Ontario Ombudsman’s mandate expanded
December 6, 2018
6 December, 2018
New legislation transfers jurisdiction over child protection system and French language services.
(TORONTO – December 6, 2018) Ombudsman Paul Dubé today committed his office to the new responsibilities transferred to it under the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018 (the government’s fall economic statement, also known as Bill 57), which was passed in the Legislature this afternoon. The legislation expands the Ombudsman’s mandate to include children’s aid societies and French-language services.
“While a period of transition will present considerable challenges for us and our new stakeholders alike, we look forward to helping Ontarians with issues in these new areas, just as we have helped them with other public sector bodies for 43 years – through independent, impartial investigations, confidential complaint resolutions, and recommendations for positive, systemic change,” Mr. Dubé said.
The Ombudsman saluted the work of French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau, Child Advocate Irwin Elman, and Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe, who will no longer be independent officers of the Legislature once the legislation is in force. Instead, responsibilities of the first two officers will be transferred to the Ombudsman, while those of the third will be assumed by the Auditor General.
“Thanks to their expertise in each of these areas and passion for their work, my three colleagues have brought about profound improvements,” Mr. Dubé said. “I have already begun consulting with Mr. Boileau and Mr. Elman, and am grateful for their assistance. I have assured them that my office will respect and build on their legacy and their relationships with the stakeholders they have so ably served.”
No date has yet been set for these changes to become effective, although the legislation says it must be no later than May 1, 2019. Until the legislation is in effect, all of the officers’ work will continue as usual.
Mr. Dubé noted that he has also been in contact with the responsible ministers (Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod and Francophone Affairs Minister Caroline Mulroney) and senior ministry staff to discuss details of the new law’s implementation.
Among other things, the law stipulates that the Ombudsman establish a Deputy Ombudsman position, to be known as the French Languages Services Commissioner. In addition to responding to and investigating complaints about French language services in the province, the Commissioner will continue to promote French language rights and issue an annual report.
“This structure will allow us to preserve the Commissioner’s role – within our office – as a promoter of linguistic equity” Mr. Dubé said, noting that he recommended the legislation enable such a role in his submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs this week.
The law also makes clear that the Ombudsman will complete any of the Child Advocate’s ongoing investigations. However, Mr. Dubé said he is seeking further clarification from the government about its plans for the advocacy function of that office, which the Minister has indicated will be assumed within the Ministry.
As he also noted in his December 3 written submission to the Standing Committee, Mr. Dubé has informed the Board of Internal Economy that he will present a new budget in the coming weeks that sets out the resources his office will need to implement the changes, including the transfer of employees.
“I am confident that there is enormous talent and professionalism in both of the offices that will be joining ours, and a shared passion among all staff for the kind of administrative oversight work we all do,” he said. “However, we only learned of these proposed changes three weeks ago; in the coming weeks and months, we will obtain the information we need to work out the logistics.”
Today marks the second time in four years that the Ombudsman’s mandate has been expanded. In December 2014, the previous government passed legislation that effectively doubled the size of the Ombudsman’s mandate, extending his oversight to municipalities, universities and school boards – changes that came into full effect by January 1, 2016.
Together with today’s legislation, these changes mark the most significant expansion of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction in the office’s history, although the first Ombudsman, Arthur Maloney, called for his mandate to be expanded to all publicly funded bodies in the province in 1979.
“The past three years have been extremely busy as we implemented our growth strategy, but our experience in reaching out to – and working with - new stakeholders over the past few years has been overwhelmingly positive,” Mr. Dubé said. “Both the public and the public sector bodies themselves have grown to appreciate the value of independent oversight and the manner in which we operate, because it helps improve public services. In our new areas of jurisdiction, we will build on the examples of the existing officers, along with our decades of experience in systemic investigation and complaint resolution.”
The Ombudsman is an independent, impartial officer of the Ontario Legislature who resolves and investigates more than 20,000 public complaints per year about more than 1,000 public sector bodies, including all provincial ministries, agencies, corporations, boards, commissions and tribunals, as well as municipalities, universities and school boards. He also has the power to investigate broad systemic issues of maladministration on his own motion, without receiving a complaint.
For more information, contact:
Linda Williamson, Director of Communications
Read the Ombudsman’s submission to the Standing Committee here.