Aims to build on investigative legacy and relationships as mandate expands
(TORONTO – April 1, 2016) - New Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé took his oath of office today, beginning a five-year term as the province’s independent, impartial watchdog. Mr. Dubé is the province’s seventh Ombudsman since the office was established in 1975.
“I am honoured to have the opportunity to serve the people of Ontario as their Ombudsman,” said Mr. Dubé, who previously served as Canada’s first federal Taxpayers’ Ombudsman in Ottawa. “Since entering the ombudsman field, I have always had great admiration and respect for the work done by this office. It is a dream come true for me to become Ontario’s Ombudsman at this historic time in the office’s mandate.”
Mr. Dubé said he intends to build on the office’s legacy of improving public services through resolution of tens of thousands of complaints, and conducting systemic investigations that have sparked widespread reforms.
“In terms of the quality of the work being done, the procedures being followed and the dedication to assisting the people of Ontario, it is business as usual at Ombudsman Ontario,” he said. “We will continue to be effective by working with stakeholders to solve problems and eliminating irritants between the citizens of Ontario and their government. The better our relationships with stakeholders – that is, the more trust and credibility we have with them – the more effective we can be. That requires being not only independent and impartial, but fair and reasonable.”
Mr. Dubé’s term begins as the Ombudsman’s office marks a milestone in its mandate, which was expanded last year under Bill 8, the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014. In addition to more than 500 provincial ministries, agencies, boards, commissions, corporations and tribunals, the Ombudsman can now take complaints about Ontario’s 444 municipalities, 82 school boards and 21 publicly funded universities.
As of today, the office has had oversight of school boards for six months (beginning September 1, 2015) and municipalities and universities for three (beginning January 1, 2016). To date, 393 complaints have been received about school boards, 970 about municipalities and 91 about universities.
Most of those complaints have been resolved informally, at the local level. No formal investigations have been launched to date. “The role of an ombudsman is to make things better for citizens by getting their problems with government administration solved as quickly as possible, at the lowest level possible, and in the most satisfactory manner possible,” Mr. Dubé said.
The Ombudsman is an office of last resort, he noted, whether the issue involves provincial bodies or those in the broader public sector. “Ombudsman staff are experienced at pointing people in the right direction to resolve their issues – but we are also here to help them when those avenues are exhausted, or if there is a broader issue that warrants investigation.”
Mr. Dubé thanked Barbara Finlay – who took on the role of Acting Ombudsman on September 15, 2015, and will continue to serve as Deputy Ombudsman – for implementing the office’s expanded mandate. “Ms. Finlay’s efforts in planning for the expanded jurisdiction and reaching out to the broader public sector have been invaluable in ensuring that this office was ready and able to handle the influx of complaints from these new areas,” he said. He also credited his predecessor, Mr. André Marin, who served as Ombudsman from 2005-2015: “I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the great work he did for over a decade. Mr. Marin was a respected colleague; I drew upon his experience and best practices as I built the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman and was always grateful for his input.”
The Office of the Ombudsman handles more than 20,000 public complaints per year relating to provincial government and broader public sector bodies, as well as complaints about closed meetings in some 200 municipalities. Complaint trends, investigation updates, statistics and summaries of selected cases will be published in the Ombudsman’s Annual Report later this year. Mr. Dubé noted that he is reviewing the office’s pending investigations and will report publicly on them in due course.
He added that he looks forward to connecting with citizens and stakeholders across the province, through ongoing outreach. “The expansion of our jurisdiction is a fantastic opportunity to build new, productive relationships and continue to be an agent of positive change,” he said. “We will continue to educate and inform Ontarians about our mandate as we strive to not only resolve complaints, but hopefully prevent some from even arising.”
For more information, contact:
Linda Williamson, Director of Communications