Government Changing the Channel at Municipalities’ Expense – MPP Jim McDonell

March 10, 2014

CORNWALL – The Liberal Government announced last week that it intends to reform the Ombudsman’s office to extend the officer’s review powers to municipalities. MPP McDonell is concerned the effort may lead to more paperwork and higher costs without any benefit to Ontarians.

“This is the same Government that is the subject of two OPP investigations and continues to stall on the release of documents from its agencies” – said MPP Jim McDonell. “They have consistently failed to deliver on any measure of accountability, and the legislation to implement this announcement is yet to be tabled. It is likely to include more bureaucrats and more red tape for municipalities that are already facing mounting costs and reduced income from municipal taxes and provincial transfers.‎”

The Ombudsman of Ontario, Andre Marin, currently oversees government agencies such as the Family Responsibility Office and the Ministry of Transportation. He has also launched an investigation into billing practices at Hydro One. His remit does not extend to municipalities, universities, schools or hospitals (the so-called MUSH sector), although some municipalities defer to the Ombudsman for reviewing closed Council meetings.

“Municipal residents judge their elected representatives’ integrity every four years in a free election” – MPP McDonell continued. “Municipalities are committed to the highest standards of accountability. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario is a staunch advocate for transparency and the Government hasn’t even consulted them. We do not need an extra layer of red tape – we need to ensure municipalities have adequate funding for all services, including independent review”.

The Ombudsman’s mandate has been discussed at Queen’s Park on several occasions.

“The Government is on record voting against the expansion of the Ombudsman’s mandate” – MPP McDonell concluded. “Most recently, we witnessed this on Bill 42, which would let the Ombudsman investigate Children’s Aid Societies. ‎The Government is plagued by scandals and will do anything to distract Ontarians’ attention from its failures. This sudden apparent change in Liberal policy is likely to be dictated by political convenience rather than any genuine concern for municipal residents”.