Great news coming out of Queens Park, but first a quick comment regarding the latest report from Brighton’s Integrity Commissioner, Nigel Bellchamber. I have been asked what I think about the report and I will be writing about it in more detail, but in a nutshell, I think that it’s a pathetic waste of taxpayers’ money. I don’t see any benefit to the taxpayer whatsoever and I hope that Councillors use other avenues available to them to resolve conflicts and address complaints. If necessary the Code of Conduct should be completely re-written or eliminated altogether.
Back to the news, on Thursday March 6th, the Ontario Government proposed a bill that would expand Ontario Ombudsman oversight to the MUSH sector. Teleconference call from the Ombudsman Andre Marin.
“The bill would empower the Ombudsman to investigate public complaints about municipalities, universities and school boards. It also creates a new Patient Ombudsman for complaints about hospitals and long-term care homes, and gives the existing Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth the power to investigate children’s aid societies.”
The Globe and Mail also featured an article, “Ontario set to strengthen Ombudsman’s powers“
Shortly after the announcement, the Association of the Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) came out against greater oversight by the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman in their press release “Provincial Oversight of Municipal Government“
The reason they give is “It represents duplication and inefficiency, and importantly, it suggests that Wynne’s Government does not trust in the capacity of municipal government to expose and address questions about performance and integrity“. I fail to see where there is any “duplication and inefficiency” and the Government isn’t alone in not trusting “the capacity of municipal government to expose and address questions about performance and integrity“. As we have seen in our Municipality and elsewhere in the Province, performance and integrity are lacking, to say the least!
I am also concerned when AMO makes a statement like the following where they are referring to AMO as an elected body, which they are not.
“Municipalities are committed to accountability and transparency. Public trust is one of our greatest assets. A municipal government that lacks public trust has every reason to earn it, and good government is best served when local municipalities meet that goal independently“.
We, the taxpayers of Brighton are paying AMO $3,800 this year to supposedly advocate on our behalf, but with statements like these, it looks like they are only interested in representing the interests of Council members and not the citizens that fund the organization.
Councillors Martinello and Tadman see the value of having greater independent oversight from the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman and are putting forward a motion asking that Brighton Council to show support for the proposed bill.
I hope that this motion will be supported by all of Council, showing the citizens of Brighton that indeed Council is acting in the best interest of Brighton and they are committed to working with the Office of Ombudsman to provide greater transparency and accountability to the taxpayers that they represent.