Sunday, January 04, 2015

Ontario ombudsman is a good thing

For a number of years Ontario has had an ombudsman working on the behalf of all people in Ontario.  For most of that time I was not aware of the office.  Last year I saw articles talking about Bill 8 and after a very quick read I liked what I saw.  It expands who falls under his(or her) eyes.  There are those who feel threatened by OO (Ontario Ombudsman) or think they should not be subjected to OO scrutiny. 

Personally I believe if they are a provincial agency, funded by the province or a municipality they MUST be open to the ombudsman.  They should not feel threatened by the OO, but, look at it as an opportunity to have an outside set of eyes reviewing something they are doing.  At the end there will be a report that can be used to help improve what is being done or not being done and better serve the people of this province. 

Some municipalities believe they should be the ones to define the role and hire their own ombudsman, but, there can be problems with that.  They can craft the role in such a way that the ombudsman is a toothless entity restrained from doing anything useful.  Another point is how secure is their position after making a report or series of reports critical of that municipality?  One last point is how would they keep the names of the complainants confidential if they are told to surrender that to the municipality?  An outside independent entity with real powers granted by legislation (including privacy/confidentiality) would be able to do the job without too many worries and would actually give the municipality credibility when they go to the people asking for a bit more money as this is the cost of providing good services to the people as recommended by the OO. How can we get better if we don't know what is being done right, what can be improved upon, what is not being done right or not done at all?

When I was doing volunteer work teaching high school students how to start and run a business I had a good definition of success that I think more businesses and agencies should look at.  It is a few simple questions I ask the students:

• what are you doing right and why is it right?
• what are you doing wrong, why, and how to fix.
• what are you not doing and why?
• do you like what you are doing, if not, why are you doing it?
• can you do it better, faster and cost effective?

At the end of the program the students have the answers to those and I believe the OO can provide something similar to the people so that we have effective government and government agencies that are more aware of their roles and responsibilities.

I hope the current Ontario provincial government proclaims Bill 8 ASAP so that the OO can work on behalf of the people covering a larger section of government and government funded agencies.

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