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Ombudsman Extended

March 25, 2010 permalink

Ontario's ombudsman André Marin, whose job was in peril, has a six month extension.

Statement by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin

Today I was advised that my appointment as Ombudsman of Ontario has been extended for a further six months. I would like to thank the Premier and Cabinet for their support and for giving me the opportunity to continue to the good work of my Office during this time.

– André Marin, Ombudsman of Ontario

Source: Ontario Ombudsman

Addendum: An opinion piece tells how hard it is to decide on a replacement for André Marin



Sought: another pit bull, or a tame Ombudsman?

André Marin
Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin reviews his notes after a news conference in Toronto on July 16, 2008.
The Canadian Press

Ontario parties at an impasse over choice of a replacement for André Marin

Ontario’s government and opposition are at an impasse over the fate of the province’s most prominent watchdog. And it’s not hard to understand why.

To put it mildly, André Marin – the pit bull who’s spent the past five years as the government’s Ombudsman – evokes strong feelings. Depending on who you talk to, he’s either a folk hero bravely standing up for the little guy against the machinery of big government, or a shameless self-promoter willing to destroy other people’s reputations so he can build his own.

That’s rather a significant difference of opinion. And it explains why the process to replace him, launched by the governing Liberals, has ground to a halt.

“As you are aware, a selection panel was named and charged with the recruitment for the position of Ombudsman,” provincial Speaker Steve Peters wrote recently in a letter to the parties’ house leaders, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail. “This is to advise you that the selection panel has been unable to reach a consensus on this matter.”

Mr. Peters concludes by informing the letter’s recipients that he’s referring it to them. But it’s doubtful whether the house leaders will have much more success than the panel in reaching agreement about who should replace Mr. Marin, because that would require them to agree on whether he should be replaced at all.

From the opposition’s perspective, it’s impossible to imagine anyone better. Mr. Marin, who previously served as the Canadian military’s first ombudsman and before that as the head of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, has turned a formerly sleepy outpost into a force to be reckoned with. With a hyper-aggressive approach to investigating complaints, an apparent enthusiasm for stirring things up and an ability to speak in sound bites, he has repeatedly shone a light on where the government is coming up short – everywhere from the screening of newborn babies to the management of the province’s lottery system.

It’s doubtful any replacement would generate as much heat. So the opposition – the third-place NDP in particular, which has little chance of forming government after the next election and thus wouldn’t find itself in the ombudsman’s sights – isn’t interested in accepting any substitutes.

From the perspective of those who’ve come under his microscope – including politicians, and especially civil servants – it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.

They paint a picture of a publicity hound who’s interested more in his own profile than in the interests of the Ontarians he’s representing. There are charges that he only pursues those cases likely to generate media attention, in some cases actively seeking out complaints so he can pursue them, and then sensationalizes his findings to ensure maximum play. And there’s a belief that he’s insensitive to any casualties he racks up along the way, in some cases going out of his way to name individual employees.

Even if the truth about Mr. Marin is somewhere in the middle, it’s unlikely either side will see it that way. So the likeliest outcome is that, with the opposition unwilling to give the appearance of consensus that he should be replaced, the Liberals will have to steamroll over objections to name a replacement.

According to one rumour, the government is set on replacing Mr. Marin with a former federal Liberal MP. A senior official categorically denied that’s the case, and indeed it seems unlikely the Liberals would inflict those optics upon themselves. But they’re nevertheless going to invite criticism – much of it has started already – because anyone is going to look tame next to Mr. Marin.

In fact, the political hit from replacing Mr. Marin may be worse than anything he’s inflicted on the Liberals to date. But they seem to believe it’s still preferable to another five years of him.

Source: Globe and Mail