TCDSB ward 9 trustee Jo-Ann Davis

TCDSB ombudsman motion shot down

By 
  • May 30, 2012

TORONTO - An initiative to improve the accountability of the Toronto Catholic District School Board by appointing an independent ombudsman has hit a legislative roadblock.

“The ministry is telling us that we cannot create our own ombudsman role,” said Ward 9 trustee Jo-Ann Davis, who is leading the initiative. “It seems odd to me that our Ministry of Education is not allowing Toronto Catholic to be as accountable as it wants to be.”

Had her motion detailing the expectations, responsibilities and costs for the proposed ombudsman passed during the board’s May 24 meeting, TCDSB would have been closer to becoming the province’s first board to have the position. Davis had proposed the hiring of a full-time, independent ombudsman at an annual cost of about $150,000.

“We would be leaders in Ontario but, to be frank, we’d be behind the times,” she said.

Instead, Davis’ motion died before it could be debated. Davis said that, according to an e-mail from the ministry which trustee chairperson Ann Andrachuk summarized during the board’s May meeting, a fully independent ombudsman is not an option.

“She (Andrachuk) received an e-mail from a member of staff at the ministry telling us that we cannot create an ombudsman position that reports to the board of trustees,” said Davis. “We’ve asked for the chair to provide what she received from the ministry in writing so we can all read what was asked and exactly what was answered. I want to see that in writing.”

The board had sought legal advice from the Ministry of Eduction regarding the framework for creating an independent ombudsman. But spokesperson Gary Wheeler said it is not the ministry’s role to provide legal advice. Neither Wheeler nor the TCDSB would provide further details regarding the contents of their e-mail exchanges.

“The issue has been referred back to staff for a report and we won’t have a comment until the report is completed and tabled for the consideration of the trustees,” said TCDSB senior coordinator of communications John Yan.

Davis doesn’t necessarily see this as a dead end.

“There’s still lot of roads. We’ll have to see what road we go down but this certainly isn’t the end,” said Davis adding a special meeting late in June will be needed to debate a revised version of her motion.  

Instead of an independent ombudsman that reports directly to the board of trustees, Davis said they may have to settle for a semi-independent person who reports to the board administration.

“If in the end the only way for us to get this role is to report to the director then we’re going to have to put in a lot of safeguards,” said Davis, without specifying what those would be. “We’re going to have to put more information around the role to make sure it is independent.”

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