MONTRÉAL, June 19, 2018 /CNW Telbec/ - The 15th Annual Report of the Ombudsman de Montréal (OdM), entitled Fostering Goodwill, confirms once again the value of this free, impartial and confidential resource available to citizens. It also highlights the importance for City managers and employees to apply fair processes and to adopt a caring approach taking into account the needs of the stakeholders.
"Citizens are increasingly suspicious, cynical and critical of their public administrations: Ville de Montréal is no exception to this rule," says Montréal Ombudsman Ms. Johanne Savard. "To remedy this situation and restore public confidence, public organizations have no choice: they must constantly review their ways of doing things, improve the quality of their services, and promote a more caring approach towards their constituents. Since its inception in 2003, our office has paid considerable attention to this aspect of Ville de Montréal's actions and decision making processes."
Over the last five years, the number of files handled yearly by the office has increased by 65%. 2017 was yet another record year: the OdM handled 2,124 new requests (128 more than in 2016) including 1,958 complaints (221 more than in 2016). 271 new investigations were launched in 2017 (68 more than in 2016): taking into account the 103 inquiries already underway, it is a total of 374 investigations that were processed in the course of the year. 54 of the new investigations involved undertakings of the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. Overall in 2017, 2,232 files in total were handled by the OdM.
"Our office examines a wide variety of topics which are also increasingly complex. Our inquiries allow for errors to be corrected and processes, improved; some of our investigations also have a direct financial impact for the complainants," adds Ms. Savard.
131 of the investigations completed in 2017 were deemed to be founded. They were almost all resolved to the OdM satisfaction.
- Universal Accessibility: The universal accessibility of Ville de Montréal buildings and amenities has been a subject of great interest for the OdM for many years. The office regularly intervenes to improve accessibility of these premises and to ensure that universal accessibility is taken into account as soon as a municipal project is planned. The OdM 2017 results include: improvements to universal accessibility of the Quartier des spectacles and of restaurant terraces installed on public land in Arrondissement de Ville-Marie.
- Late Fees – Initial Animal Licence Application: The OdM notes that in early 2017, some Boroughs were charging a late fee to citizens applying for their first Animal Licence, whereas the By-law provides for such fees only in the event of late renewals. The OdM investigation confirms that more than 1,100 such applicants were billed in error, in different Boroughs. Following the OdM investigation, a total of $11,320 is reimbursed.
- Park Fees – Co-ownership: Citizens plan to carry out a cadastral operation concerning only one of the two buildings of a divided co-ownership. Arrondissement du Plateau Mont-Royal demands park fees of about $36,000. After analysis of the legal rules, the OdM concludes that the Borough's calculation is problematic: the OdM submits that the park fees should be calculated only on the value of the building involved in the cadastral operation and not on the total value of the entire divided co-ownership. Shortly after, the Court of Appeal confirms this interpretation in a similar file. The Borough agrees to apply these findings to the present case, thus reducing the park fees by approximately $18,000.
- Pitbull-type dogs (approximately 150 complaints): In 2017, the OdM receives some 150 new complaints regarding the new rules governing Pitbull-type dogs. 87 new inquiries plus 1 OdM systemic investigation are launched, mainly concerning the quality of information provided to citizens and the fair and equitable implementation of the new rules. When the new administration decides to suspend the new rules, in December 2017, most of the OdM files had already been resolved.
Only 2 investigations led to formal Recommendations in 2017, both concerning Arrondissement du Plateau-Mont-Royal:
- 1st file :
Recommendation to allow a citizen to regularize the workshop door he has installed, via a permit application, since the evidence overwhelmingly leads to the conclusion that this door had been approved by the Borough – Rejected
- 2nd file :
Recommendation not to submit the citizen's initial project to the Borough Council for a decision, since the applicant no longer wants this configuration for the expansion of her building – Accepted
Recommendation to pursue discussions with the citizen and her architects in order to find an alternative configuration compliant with the requirements of the PIIA and taking into account the reasonable preferences of the citizen – Rejected.
Topics of new 2017 investigations
The new investigations launched in 2017 concerned mainly the following topics: Animal (including the management of Animal Permits) (94); Claim – Material Damage – Financial Compensation (25); Zoning/Urban Planning – Permits – Construction/Demolition/ Transformation/PIIA (13); and Municipal Services – Delays/Procedures (10).
It should be noted that in 2017, with a view to continue improving its own procedures, the OdM reviewed and substantially reduced the number of categories used for classifying its files.
Boroughs and Departments challenged by complaints
The Boroughs most frequently challenged in 2017 were: Côte des Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grace (78 complaints, 11 thorough enquiries, 5 summary enquiries); Le Plateau-Mont-Royal (74 complaints, 6 thorough enquiries); Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie (69 complaints, 7 thorough enquiries, 2 summary enquiries); Ville-Marie (62 complaints, 7 thorough enquiries, 2 summary enquiries); Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (58 complaints, 3 thorough enquiries, 3 summary enquiries); Ahuntsic-Cartierville (48 complaints, 9 thorough enquiries, 3 summary enquiries).
As for the Central Departments, the complaints mainly concerned were: Affaires juridiques – Municipal Court (116 complaints, 6 summary enquiries); SPVM – Direction des opérations policières (115 complaints, 5 thorough enquiries); Concertation des arrondissements (113 complaints, 78 thorough enquiries); Affaires juridiques – Direction des affaires civiles (79 complaints, 13 summary enquiries); SPVM – Section des agents de stationnement (65 complaints, 2 thorough enquiries, 1 summary enquiry); Ressources humaines (39 complaints, no enquiry).
The Paramunicipal Corporations most often targeted were: Office municipal d'habitation de Montréal (OMHM) (69 complaints, 4 thorough enquiries, 10 summary enquiries) and the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) (25 complaints, no investigations). Note that the OdM has no jurisdiction over the STM.
The OdM also dealt with 62 complaints challenging City Council decisions and 6 complaints targeting the Mayor's Office: for the most part, these complaints referred to the new rules applicable to Pitbull-type dogs.
The average final response time for complaints received and closed in 2017 was 5.35 business days. The new enquiries launched and closed in 2017 had an average final response time of 37.36 working days.
About the OdM
Created in 2003, the OdM currently operates with a team of 10 people, including the Ombudsman. It provides a last resort recourse to ensure that citizens' municipal rights are respected and that their files are handled with respect and fairness by all municipal stakeholders. This service is free of charge and easily accessible: it promotes a culture based on quality of service, greater transparency and fair and equitable decision-making processes within Ville de Montréal. Over the last 15 years, the office has handled more than 19,000 complaints and conducted more than 2,900 investigations.
The OdM also offers the only available recourse to ensure that the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities undertakings are complied with by City managers, employees and elected officials.
The 2017 Annual Report and those of previous years can be found on the Ombudsman de Montréal website: ombudsmandeMontréal.com.
SOURCE OMBUDSMAN DE MONTREAL
For further information: Alix Chartrand, M 514 318-5609, B. 514 849-4554, [email protected]