1,702 new requests - 1,890 files handled
MONTRÉAL, June 17, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - The theme of the 15th annual report of the OMBUDSMAN DE MONTRÉAL (OdM), AN ADDED VALUE FOR THE CITY, attests to the vital contribution of this office to the continuous improvement in the quality of municipal services and to the fairness of decisions issued by the Ville de Montréal.
"When an enquiry reveals a problem, we discuss it with the relevant managers in search of a solution," notes Me Johanne Savard, Ombudsman of the Ville de Montréal. "In 95 per cent of the cases, we end up agreeing on viable and reasonable corrective actions. The positive impact of our interventions is undeniable: errors are fixed, procedures are improved and citizens are, on occasion, reimbursed. This strengthens the quality of municipal services."
In 2018, 1,702 new complaints, 101 information requests, and 2 general notices were added to the 85 enquiries already launched before the start of the year. This adds up to a total of 1,890 files and 260 enquiries handled by the OdM.
Of the 175 new enquiries launched during the year, 67 revolved around an undertaking included in the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities and 14 sought to confirm compliance with a prior undertaking by a Borough or a service.
12 formal RECOMMENDATIONS were issued following 5 separate enquiries: 7 RECOMMENDATIONS were accepted; 2 were refused. At the end of 2018, the OdM was awaiting responses for 3 of these RECOMMENDATIONS.
Examples of files handled
The files handled by the OdM cover a wide range of topics: several resolved files had a significant financial impact on citizens. For instance:
- Tax reimbursement – Follow-up of uncashed cheques – Service des finances
At OdM's request, the Service des finances reinstates retroactively a procedure it had discarded in 2015. This procedure is intended to track down owners who, for various reasons, did not cash a tax reimbursement cheque issued to them. The sums in question are often significant: the Service estimates the total value of uncashed reimbursements since 2015 at about $290,000.
As of December 18, 2018, cheques totalling about $126,500 were issued. The Service is continuing that effort in 2019; the OdM will conduct annual follow-ups.
- Moving a fire hydrant – Fees claimed - Ahuntsic-Cartierville Borough and Service de l'eau
For several years, a citizen asks that a fire hydrant installed in front of her garage entrance be moved. The hydrant makes snow removal of her entrance difficult, increases her insurance costs (flood risk) and prevents her from carrying out various work. The Borough informs her that she will have to pay $19,449 for the move. The OdM enquiry confirms that such fees are generally applicable.
However, discussions with the Service de l'eau reveal that this hydrant has reached the end of its useful life: consequently, under the Programme de mise à niveau des bornes-fontaines, it will be moved on an exceptional basis, at no cost to the citizen.
- Cutting down of a public tree – Compensation fees - Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles Borough
A citizen wishes to revamp his dwelling's vehicular lane and garage which had been condemned by the former owner. To do so, a public tree must be cut down. The Borough demands compensation fees of $2,599.
An analysis by the OdM concludes that the wording of the Borough's regulation does not permit the billing of these fees in the specific context of this file: a Demande d'abattage ancillary to a Demande de permis de transformation is not a situation covered in the regulation that permits the billing of such fees. The Borough finally accepts the OdM's arguments: no compensation fees will be claimed in this file.
Topics of new 2018 enquiries
The main topics covered by the new enquiries were: Municipal Services - Communication/Information (13); Zoning/Urban Planning – Permits – Construction/Demolition/Transformation/PIIA (13); Trees (planting or cutting-down requests) (10); Nuisance – Noise (10); Nuisance – Other than traffic or noise or Combination of several nuisances (10); Municipal Services – Delays/Procedures (10).
Boroughs and Services concerned
The Boroughs most often complained about in 2018 are: Ville-Marie (76 complaints, 11 thorough enquiries, 3 summary analyses/enquiries), Plateau-Mont-Royal (74 complaints, 7 thorough enquiries, 2 summary analyses/enquiries), Côte des Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (70 complaints, 9 thorough enquiries, 5 summary analyses/enquiries), Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie (69 complaints, 7 thorough enquiries, 2 summary analyses/enquiries), Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (50 complaints, 7 thorough enquiries, 2 summary analyses/enquiries) and Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles (47 complaints, 8 thorough enquiries, 1 summary analysis/enquiry).
As for central services, complaints concerned mainly: Affaires juridiques – Cour municipale (115 complaints, 3 thorough enquiries, 3 summary analyses/enquiries), the SPVM – All departments (114 complaints, 4 summary analyses/enquiries), Affaires juridiques – Direction des affaires civiles (73 complaints, 1 thorough enquiry, 3 summary analyses/enquiries) and Ressources humaines (39 complaints, no enquiry).
The paramunicipal agencies that received the most complaints are: the Office municipal d'habitation de Montréal (OMHM) (78 complaints, 9 thorough enquiries, 12 summary analyses/enquiries) and the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) (24 complaints, no enquiry). Note that the OdM has no jurisdiction over the STM; it automatically redirects plaintiffs to the agency.
The City Council was the subject of 33 complaints that concerned mainly new rules governing domestic animals as well as eligibility criteria for the Programme de subvention pour l'acquisition d'une propriété. In addition, 3 other complaints disputed decisions by the Agglomeration Council, over which the OdM has no jurisdiction.
For new complaints opened and closed in the same year (2018), the final processing time for plaintiffs was 4.81 business days on average. For their part, the new enquiries launched and closed in 2018 were completed on average in 43.1 business days.
About the OdM
The OdM intervenes on the basis of complaints or on its own initiative to ensure that citizens' civic rights are respected and that their files are treated with respect, justice, fairness and goodwill by all municipal stakeholders. The OdM also provides the only available recourse to ensure compliance with the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.
The ombudsman uses every intervention as an occasion to promote a culture based on quality of services, greater transparency and fair and just decision-making processes. In fact, to mark its 15th anniversary, the OdM has drafted a new Practical Guide for Fair Decision-Making and made it available to City stakeholders.
Since the (2003) creation of the office, the OdM has handled more than 21,000 files and conducted more than 3,000 enquiries: the OdM team currently employs 10 people. Having recourse to the OdM is free of charge and easily accessible.
The 2018 Annual Report and those of previous years, as well as the Practical Guide for Fair Decision-Making, are available on the Ombudsman de Montréal website: ombudsmandemontreal.com.
SOURCE OMBUDSMAN DE MONTREAL
For further information: Alix Chartrand, Office: 514-849-4554, Cell: 514-318-5609, [email protected]