Ombudsman Marks One Year Of Municipal Jurisdiction

It has been one year since Ombudsman Mary McFadyen began taking complaints about Saskatchewan’s municipalities. Although her Office has been taking complaints about provincial government entities for over 40 years, jurisdiction over municipalities was added on November 19, 2015.

McFadyen said, “Saskatchewan has 780 municipalities of all sizes, including cities, towns, villages, resort villages, and rural and northern municipalities. It is important for people in all of these communities to be able to raise their concerns with an independent and impartial Office.”

The Ombudsman reviews complaints about administrative actions and decisions to determine whether they were fair and reasonable. If you think you are being treated unfairly, McFadyen says you should first contact the municipality to try to resolve the problem. If that doesn’t work, her Office may be able to help. Her
staff can help resolve complaints informally and when appropriate, can also conduct formal investigations. At the end of an investigation, the Ombudsman  provides her findings to the complainant and the municipality, along with any recommendations she considers appropriate.

Of the 489 municipal complaints received since November 19, 2015, 78% were closed after her Office provided some form of assistance, including referrals, determining next steps, or informal resolution. Another 7% were closed because they required no further action, and the remaining 15% are still open, some of which are being formally investigated. More information about the complaints received and how they were processed will be available this spring in the Ombudsman’s annual report.

McFadyen said her Office worked hard this first year, not only to take complaints, but to connect with municipalities about her Office’s role and what to expect when someone makes a complaint.  She sent emails and paper materials and made presentations to groups of all sizes, including at SUMA and SARM conventions, and local meetings of administrators. To reach out at low cost, she offered webinars and plans to offer more for newly-elected officials in the new year.

McFadyen is also planning more outreach to the public. She said, “There is some awareness of our role from news stories and word of mouth, but there are still many people who don’t know we can take municipal complaints, so we need to continue getting the word out.” Next week, for example, her staff will be in Moose Jaw and North Battleford, taking municipal and provincial complaints in person. The Office also plans to do some local advertising in communities
across the province.

The Ombudsman is an officer of the Legislative Assembly who operates under The Ombudsman Act, 2012. Her Office promotes and protects fairness and integrity in the design and delivery of government services.

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