Saturday, May 06, 2006
Even the Toronto Sun gets it! In case you missed it, here's the lead editorial today: May 1, 2006 EDITORIAL: Give this watchdog more biteEver since he was appointed Ontario Ombudsman a year ago, Andre Marin has been making trouble for Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government.And that’s good, because that’s his job. Marin investigates cases where citizens receive poor service from the province, just as the auditor reports on fiscal mismanagement. Beyond dealing with individual complaints, Marin has increasingly been taking on cases where he sees a system-wide or “systemic” failure of government. Thus far he’s exposed:- Bureaucratic bungling which forced parents of severely disabled children to give them up to children’s aid societies.- A shocking failure to update the screening of newborn babies for diseases, a situation that could easily have been fixed for $2.4 million.- Arbitrary and secretive conduct by Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corp. in setting property assessments. These assessments directly impact on how much property tax people pay.Such rulings haven’t made Marin popular with the government, even though he was chosen for the job by an all-party committee and says most of the problems he’s uncovered started before the Grits took office.Now he’s worried the powers of his office are being curtailed. He notes a law passed recently by the Liberals establishing a civilian review process for complaints about the police contains a specific clause keeping the agency out of his jurisdiction.Ontario, Marin says, is also lagging behind other provinces which empower their ombudsmen to probe municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals — the “MUSH” sector which accounts for 80% of provincial spending — as well as children’s aid societies, which receive $1.5 billion annually.Soon after he was appointed to his job by the government, a committee of senior civil servants recommended his entire office be scrapped as a cost-saving measure. Bad idea.As Ontario’s ombudsman and in his previous jobs as the federal military ombudsman and head of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which probes the use of police force, Marin has shown himself to be a tough, compassionate defender of ordinary citizens.We agree with him that his office should be given the same jurisdictional authority as the auditor.Marin says he doesn’t know what the government is afraid of, given that he only has the power to report on and publicize his findings. Neither do we.