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Ombudsman Reports Increase in Complaints about City Services 

The City of Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean says there’s been a significant growth in the number of residents with problems about local government and delivery of their city services. In her 2013 Annual Report released today, Toronto’s Ombudsman says her staff dealt with 1827 complaints in 2013, an increase of 28% over the year before.

“Some of the growth can be attributed to the office becoming more widely known,” says Crean. “But the demonstrated increase in social inequality is clearly another factor. People are increasingly turning to programs such as subsidized child care, public housing and social assistance to ensure their well being.”

The Ombudsman says there is another worrisome development in the complaints her office sees. “Fully 70% of the complaints involved poor communication by city staff and inadequate information being given to residents. This is an increase from 55% in 2012, and 40% in 2011.”

These are two of the instances cited in the Annual Report:

  • Due to an illness, Ms. S inadvertently let the business licence lapse for her beauty salon. Staff told her she needed to submit building plans in order to get her licence back, but her landlord did not have them. After the Ombudsman intervened, staff acknowledged they could have told Ms. S to get the plans from the city’s building staff since they had already been filed there.
  • Ms. H ended her existing lease after Housing Connections told her that, in two months, she and her children could instead move into a home owned by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. A week before the move, Ms. H went to see the house, and found it was being repaired because it had failed a safety inspection. She and her children were now homeless. Housing Connections admitted “information was not communicated in detail.”

The Ombudsman’s Annual Report shows there was a significant increase in complaints in all parts of the City, but most notably in the former cities of Etobicoke, North York and York.

The city agencies most complained about in 2013 were Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the Toronto Transit Commission and the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Division.

During 2013, the Ombudsman completed six in-depth investigations into systemic problems in local government.