Ombusman wants more Laval citizens to use her service

New advocacy office underused for a city of this size

By Robert Frank

“We are still not receiving our fair share of complaints for a city the size of Laval,” Diane Lemelin
told The Suburban in an interview.

The city’s ombudsman filed her 2011 annual
report, Sept. 17, indicating that her office handled
only five complaints that year.

She pointed out that her position was only created in December last year and, given the ensuing
holiday period, she was surprised that she received
as many complaints as she did.

This year, however, the pace of grievances has
fallen far below the rate that she had anticipated.

“So far during 2012, we have only received 40
complaints,” she said. In contrast, “Quebec City
receives about 200 complaints per year.”

Lemelin speculated that this could be because
the public is unaware that they can have recourse
to her new organization.

“We will address that in a communication plan
that we will launch this year,” she vowed.

Lemelin underscored that the ombudsman only
has a mandate to address administrative concerns.

“All municipal ombudsmen in Quebec have the same strict mandate to review what is done by the
municipal administration,” she explained. “We
don’t have any power to oversee the elected members of the municipal council.”

During her office’s inaugural few weeks last year,
she added, none of the complaints that she received
were taken to a higher level, often because citizens
hadn’t yet exhausted all their other options.

She said, for example, a citizen had complained
to her about defective lampposts.

“If there is a problem with a particular municipal
service, citizens need to complain to that municipal service first, to give them a chance to fix the
problem,” she observed.

“We’re an organization of last resort,” Lemelin
concluded. “If they are still dissatisfied, then they
can complain to the ombudsman.”

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