Brampton Councillor Asks Why So Many Brampton People Filing Complaints

A Brampton city councillor has recently raised concerns over the volume of complaints filed by Brampton residents to the Ontario Ombudsman against the municipality as well as to the province, as revealed in the Ombudsman's recently issued report.

The Ontario Ombudsman is a branch of the Ontario Legislature, tasked with the oversight of various government bodies and the intake of public complaints to determine whether there is the possibility of maladministration within the Ontario government and in the appropriate cases conducts an investigation. The office is generally an office of last resort and cannot legally conduct investigations into the lives of private citizens or the private sector.

Every year the Ombudsman issues an annual report with cited complaint cases broken down by various sectors, such as municipalities, school boards, universities and others. For the report covering the 2016-2017 period, some 410 complaints were received by the Ombudsman's office by residents of Brampton in the city’s four provincial ridings (although one of those ridings, Mississauga-Brampton South, actually contains only a small section of Brampton). In addition, there were 26 complaints filed against the City of Brampton.

Because of the confidential nature of these complaints, the Ombudsman's report could not reveal what each specific case was about, only how many were filed against the specific bodies he oversees, in this case the municipality and the part of the province the complainants reside in, which is Brampton.

Undoubtedly this made some members of Brampton City Council a little bit nervous. During a recent council meeting this past week, Councillor Jeff Bowman raised this point: "We didn't have a lot of time to digest the entire report. I read through it and I've got some questions," said Bowman during the meeting. "Although I know these are provincial issues, I was wondering if at some point we could get our (members of provincial parliament) in here (city council), to clarify what people are filing complaints about.”

Even though they may be provincial issues, Bowman said it was prudent to figure out what people in the municipality he and his colleagues are charged with representing on the local level are concerned about. He asked city staff if there was any way they could get more information about the city's 26 complaints, what categories they fell under, and who handled them. In response, Brampton city staff said they could write to the Ombudsman to request typology information but nothing confidential about complainants, for both complaints to city and the provincial ridings of Brampton.

One of Bowman's council colleagues, Elaine Moore, asked that if they could not get information on specific cases, then would it be possible to determine common themes or trends from all the filed complaints to the city. Moore said this would be a better way to determine if there were things the city could be doing to improve on services and procedures if they could at least establish the common reason why people were complaining. Another councillor, Gael Miles, said it was a bit ironic that the report mentioned accountability, as it was her opinion that the province had not been as accountable when it came to fair representation for Brampton at the provincial level.

It would be a good idea to at least get a sense of what residents in Brampton are filing complaints to the provincial Ombudsman about, if we can't get into specifics about what each person's issues are. But Brampton's reputation has not been as squeaky clean as I'm sure those around the council chamber had hoped; Mayor Jeffrey during her first year had to request the provincial Auditor General to come in and look at the city's books, and there have been recent cases of overspending on city projects and concerns over the new CAO’s hiring practices.

This may not mean that these are the reasons why people in Brampton are complaining so much to the Ontario Ombudsman, but if the councillors are looking at common trends, they might want to look at their record. But another consideration to factor in is if there are over 400 complaints filed through the provincial level via Brampton's ridings verses 26 to the city itself, there is a possibility that people are confusing both levels of government and filing complaints that should have been about the city to the province.

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