Ombudsman prepares for expanded oversight of child protection and French language services

April 12, 2019

12 April 2019

New organizational chart, new funding for new responsibilities.

(TORONTO, April 12, 2019) – Ombudsman Paul Dubé is now able to release more details of his plan for his office’s new oversight of child protection and French language services, which takes effect on May 1.

The Ombudsman’s request for additional funds to take on this expanded jurisdiction has been approved by the Legislative Assembly’s Board of Internal Economy (BOIE).

As previously announced, the Ombudsman is creating two new dedicated units to handle complaints and investigations in areas formerly within the purview of the Child Advocate and French Language Services Commissioner (FLSC).

Legislation passed in December (Bill 57, the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018) closes those independent offices and transfers most of their responsibilities to the Ombudsman. (It also closed the independent office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and transferred its responsibilities to the Auditor General, as of April 1.)

“Merging two other offices into ours, while respecting their different legal mandates, expertise and importance in the communities they serve, has been complex and challenging,” Mr. Dubé said. “We have built on our own proven organizational model for resolving complaints efficiently and conducting impactful investigations. I’m confident that this structure, employed by oversight offices across Canada and around the world, will enhance our work across our jurisdiction.”

[View the full organizational chart here]

The Ombudsman’s supplementary budget submission was presented to the BOIE on April 2, 2019 and has now been approved. Some $8.9 million in ongoing funding was added to the Ombudsman’s $20.4-million budget, for the addition of 43 staff, bringing the office’s total of approved full-time positions to 186.

The BOIE also approved $3.3 million in one-time transition costs. These include severance for some employees whose positions were not transferred by the legislation – specifically, positions devoted solely to advocacy in the Child Advocate’s office (Bill 57 only transferred the Advocate’s investigative role to the Ombudsman, not its advocacy role). Other positions will be eliminated because they were duplicated or not required within the Ombudsman’s organizational structure (e.g., a position at the FLSC that co-ordinated support services with the Legislative Assembly). In all, 52 positions will be eliminated, three from the former FLSC and the rest from the former Advocate’s office.

The one-time funding also includes $8,100 to assist the Ombudsman with hosting the International Association of Language Commissioners’ annual conference in Toronto, June
26-27 – a commitment previously made by the FLSC. The event brings together international experts in promoting linguistic rights to discuss the challenges of preserving minority and Indigenous languages.

Compared to last year’s budget estimates for the two former offices combined, the Ombudsman’s plan represents a cost reduction of $3.5 million this fiscal year, and projected savings of at least $6 million per year in the years to come.

“My continuing goal is to ensure a high calibre of service to citizens while assuring responsible and prudent use of public funds,” Mr. Dubé said.

The changes also come at a time when complaints to the Ombudsman are on the rise – his office received some 27,000 complaints in fiscal 2018-2019, an increase of approximately 30% over the previous year (statistics and more details will be released when the Ombudsman’s Annual Report is tabled with the Legislature in June).

The Ombudsman’s mandate was also effectively doubled as a result of legislative changes that took effect in 2016. The Ombudsman now takes complaints about 444 municipalities, 82 school boards and school authorities, and 21 universities, in addition to more than 500 provincial government ministries, agencies, boards, commissions, corporations and tribunals.

“We learned a great deal in taking on such complex new jurisdictions as municipalities, universities and school boards, including the importance of developing expertise in these fields within our office, and building relationships with new stakeholders,” Mr. Dubé said.

“That experience is a key reason why we are establishing specialized teams for our new areas of oversight, and relying on the expertise of our new colleagues from the former Child Advocate and French Language Services offices. This will ensure that complaints, ongoing investigations and stakeholders’ concerns are dealt with seamlessly and without interruption as of May 1.”

More details, including how to file complaints with the new units, will be released closer to May 1, Mr. Dubé added.

For more information, contact:
Linda Williamson, Director of Communications, 416-586-3426