On Thursday October 26, 2017 the final amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA), the act that governs how municipalities operate, were proclaimed into law. Efforts to modernize the act led to significant updates including changes to the Ombudsman Act, via Bill 21 – the Modernized Municipal Government Act. In a recent news release, Municipal Affairs stated:
“The updated act ensures municipalities are governed in an open and transparent manner, keeps municipal councils accountable, creates a framework for greater regional collaboration and improves the consistency of the municipal framework.”
While most of the changes proposed in the MGA took effect at proclamation, the functions and duties of the Alberta Ombudsman to include municipalities will come into force April 1, 2018. At this time, individuals who believe they have been treated unfairly by a municipality can bring their concerns to the Alberta Ombudsman, as the office of last resort.
Since she took office as the ninth Alberta Ombudsman, Marianne Ryan knew that one of the toughest challenges in the office’s 50-year history lay ahead.
“Significant work has been underway for more than a year as our office works towards accepting municipal complaints. Following passage of Bill 21 in late 2016, amendments to the Municipal Government Act essentially bring our services to residents of Alberta’s approximately 350 municipalities. Because the Alberta Ombudsman is an impartial and neutral independent office of the Legislative Assembly, we are uniquely positioned to investigate complaints related to municipalities. As Canada’s oldest parliamentary ombudsman office with 50 years of experience, we look forward to working in a meaningful and collaborative manner with both complainants and municipalities in the future.”
A robust outreach initiative is currently underway to increase awareness of the upcoming changes and share how this will bring value to all Albertans. The office will continue to offer intake services and conduct thorough investigations to assess administrative fairness. A collaborative process aims to find resolution for both the complainant and the public authority.
The vision of the Alberta Ombudsman is equitable treatment for all. As of April 1, 2018 the office looks forward to expanding upon its current responsibilities to include municipalities and assist Albertans affected by its decisions.