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 the Ombudsman’s 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 service, they 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, describe the office’s role and if appropriate, facilitate direct communication between the complainant and the municipality. Often a timely resolution of the complainant’s problem is the result.

For more on the Ombudsman work with this important sector, see Building Relationships with Albertans – Municipality Report, a series of cases from our first two years working with municipalities. Fair outcomes matter. Municipalities wishing to highlight the benefits of a collaborative approach to resolving complaints are welcome to download this report and post to their websites.

Resources

Looking for general information about the Ombudsman’s office? See here for our brochure, poster and a video explaining how to get in touch.

See here for our latest resources developed specifically for municipalities.

Related Case Studies

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…

Small town council reviews tax penalty

When can the Ombudsman investigate decisions of elected councilors? When political issues are voted on by elected councilors, an appointed official like the Ombudsman must respect the democratic process and allow those decisions to proceed unchallenged. A political decision might be approving the budget or passing a bylaw to bring in photo radar. At that…