anniversary, this belated progress is cause for celebration.