Ombudsperson kept busy during Northwest tour

BC’s Ombudsperson was kept “quite busy” during a tour of Northwest communities earlier this month.

“What we saw during the week was pretty typical of what we see everywhere in the province,” B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke said. “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 Terrace, Kitimat, Smithers, Prince Rupert and Hazelton between Oct. 1 and 5. Many concerns related to major government ministries, notably the ministry of social development and poverty reduction, and ministry of children and family development. Other public bodies also at the brunt of citizens’ concern were Northern Health, ICBC, Worksafe BC and BC Hydro.

Chalke is prohibited from discussing either details of the of the complaints. While he also could not divulge how many people he met with in any given community, 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.

The office received 8,400 complaints and inquiries last year on a wide range of public bodies. As found during Chalk’s Northwest tour, the highest number of complaints province wide related to two government ministries that provide service to vulnerable people; the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

“Their complaint numbers have been coming down and that is good news, but their overall volume remains high,” said Chalke. “It is time for the ministry’s fairness issues to be addressed as part of government’s broader poverty reduction strategy being developed this year.”

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 more fair. “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

Fires still burning near Telegraph Creek

BC Wildfire Service assures residents of a proactive plan heading into wildfire season

Northwest entrepreneurs pitch their plans for cash prizes

ThriveNorth announces 12 finalists in this year’s business challenge

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Stellar musicians, performers recognized at 54th Pacific Northwest Music Festival

More than 150 awards, scholarships given out to Northwest B.C. participants

Cyclist braking stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Mathew Fee aims at world record for longest distance on BMX bike while sharing his story of recovery

Parliament Hill 4-20 organizers predict record crowd after legalization

A celebration? Yes, but organizers say concerns remain about the government’s decisions on legalization rollout

Building a better learning environment for B.C. students

Minister’s message for Education Week, April 23-27

Seattle’s 4-20 ‘protestival’ enjoys tolerance, some support – and B.C. could do the same

Seattle’s Hempfest a large-scale occasions with vendors, prominent musical acts and thousands of attendees

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, multiple people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Most Read