Ombudsperson kept busy during Northwest tour

Most complaints directed at ministries handling the vulnerable

The provincial government ministries that were the subject of the majority of complaints received by B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke are the two ministries that provide the majority of the services required by vulnerable people.

Summing up his recent tour of the northwest during which he met with citizens who wanted to lodge complaints about major provincial ministries, Chalke said the majority of complaints were directed at the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

“While their complaint numbers have been coming down their overall volume remains high,” said Chalke.

“It is time for the ministries’ fairness issues to be addressed as part of government’s broader poverty reduction strategy being developed this year.”

Chalke said his office received 8,400 complaints and inquiries last year directed at a wide range of public bodies.

“What we saw during the week was pretty typical of what we see everywhere in the province,” said Chalke. “We don’t get out to some parts of the province as often as we’d like, so it was good to have that chance to visit [the Northwest] and hear what people had to say.”

Chalk visited Kitimat, Terrace, Smithers, Prince Rupert and Hazelton between Oct. 1 and 5. Other public bodies that received the brunt of citizens’ concern were Northern Health, ICBC, Worksafe BC and BC Hydro.

While he could not divulge how many people he met within any given community (Chalke is prohibited from discussing details of the complaints), he said “we were quite busy, and I can say we had complainants in every town we were in.

“And that’s great, in that we want people to be aware of what we’re doing and have that chance to come to us whether or not their discussion with us results in an investigation, and whether that investigation results in a finding that a public body acted unfairly.”

The Office of the Ombudsperson is an independent office of the B.C. legislature that receives complaints and inquiries about the practices and services of public agencies within its jurisdiction.

The Ombudsperson’s role is to determine whether public agencies are acting fairly and reasonably and whether their actions and decisions are consistent with legislation, policies and procedures.

An annual report released earlier this year by the office shows complaints in the province are at a 10-year high.

In addition to its investigative work, this past year the Ombudsperson also launched a new three-year initiative to help public bodies proactively make their services fairer.

“Increasingly, public bodies are recognizing the importance of trying to resolve fairness problems before they escalate and our office is here to help them proactively do that,” said Chalke. “After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Key statistical highlights from the 2017/18 Annual Report include:376 complaints came from health authorities, the top non-ministry complaint category.

Among the health authorities, Island Health had the most complaints (89)

Other top non-ministry complaints include those about ICBC (325), the Workers’ Compensation Board (182) and BC Hydro (155)

The Office received 680 complaints about local governments. The top three areas of complaints related to bylaw enforcement, developing/zoning and municipal fees and charges

Most complaints (1940) came from the Lower Mainland

View the Office of the Ombudsperson’s 2017/18 Annual Report at www.bcombudsperson.ca

Just Posted

Kitimat resident is Conservative choice for fall election

Claire Rattée is a former Kitimat councillor

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

LNG Canada sponsors driver’s license training in Terrace, Kitimat

The $80,000 contribution is part of the company’s commitment to hire locally

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Do you live with your partner? More and more Canadians don’t

Statistics Canada shows fewer couples live together than did a decade ago

B.C. child killer denied mandatory outings from psychiatric hospital

The B.C. Review Board decision kept things status quo for Allan Schoenborn

Searchers return to avalanche-prone peak in Vancouver to look for snowshoer

North Shore Rescue, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog teams and personnel will be on Mt. Seymour

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

B.C. pot giant Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

Most Read