Alberta is home to a vibrant array of communities, each with its own identity and set of unique features. Cities, towns, villages, hamlets, and other municipalities function as local government responsible for delivering services, safety, and infrastructure to inhabitants.

In 2018, changes to the Ombudsman Act expanded our office’s jurisdiction to include the authority to investigate any administrative decision, recommendation, act, or omission of a municipality. Since then, the primary task of the Alberta Ombudsman has been to instill confidence in Albertans that involving the Ombudsman is a fair and effective way to resolve municipal complaints.  

The Alberta Ombudsman acts as an impartial third-party reviewer. Most complaints can be resolved at a low level but where necessary, the Ombudsman will investigate to determine whether a municipality has acted fairly and reasonably.

If a citizen feels they were treated unfairly when accessing a municipal program or servicethey are welcome to call our office. When a call comes in, an investigator will speak with the complainant and make every effort to understand the complainant’s position. We may inquire as to what steps the citizen has taken to resolve the issue and provide information if further review or appeal is available to them. The investigator may contact the municipality to ask questions or to attempt to resolve the situation as a means of early resolution. This interaction also allows the Ombudsman’s staff to build relationships with municipal staff, describe the office’s role and if appropriate, facilitate direct communication between the complainant and the municipality. This often facilitates a timely resolution of the complainant’s problem.

In January 2021, our office surveyed over 100 municipalities to learn what information the Ombudsman can provide to address their areas of interest and how to best deliver this information. Significant interest was expressed in learning more about our role and the concepts of administrative fairness. In response, work is underway to develop a library of educational resources for anyone seeking more information about administrative fairness, the Ombudsman’s role, and relationship to municipalities. Two examples can be found pictured on this page. In addition to the information available on this website, we can provide webinars and workshops to council members, administrators, and other municipal staff upon request.

For more on the Ombudsman work with this important sector, see Building Relationships with Albertans – Municipality Report, a series of cases describing the types of issues from our first two years working with municipalities and the benefits to Albertans of a collaborative approach to resolving complaints.  

For information on developing vaccination passports or certification policies, see Fairness Principles for Public Service Providers Regarding the Use of COVID-19 Vaccine Certification. This guidance document, developed by the Canadian Council of Parliamentary Ombudsman, offers administrators insight into fairness principles to ensure no oppressive or unreasonable barriers exist to accessing local government services. 

Related Case Studies

Closing the gap on a code of conduct complaint

This article first appeared in a collaborative series produced by the Alberta Municipalities, Rural Municipalities of Alberta and the Ombudsman’s office. To read the full four-part series, start here. The Ombudsman looked deeper into a code of conduct complaint against several elected officials and recommended a municipal council provide a written decision to the complainant, including…

Annexation mix-up prompts clearer communication

  This article first appeared in a collaborative series produced by the Alberta Municipalities, Rural Municipalities of Alberta and the Ombudsman’s office. To read the full four-part series, start here. A senior couple affected by an annexation agreement between municipalities wanted to continue to live in their home which over the years had been modified…

Notification only goes so far

When a municipality dismisses a resident’s complaint about a councillor, it can expect the resident will express a legitimate interest in understanding the reasons. Maria Levine1 is a resident of a midsized town in rural Alberta. Ms. Levine wrote to the Ombudsman because she believed the town’s process for investigating her complaint about the professional…

Special Ballots in the Special Areas Create Confusion

When new legislation rolls out for the first time, it can sometimes cause confusion and highlight administrative problems. That is exactly what happened when the Referendum Act was applied during the last municipal election in October 2021. Ruth Miller[1] is a resident of the Special Areas. The Special Areas is a unique form of local…

Making a difference takes only a moment

When a citizen failed to get answers, the Ombudsman intervened to break the spin cycle. Mr. Hernandez (not his real name) contacted the Ombudsman’s intake line to complain that a councillor, the mayor, and the staff of a municipality were not returning his phone calls or emails about a tax issue.  Mr. Hernandez expected a…