Ombudsman Toronto: Celebrating One Decade – Looking to the Next

9 May 2019

The City of Toronto Ombudsman says 2019 marks a decade of success for her office in its work to ensure fairness in City services and administration.
 
“Ombudsman Toronto was a brand new idea when it was first established” says Susan Opler. “There had never been a municipal Ombudsman in Ontario. The City’s administration, elected officials, staff at Ombudsman Toronto and the public can all take pride in what we have accomplished.”
 
In Ombudsman Toronto’s 2018 Annual Report released today, Opler praised councillors and staff for supporting her office's independent oversight of the City’s operations. She quoted one senior City staff member: “In my view, Ombudsman Toronto has delivered and exceeded on all the goals that were envisioned when the function was first created.”
 
Over the last ten years, besides handling thousands of complaints from the public and advising the public service on administrative fairness, Ombudsman Toronto has conducted 26 broad systemic investigations on issues including:
  • unfairness in City-run housing programs
  • health and safety issues including the City's response to major fires and how it addresses psychological injuries arising from the work of paramedics and emergency medical dispatchers
  • fairness concerns in our transit system, from infrastructure to customer surveillance to safety
  • how the City can deal more fairly with parking tickets, water bills, park permits, potholes, floods and broken branches: all services with a daily impact on people’s lives
The Annual Report highlights the results of some of the 2125 cases handled in 2018:
  • overhaul of a broken transfer process for Toronto Community Housing tenants
  • improved communication, coordination and conditions for the City’s Respite sites for people experiencing homelessness;
  • better monitoring and enforcement of Section 37 agreements with developers;
  • harmonization of the rules for front-yard parking
Opler says the 2,125 cases that Ombudsman Toronto handled in 2018 represented a 29% increase from the year before. “We are responding by handling complaints through our nimble, flexible and informal Enquiry process, a new way of classifying, conducting and reporting on Ombudsman work which allows us to look for fair resolutions as quickly as possible.”
 
Even so, says the Ombudsman, the increase in complaints is outstripping her small office’s ability to respond quickly and effectively. “After a decade” says Opler, “it is clear that the City’s budget process has not served Ombudsman Toronto’s needs. Over the years the Ombudsman’s call for resources necessary to fulfill her office’s mandate has repeatedly gone unheeded. The time for funding reform is overdue.”
 
The City of Toronto Ombudsman says this is especially critical given the challenges the City will face over the next decade, including rapid growth, increasing use of technology in how the City delivers services and a growing proportion of marginalized residents.
 
In the report, Susan Opler pledges that her office will keep working to ensure that the City "treats all people fairly and equitably, befitting Toronto's proud reputation as a diverse and caring city."
 
Ombudsman Toronto’s 2018 Annual Report and an Ombudsman Toronto backgrounder are available at ombudsmantoronto.ca.
 
For more information, contact:
 
Natalie Kaiser
Outreach & Communications Coordinator
Ombudsman Toronto
416-397-5435
Natalie.Kaiser@toronto.ca
 
Ombudsman Toronto listens to and investigates people’s complaints and concerns about City administration and the fairness of City services. We are a free and impartial office that operates independently from the City, holding it accountable to the people it serves.