The City of Toronto’s Ombudsman says that among the many important lessons the COVID-19 pandemic has taught our local government, it has underscored the need for the City of Toronto to communicate clearly with the public. In her 2020 Annual Report
released today, Ombudsman Susan E. Opler says, “Transparent, clear and honest messaging that people can understand is critical.”
The report cites several instances where the City gave people incorrect information about the pandemic’s impact on City services. City staff took quick action to fix these problems once Opler's team identified them. On her advice, staff at City-operated long-term care homes also reviewed their COVID-19 testing procedures to eliminate any possible delays.
“The City’s leaders and frontline staff showed inspiring dedication and commitment to public service in 2020. But I must remind them that poor communication is the leading cause of complaints to my office. The pandemic has made clear, accurate and timely communication more important than ever,” says Opler.
In October of 2020, the Ombudsman announced that she will be retiring from her position this spring. “My successor will inherit a seasoned organization that has earned significant added trust and respect from the public, City staff and elected officials alike,” says Opler. That was evident in City Council’s recent ground-breaking decision to give Ombudsman Toronto authority to oversee the fairness of Toronto Police Service procedures and programs.
Opler points with pride to the accomplishments of Ombudsman Toronto during her five years in the role, including her office’s extensive work with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). “As a direct result of our work, the TTC is reimagining transit enforcement to be more service focused, and is implementing a system-wide anti-racism strategy.”
She says the work of her office has also improved how the City serves people experiencing homelessness. “Because of Ombudsman Toronto, the City established standards for respite sites and vastly improved the coordination and communication of services.”
Opler also points proudly to her team’s work holding Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) accountable and helping it to serve its tenants more fairly, including in the areas of unit transfers and complaints processes and through more transparent, effective governance.
None of this could have been accomplished without the dedication and support of the Ombudsman Toronto team, she says. “Despite working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic, they have continued to dedicate themselves every day to making City services and administration fairer for all. Every member of the office has my heartfelt thanks.”
Ombudsman Toronto’s 2020 Annual Report and an Ombudsman Toronto backgrounder are available at ombudsmantoronto.ca.
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Ombudsman Toronto listens to and investigates people’s complaints and concerns about City of Toronto administration and the fairness of City of Toronto services. We are a free and impartial office that operates independently from the City of Toronto, holding it accountable to the people it serves.