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Gélinas: NDP platform would expand ombudsman oversight

By: Darren MacDonald - Sudbury Northern Life

 | May 23, 2014 - 7:42 AM |
Ontario Ombudsman André Marin would get oversight of municipalities and other public sectors under the platform released by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Thursday. File photo.

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin would get oversight of municipalities and other public sectors under the platform released by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Thursday. File photo.

Office would gain expanded power over public sector

 Ontario Ombudsman André Marin would get oversight of municipalities and other public sectors under the platform released by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Thursday.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas said the ombudsman’s office would also play the role of the patient ombudsman, something she has been on the Liberals to do for years.

 “Not every single word makes it into a platform,” Gélinas said, when asked why those measures weren’t spelled out in the party’s election platform. “It is implicitly included when Andrea talks about transparency and accountability.

“We did not describe in detail what transparency and accountability mean. In health care, and in children's services, it would mean the ombudsman. In other parts of the government, it would be open to the Freedom of Information Act, or capturing more people on the Sunshine List.”

In the weeks before the election was called, Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the ombudsman would gain increased oversight powers, including over municipalities. The office previously was an option as closed door meetings investigator for municipalities.

Sudbury city council fired Marin in 2013 after a serious of public clashes. At the time, Marin said it made little sense to give cities the power pick and choose who investigated them. Wynn’s proposed legislation would have taken away that power, as well as expand the scope of his authority.

Gélinas said her party decided to go with Marin rather than create new position.

“We prefer to give the existing (ombudsman's office) more power, rather than bring in new ways to do transparency and accountability,” she said.

“Whether we're talking for municipalities, for children's services, for the health care sector, whether we're talking long-term care or hospital care, we're talking the ombudsman.”

She stressed it’s the office that would receive the authority, whomever holds the title of ombudsman,

“(Marin) is in the office now. We have no intention of getting rid of him, but I think they have five-year terms or something like that,” she said.

“So it's the office – whether he's there or not, the powers would continue.”

Gélinas also said spending plans announced Thursday would have the four-laning of Highway 69 completed by 2016. The work will be paid for partially by money committed by the Liberals, as well as new funds.

The project has been delayed while environmental assessments were completed for the entire project.

“So the whole thing got put on hold,” Gélinas said.

“Now that the environmental assessment has been (almost) completed, that money is still there.

“And moving forward, we are committing to four-laning 30 kilometres of highway every year in the North.”

A fund was also announced that cities could use to fund projects like the Maley Drive extension, she said.

The NDP platform unveiled Thursday includes a host of new spending plans, which would be funded through a mix of tax increases and strategies to find savings in existing government programs. Like the Liberals, the NDP vows to balance the books by 2017-2018.

For Northern Ontario, the party commits to spending money right away on developing infrastructure for the Ring of Fire, although costs associated with those investments aren't detailed in the plan. Total new spending estimates are $1.8 billion in 2014-2015, rising to $2.86 billion in 2017-2018.

The party also plans to restore passenger service on Ontario Northland at a cost of $20 million a year, and $40 million would be spent in 2014-2015 to buy 200 more snowplows and sand trucks.

Other highlights for the North include a plan to open 50 family health clinics at a cost of $75 million a year, $70 million to eliminate the waiting list for acute care beds, $30 million to hire more nurse practitioners to work in hospital emergency departments. A tax credit for caregivers would cost $250 million by 2017.

A $29-billion fund would be used over 10 years for transit and transportation projects across the province. The full platform can be found at Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to unveil her party's platform Sunday in Thunder Bay.

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Darren MacDonald

Darren MacDonald

Staff Writer


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