Wynne announces plan to extend Ontario’s watchdog powers to universities

Ontario ombudsman André Marin (Photo Ombudsman Ontario/Wikimedia Commons)

Ontario ombudsman André Marin (Photo Ombudsman Ontario/Wikimedia Commons)

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Thursday that the province hopes to expand Ontario’s watchdog powers to include the oversight of universities.

Wynne is proposing legislation at Queen’s Park that would allow Ontario ombudsman André Marin to investigate public complaints and make recommendations regarding post-secondary institutions.

“We want to ensure that the people of Ontario have the open, accountable and accessible government that they deserve,” Wynne said in a release. “These new measures, if passed, would put us on track to become one of the most transparent governments in the world.”

If approved, Marin would become the second provincial ombudsman in the country to obtain authority of this kind.

“At long last, Ontario is poised to rectify the accident of history that left millions of citizens with nowhere to complain about the public bodies that touched their lives most closely,” Marin said in a release.

The announcement comes after years of pressure from Marin and the public to extend his powers into the “MUSH sector” — a group that includes universities, municipalities, police, school boards, nursing homes and other government-funded organizations.

There have been public rallies and demonstrations over the years, Marin’s office said, to increase the ombudsman’s oversight into these organization. There have also been more than 130 petitions and 15 private members’ bills since 2005 to change legislation.

Since 2005, however, Marin’s office said it has received more than 20,000 complaints about these MUSH agencies.

Thursday’s announcement also includes plans to table extended accountability provisions for municipal politicians, long-term care homes and local school boards.

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