What are your thoughts on a City Ombudsperson?

On September 17, 2018, during the City’s Governance and Priorities Committee (formerly called MSC or Municipal Services Committee), I requested that the City provide a written submission to the GNWT regarding Bill 20 – the Ombudsperson Act – requesting that municipalities be included. Across Canada, the majority of provinces – Nova Scotia, Manitoba, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Alberta and Yukon – include municipalities in their legislation. It’s great that the Ombudsperson Act is being developed, but I think that it should be in line with best practices.

During our meeting, we also reviewed a “Public Complaints Policy” – which outlined how residents can submit complaints and how they’d be handled by Administration. If a territorial ombudsperson was in place, if a resident was not satisfied with the result after going through the City’s complaint process, they could bring their concerns to the territorial ombudsperson – which is the way that it works in other jurisdictions.

Why I’m supportive of an ombudsman at the territorial level vs city level? For one, it means that we won’t have to create a separate ombudsman for the City and therefore it will be one less expense that the City will incur. Two, having an ombudsperson that is outside the City’s authority removes the ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune.’ If the ombudsperson is at the territorial level, we remove the optic of the City paying the investigator and having influence as a result.

If Yellowknife is the only municipality in the territory that wants to be covered in this Act, the way that the Act is currently drafted, I think they could include just Yellowknife in the section where they name all of the different organizations who will be covered by the Act. They could say that it applies to “City” as defined in the “Cities, Towns and Villages Act” – since we’re the only City in the NWT as per the CTV Act. To read the proposed Act: https://www.assembly.gov.nt.ca/sites/default/files/bill_20_0.pdf