Says NDP has long called for extending authority of the ombudsman
In fact, Horwath said the minority Liberal government led by Kathleen Wynne took the idea from NDP policy, making her wonder how sincere they are about implementing their plan.
Horwath was in Sudbury on Sunday to attend the formal nomination of Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas as the party's candidate in the next election. Gélinas has long called for the ombudsman to be given oversight of the health-care sector. The Wynne government recently announced plans to broaden powers of Ombudsman André Marin to include all municipalities, school boards and universities.
A separate patient ombudsman would be appointed for the health-care sector. Gélinas recently said she supports the plan in principle, and would be “ecstatic” if the Liberals are sincere. But she's eager for the government to table actual legislation.
Horwath said it could be yet another idea the Liberals poach from her health critic. In the past, Gélinas has called for tighter rules on tanning beds, a ban on the sale of flavoured tobacco, and for extending ombudsman oversight to include health care. Two of those three have been passed by the Legislature.
“France is over the moon,” Horwath said. “Every idea she's ever brought to the Legislature is being implemented by the Liberals.
“While we're happy to give them ideas, we worry whether people will see the benefit of full implementation. We've seen this government fumble a lot of balls. ”
Horwath said she's introduced bills in the Legislature herself calling for Marin to have oversight of cities and schools, as well as health care. It's important the public have someone to turn to when they are dealing with big public institutions, she said.
“The idea is something we've raised many times, that there needs to be an independent, unbiased party to go to when you have complaints with these huge organizations,” Horwath said.
“Otherwise, when you complain, you're complaining internally. Where is the independence? Where is the confidence that the review is being done in a way that's responsive to the complainant, and not just smoothing things over by the organization?
“So this is long overdue, and it's the same thing with municipalities and with school boards. People need to have confidence that there's a watchdog out there.”
But she stopped short of fully supporting the Liberal's plans, at least until she can read the details of the legislation.
“I myself have introduced private members bills asking for ombudsman oversight of hospitals and long-term care, school boards, municipalities,” Horwath said. “So this is not something that we would not support ... But we have to look at the details to determine whether it's good enough.”