‘This is a job I’ve dreamt of’: Ontario’s ombudsman talks Twitter, transparency and his new role (Na

‘This is a job I’ve dreamt of’: Ontario’s ombudsman talks Twitter, transparency and his new role (National Post)

April 1, 2016

1 April 2016

Ontario’s newest watchdog wants to soften his office’s bark.

Ashley Csanady
National Post
April 1, 2016

Ontario’s newest watchdog wants to soften his office’s bark.

That doesn’t mean the ombudsman’s office will lose its bite under Paul Dubé, who cut his investigative teeth as Canada’s first Taxpayers’ Ombudsman. He takes over the provincial office as it enjoys a newly expanded mandate that now includes municipalities, school boards and universities.

Dubé is replacing André Marin, who dramatically left the role in September 2015. Marin was a very effective ombudsman, who over his ten years in the office blew open the G20, exposed abuses in the corrections system and prompted changes for prenatal testing, as just a few examples. But he also was notoriously tough to work with, whether it was city councils or bureaucrats or agencies, and many found his investigative style too abrasive. That same argumentative nature also landed Marin in hot water when he picked fights with prominent pundits, strategists and journalists online.

But Dubé seeks to take a calmer approach. He monitors social media but says he won’t be tweeting his personal thoughts. Dubé wants to build a “collaborative” relationship with those he seeks to oversee.

With reports on services for adults with developmental disabilities and police use of force on the way, he thanked the acting ombudsman Barbara Findlay for running the office during the six months after Marin left.

Born in Alberta and raised for most of his life in New Brunswick, Dubé said he never imagined living in Toronto but is looking forward to it. And yes, he’s an Ottawa Senators fan, but he also cheers for the Toronto Blue Jays, so maybe the boys in blue can take it.

Dubé chatted Friday with the National Post about those pending investigations, social media and what’s to come:

Question: What appealed to you about this job?
I didn’t say it out loud too often, but this is a job I’ve dreamt of for about eight years. Shortly after entering the ombuds world in 2008, I started to survey the landscape and I actually reached out to Mr. Marin, my predecessor and actually learned a lot from him in terms of how an office should function and be set up and many other lessons. I always had the greatest respect and esteem for the work coming out of this office and just thought to myself, gee someday that would be a dream job, being the ombudsman of Ontario, and here I am.

Question: Your predecessor was quite controversial at the end of his tenure. Do you think your style will differ in any specific way?
Everybody is different in their style and everybody is different in their tone — it’s just a function of personality. I’m not going to compare myself to anybody, I’m going to leave that to observers and commentators, but what I will say is that Mr. Marin was very effective in his way, and I intend to be effective in my way. And though we have very similar backgrounds, coming from criminal law… to opening a new federal ombudsman’s office in Ottawa to becoming Ontario ombudsman, we’re different people.

I have a very collaborative approach, and that stood me in very good stead in my last job (as Taxpayers’ Ombudsman ). I didn’t have all the legislative authority… that I do now, and yet, I got all of my recommendations accepted and we made positive changes for the people of Canada and I intend to do the same here.

Question: Are you going to take over the Twitter account?
No, I’m not. I believe in social media. A big part of an ombudsman’s job is to publicize what they do. Part of that moral suasion is getting some public momentum behind your recommendation and showing the government or the various agencies you’re over seeing that the right thing to do is the right thing to do. And social media is a very effective tool in that regard, but… it’s not going to be a personal account, it’s going to be an office account.

Question: Are you on social media?
I have a LinkedIn… and I read the news on Twitter, but that’s pretty much about it.

Question: Is there any one issue you’re really hoping to tackle in the new mandate?
Not really one issue. I think my overarching concern is always to promote fairness and transparency. And the other one is communications. It is an exciting time to build new relationships with new stakeholders. What we want to do is a lot of outreach, a lot of outreach to reassure them (of how things are going to work).

Question: There are a number of open investigations that have previously been announced. So what’s first?
I’m not prepared to make any public announcements today… I can tell you there are a number of investigations that are quite a way along… and we are hoping to come up with something published in the very near future.

The first one is on adults with disabilities and resources and the other one has to do with the de-escalation protocols during interactions between citizens and the police. I’ve just been briefly briefed about those but… something should be coming out in the near future.

This interview has been edited and condensed.