Alberta ombudsman and public interest commissioner Marianne Ryan. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Alberta ombudsman prepares for a complaint-filled new year

Economic problems driving complaints

Alberta ombudsman Marianne Ryan expects complaints will pour into her office next year as the economic downturn continues and frustration builds.

“We’ve been around for 52 years, and last year was our busiest year. I suspect this year is going to be more busy, or equally busy,” said Ryan, who has been ombudsman for more than two years.

The Alberta ombudsman investigates complaints about the administrative process at provincial government departments, agencies, boards, commissions and municipalities.

The office also oversees the patient concerns resolution process of Alberta Health Services, and professional organizations.

In the 2018-19 year, the ombudsman received 5,000 complaints and 1,500 were within the office’s scope of jurisdiction.

Ryan said while there’s a focus on job creation in the oil and gas sector, employment challenges are anticipated in the public sector, with possible consequences for Alberta families.

“Those oil and gas workers could be married to nurses, teachers, so they could be impacted. They need health services. Their kids go to school.”

More complaints from AISH recipients are also anticipated, she said.

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On Tuesday, Ryan visited the Red Deer Remand Centre as part of regular meetings with corrections staff.

Ryan said last year, 84 per cent of complaints were resolved in three months, and 14 per cent were resolved in under a year.

“The two per cent that took longer than a year is something of a more serious nature. We were asking for legislation to be changed, significant policy to be changed.”

In 2018, the Alberta ombudsman started investigating complaints against municipalities.

“I think the 460 (municipal complaints) that we got last year was the tip of the iceberg. I think as more people find out about us, we expect that number to go up.”

She could not recall a case involving the City of Red Deer or Red Deer County.

“That says Red Deer has a good complaint process in place. As many of the major cities do, they have a good mechanism to deal with the complaints.”

Ryan is also the public interest commissioner, who investigates wrongdoing in the public service reported by whistle blowers.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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