Back in 2009 I founded a facebook group called Ombudsman for Ontario Schools after a year long investigation of the York Region District School Board I conducted around the lack of accountability or even following anti-bullying legislation. At the time the Ontario Auditor General was also running a parallel investigation which found millions of missing tax payers dollars that were earmarked for anti-bullying programs somehow unaccounted for by all school boards in Ontario.
Over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of speaking to many parents, former teachers, and from my media contacts all over Ontario regarding the lack of public accountability on Municipalities, Universities, School Boards, and Health Care commonly known as the (MUSH) sector. All of which showed great concern over the lack of accountability in our public sector especially with school boards. Several former teachers have been muzzled by their unions and the College of Teachers in Ontario for bringing up abuses within the system. Some have risked their careers by coming forward publicly with these abuses so that the right thing is done. Up and until recently, the right thing hasn’t been done and all political parties share the blame in that.
I’ve also found out that Ontario is one of the only provinces in Canada who do not have Ombudsman oversight on the public sector. The Ontario Ombudsman for several years has publicly called out to expand his powers to the MUSH sector sighting numerous amounts of complaints coming in from parents including on services such as the Ontario Children’s Aid Society in which several complaints to the Ombudsman revealed, the agency asked parents to give up custody of their disabled kids to the state in order to find appropriate services for them. A move the Ombudsman found disgusting and unwarranted.
Last week, on the heels of political controversy, Ontario Premier Wynne announced that her government will introduce accountability legislation which will see the Ontario Ombudsman have greater oversight on the MUSH sector. Sources close to the political situation have suggested that the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party does not support this move, nor does the NDP. The PC’s want an independent arms length oversight other than the Ombudsman, however would not elaborate on exactly why when the Ombudsman is just that.
From my conversations with Newmarket PC MPP Frank Klees over this back in 2009, essentially what the PC’s believe is that stronger legislation is needed rather than expanding bureaucratic arms of the government. The problem facing that idea, is we do have strong legislation with respect to anti-bullying programs, in which the public sector school boards are choosing to ignore outright. Creating an office outside of an independent ombudsman strongly suggests that the Ontario PC party is looking to create an office that is accountable to the party rather than the legislature as a whole. A disturbing trend former federal Auditor General Shelia Fraser found in federal politics as well in a recent interview she gave to the CBC’s The House over the weekend regarding the Fair Elections Act. The NDP has not been available for comment with respect to explaining their position on public accountability on the public sector.
While this move to introduce accountability into law, and oversight on our public sector which is strongly needed is a welcomed proposal, this legislation comes at a time of political turmoil for Premier Wynne and seems as though she’s using the legislation as a more political move to win back votes rather than over genuine concern. My hope is that all parties and all levels of government remain committed to public accountability of public services and we empower those who are independent from legislative control (such as the Ombudsman) to fully enforce this accountability. To take a position against, would be to continue passing legislation that in not enforceable on the public sector and as a result will continue to waste tax payers money due to the lack of accountability at a time where Ontario needs fiscal restraint.
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