Ombudsman's office to increase oversight of province's city councils

TORONTO -- Ontarians with complaints about services within their municipalities will soon have recourse to the province's chief watchdog.

Acting Ombudsman Barbara Finlay says her office will have new powers to investigate complaints against municipal councils effective January 1.

See Full Article

The expected mandate comes through the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, which also gives the Ombudsman's office the authority to examine complaints related to public schoolboards and universities.

The change comes after a particularly active period for city council meetings that were closed to the public between Sept. 1, 2014 and Aug. 31 of this year.

Finlay released a report saying her office received 195 complaints about closed council meetings, reviewed 85 of them and found 16 to be illegal. The number of complaints jumped 73 per cent from fiscal 2014.

Finlay says most breaches come about through ignorance of the rules, but cautions councillors not to rely too heavily on email or informal meetings to keep city business out of public view.

"After January 1, we will finally be able to help the public with their concerns about any aspect of municipal government," she said at a press conference. "From garbage and snow removal to social programs to the conduct of councillors."

The new mandate expands on duties the office has assumed since 2008 when it began scrutinizing complaints about city council meetings that were closed to the public.

Not all of Ontario's 444 municipalities would use the Ombudsman to field such complaints, however, as councils also had the option to hire investigators through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

Finlay's latest report offered statistics from the 206 municipalities that opted to use her services.

The City of Clarence Rockland was the source for 20 complaints, the most of any municipality this fiscal year.

Finlay said her office's expanded mandate is meant to enhance rather than replace local systems to promote transparency, adding the Ombudsman is to remain a last resort option for complaints that aren't being addressed.

"I strongly encourage all municipalities to have their own local complaint mechanisms," she said. "We will be there to make sure that local mechanisms work as they should, to step in where they fail or where they cannot go."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 2 Koreas talk about Olympic co-operation ahead of IOC meeting

    World News CBC News
    The two Koreas are meeting Wednesday for the third time in about 10 days to continue their discussions on Olympics co-operation, days ahead of talks with the IOC on North Korean participation in the upcoming Winter Games in the South. Source
  • Young Hong Kong democracy activist sentenced to 3 months in jail

    World News CTV News
    Pro-democracy young activist Joshua Wong talks to reporters in front of the Court of Final Appeal Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (Vincent Yu/AP Photo) Source
  • Nigerian army releases 244 suspects who denounced Boko Haram

    World News CTV News
    MAIDUGURI, Nigeria -- Nigeria's army released 244 Boko Haram suspects who have denounced their membership in the deadly extremist group, Nigerian army officials said Tuesday. Those released Monday included 118 adult males, 56 women, 19 teens and 51 children, according to operation commander Maj. Source
  • Longshot bid proposes splitting California into two states

    World News CTV News
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A fresh effort is underway to split California into multiple states, one including its coastal cities and the other its rural and inland areas. "New California" is just the latest proposal to divvy up the nation's most populous state. Source
  • Myanmar army enjoys popularity surge amid Rohingya crackdown

    World News CTV News
    BANGKOK -- Activist Nyo Tun spent 10 years as a political prisoner locked away by Myanmar's military in the notorious Insein prison, where he endured beatings and other cruelty for his efforts to bring democracy. Source
  • U.S. Navy filing homicide charges against ship commanders over two 2017 collisions

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Five officers involved in two U.S. Navy ship collisions last year that killed a total of 17 sailors are being charged with negligent homicide, the Navy said Tuesday. A Navy spokesman, Capt. Source
  • Mormon church appoints 93-year-old ex-surgeon as president

    World News CTV News
    SALT LAKE CITY -- The 93-year-old former heart surgeon named Tuesday as the new president of the Mormon Church signalled his intention to make few changes in policy regarding the role of women and LGBT issues -- two topics that the faith has grappled with in recent years. Source
  • Michelle Obama adds 2nd Vancouver date to speaking tour

    Canada News CBC News
    Michelle Obama — lawyer, writer, former University of Chicago associate dean and former U.S. first lady — has added a second Vancouver engagement to her speaking tour. The second event, announced by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade Tuesday, will take place on the afternoon of Feb. Source
  • Republican official accused of 'amnesia' on Trump vulgarity

    World News CTV News
    WARNING: This story contains language some readers may find offensive WASHINGTON -- Republicans struggled to get their stories straight Tuesday as U.S. President Donald Trump's Homeland Security secretary became the latest GOP official to offer an inconclusive version of a meeting in which Trump is said to have used vulgar remarks that have been criticized as racist. Source
  • 'What would you do?' Good Samaritan who saved woman from cold hopes to set example

    Canada News CBC News
    Tuesday morning was shaping up like any other for Penny Tasco, as she listened to the weather forecast before jumping in the shower. Hearing it was –27 with the windchill and that snow was on the way, Tasco peeked outside her home on Paul Anka Drive around 6:15 a.m. Source