Toronto’s Ombudsman, Fiona Crean, is a non-partisan advocate and accountability officer for every Toronto resident. Due to inadequate funding, Ms. Crean’s office is unable to conduct the kind of investigations Torontonians need to keep our municipal government accountable, save tax dollars and ensure every resident’s complaint is heard and their concerns are resolved.
Please click here to learn more about the Ombudman’s funding challenge and how Ms. Crean’s office compares to other Canadian jurisdictions. Please click here to visit the Ombudsman’s website. If you would like our Ombudsman to receive adequate funding in the 2011 budget, please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org so I may share your voice and advocate on your behalf at City Council.
Why is the Ombudman requesting adequate funding for her office in the 2011 City of Toronto budget?
The Ombudsman’s office is a tiny start-up organization that has been growing gradually to meet demands as they have emerged and as the office gains experience. If the request for funding is not approved, outreach to the blue-collar, working class areas outside the downtown core will not be possible, making them in effect, second-class citizens. Systemic investigations, which produce the biggest savings, will also have to be cut back, and City Councillors’ ability to monitor the day-to-day operations of the city’s administration will suffer.
Context for Budget Ask
• September 2008: Ombudsman appointed by unanimous vote of City Council
• April 2009: opened office with a budget of $1,218.3 thousand and an
understanding that this would be an incremental build as demands became
• 2010 Budget ask: $1,410.10 thousand in order to add 3 additional direct service
positions (2 front line and 1 investigator)
1. Council approved $1,354.5 thousand allowing for 2 additional positions
2. 2010 Budget Committee directed the Accountability Officers to reduce their budgets by 5% in 2011, in line with the City Manager’s directive to the public service. Ombudsman complied and made a $60.9 thousand reduction in the office’s budget
2011 Budget Ask
• With the 5% reduction and the request for 2 new positions, the Ombudsman’s asking for a 2011 budget of $1,493.9. This allows for the hiring of 2 positions, one front line and one investigator, and takes into account economic and statutory factors such as HST, progression pay and benefits adjustments.
o The 2 positions will require a budget increase of $102.7 in 2011 and $73.4 in 2012 due to annualization.
Why the Ask?
• To reach out to the many under-serviced areas outside the city’s downtown (e.g. Scarborough’s ten wards represent almost one quarter of the city’s population yet only 6% of the office’s 2010 complaints came from those wards).
• To increase the number of systemic investigations. These deliver fixes that affect greater numbers of residents than investigations of single complaints. They consequently find greater efficiencies and savings and lessen citizens’ frustrations because they improve service standards for everyone.
• To maintain customer service standards in responding to individual complaints
The Office is new, just 20 months old, and still in roll-out phase. Its growing incrementally to meet demand and cannot be compared to departments and agencies which have operated for years.
We now know very clearly that the Ombudsman’s budget does not meet the needs to serve residents effectively. They are not reaching many areas of the city and therefore, roll-out is not complete. Most complaints to the Office come from those residents living on the Bloor/Yonge axis in the downtown core. The Office is far better known to the affluent homeowner who has the knowledge and skills to complain than the single parent from Thorncliffe working the night shift or the Malvern resident who has two jobs to keep the family together. But most of the city’s population does not live downtown. Almost all of Toronto’s low-income and blue-collar neighbourhoods are outside the core of the city. These are the residents most likely to face barriers to equitable access to the City’s programs and services.
What difference will the Ombudsman’s budget request make for residents?
Systemic investigations will result in fixes for thousands of residents, rather than dealing with the same issue again and again at the individual level. The complaints they dealt with in 2010 demonstrate that poor communication is the biggest issue. Time and time again this results in unreasonable delays and poor service followed by faulty decisions.
Not only does the systemic investigation eliminate future complaints and improve the quality of service for all residents, including those less likely to complain, but it has the potential to save large amounts of money and resources.
Additional impact of not receiving the additional funding:
Access to the Ombudsman’s Office sends a very clear signal that the City is serious about fairness, access and good service. The impact of not receiving the requested funding for an organization that has just completed its first full fiscal year would result in a significant weakening of Ombudsman’s ability to meet her legal mandate, decreased accountability and continued decline in public confidence and people’s faith in City Hall.
Toronto’s Ombudsman is an impartial and independent officer of City Council, providing an appeal of last resort for people who feel they have been adversely affected by a decision, act or omission of city administration. The Ombudsman also undertakes investigations into systemic problems that cause equitable, substantial and procedural unfairness in city administration.