Thousands of Ontarians complain to the Ombudsman every year about all aspects of municipal government services, and about closed meetings of municipal councils and committees.
As with all complaints we receive, we work to resolve issues at the local level wherever possible. Most general complaints are resolved without need for formal investigation, but our staff frequently work with local officials to propose best practices and improve local transparency and accountability mechanisms. Where warranted, the Ombudsman can launch a formal investigation and issue a report with recommendations for positive change.
The Ombudsman’s role in promoting open meetings is somewhat different, as it involves making a formal finding on whether or not a meeting violated s. 239 of the Municipal Act. To assist the public and municipal officials, we have compiled hundreds of our decisions on open meeting cases in a searchable digital case digest. See also our open meeting guide.
If you have a complaint about a closed municipal meeting, see who the closed meeting investigator is in that municipality.
General complaints about municipalities are most commonly about councils and committees, by-law enforcement and local services, sewers and infrastructure. The most common complaints about closed meetings relate to the Municipal Act’s definition of “meeting” and what types of discussions are permissible behind closed doors.
See our full list of bodies we oversee.
Overturn decisions of elected officials or direct them on public policy
Replace or redo the work of local integrity commissioners or ombudsmen (once they have completed their work, we can review the process they followed)
Take complaints about matters within the jurisdiction of the Toronto Ombudsman
See our list of Common Referrals.
Trends in cases (2020-2021 Annual Report)
Investigations and case summaries
Frequently Asked Questions
For the Public
If I have a complaint about a municipality, what should I do first?
You may be able to resolve your complaint directly with your municipality, by contacting the relevant officials or following local complaint processes. If your municipality has an integrity commissioner, dispute resolution office or ombudsman, they may be able to help. We will refer complainants to the appropriate local officials wherever possible. If you are unsure about where to go with your complaint, you are welcome to contact our Office and we will try to point you in the right direction. When you do contact us, please have any relevant documentation available.
I called your office to complain before Bill 8 was in effect. Will you investigate my complaint?
What should I do if I have a complaint about...
the conduct of a councillor or mayor?
If the municipality has an Integrity Commissioner in place, we would refer complainants to that mechanism. If not, we'll look at each complaint and determine on a case-by-case basis what our involvement might be.
the City of Toronto?
my municipality's Integrity Commissioner, Auditor General, Ombudsman, etc.?
We will only review a complaint once existing complaint mechanisms have reviewed the issue. We will be able to step in where local officers fail or simply cannot go, as well as tackle broader systemic issues, just as we do at the provincial level.
a closed municipal meeting?
For Municipal Staff
I work for a municipality and have questions, not complaints. Whom do I contact?
Where can I find information about creating a local accountability office, like an Integrity Commissioner or Ombudsman, or a Code of Conduct?
What happens if the municipality I work for or represent is the subject of a complaint?
An Ombudsman staff member may contact a representative of the municipality and advise them of the substance of the complaint. The staff member may request information relevant to the complaint and attempt to resolve the issue. If a formal investigation is necessary, the municipality will receive a written notice and an opportunity to respond. Representatives, officials and staff may also be interviewed and asked to provide documentation in response to the complaint. For the integrity of our process, the Ombudsman's Office determines which officials we need to contact and/or interview.
What should I do if I am an employee of a municipality and have a complaint?
The Ombudsman does not replace the roles of public sector unions or grievance processes, or interfere in collective bargaining. Employment-related matters should be directed to the relevant union officials or managers first. If you have concerns about wrongdoing at a municipality, please call our Office so we can see if we can help. Complaints are confidential - we do not identify complainants without their consent.
Why should municipalities set up local accountability offices when the Ontario Ombudsman is available?
The Ombudsman is an office of last resort. We strongly encourage municipalities to put local complaint mechanisms in place, because it is in the public interest to ensure citizens can get help with local issues in their communities. Our Office does not replace any local integrity commissioner, ombudsman, or other office that deals with complaints, but we can review decisions of those bodies to ensure the appropriate policies and procedures were followed.
All videos have closed captions enabled.
Electronic meetings: How to keep virtual municipal meetings open and accessible
On October 20, 2021, General Counsel Laura Pettigrew spoke at the Ontario East Municipal Conference. She walked through many of the cases our Office has investigated related to virtual meetings, and offered tips for municipalities to ensure meetings are open and accessible, no matter the platform.
Best practices for municipal complaint processes
Complaints can be an opportunity to improve municipal administration. In this video, learn how issues are best resolved locally, and what the Ontario Ombudsman recommends to create robust municipal complaint processes.
Best practices for electronic municipal meetings
In this video, learn tips from the Ontario Ombudsman for ensuring virtual municipal meetings are open and accessible, as well as best practices for successful electronic meetings.
Local complaints are best resolved locally: How to create an effective municipal complaint policy
Ontario Ombudsman General Counsel, Laura Pettigrew, spoke at the Ontario East Municipal Conference 2017 about how to create an effective municipal complaint policy on September 14, 2017.
What to expect when the Ombudsman calls
Webinar: Complaints about municipalities