During the Ontario election Kathleen Wynne made it part of her election platform to bring forth accountability legislation that would see greater public scrutiny and accountability of the public sector by expanding the Ontario Ombudsman’s powers to investigate wrong-doing. Wynne was elected with a majority and the accountability act received royal assent on December 11th, 2014. The act (also known as Bill 8) expands the Ombudsman’s powers to investigate municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals, and law enforcement.
Several sources have written into Mind Bending Politics stating they have recently filed complaints with the Ontario Ombudsman’s office on the public sector, however the Ombudsman is still powerless to investigate. His office along with the people of Ontario are currently in limbo as to when the accountability act will come into force. When approached over twitter Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin seems to have been left completely in the dark by the Ontario Government as to when this legislation is coming into force, and when to start investigating complaints.
Over the next few days, the Regional Municipality of York will spend a total of $15,000 of tax payers money on a luxury resort to hold secret budgetary meetings (which should be fully open to the public to begin with) while the region is currently in about $2 billion in debt. This is precisely an example of the lack of public accountability on municipalities.
The accountability act is sitting on the desk of Treasury Board Secretariat Deb Matthews, while Matthews’ office figures out exactly how to implement it. Mind Bending Politics has reached out to Matthews’ Office for comment. Ann Doose spokesperson for the Treasury Board Secretariat did not offer any specific timetable as to when the act will come into force, however had this to offer:
Bill 8 impacts several other acts that are already in force and we are working on a timetable to proclaim the changes. We will be working with the Ombudsman and affected organizations to determine the best timing for proclamation.
Marin has responded to the government’s comments stating:
I look forward to the consultation and the proclamation. Operators are standing by.
The York Region and London Anti-bullying coalitions have worked with many concerned parents across the province regarding school board accountability, and they are also eagerly awaiting the implementation of the accountability act. Karen Sebben of the York Region Anti-Bullying Coalition has stated that there is some uncertainty as to exactly how this bill will be implemented. Sebben stated:
We have been communicating with the Ombudsman’s office and will continue to do so to gain clarity on what this means for education. While the government already has a process in place to deal with financial concerns in school boards, it will be interesting to see what Bill 8 will do that is different. Shifting investigation responsibilities with less power to affect change is something we are keeping our eyes open for.
Sebben added that both coalitions hope that the Ombudsman’s new powers (when implemented) will further extend to school boards to ensure student safety is taken seriously.
All Marin, Sebben and the people of Ontario can do is wait while this file collects dust on Matthews desk as municipalities like the Region of York, take full advantage of the delay in secret behind closed doors luxury budget meetings.
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