Ont. government's 'puffery' undermines public confidence: ombudsman

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 | 5:24 PM ET

CBC News

Ontario's ombudsman has attacked what he calls the "puffery" and spin by provincial government officials that he says involve grandiose promises that amount to little.

"It has not escaped the people of Ontario that the strongest leadership shown by many government bureaucracies has been in making puffed-up promises," André Marin said as he released his second annual report Wednesday.

Citing a number of cases, Marin said the government's credibility is "dying a slow death" because bureaucrats ignore problems while boasting of their accomplishments.

As an example, he said the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. billed itself as a global leader in assessment, but was actually an arrogant cutthroat agency with little regard for homeowners.

He also criticized the Family Responsibility Office, calling it a careless and lackadaisical agency that views itself as neutral.

There was some good news, however, as Marin said that, once exposed, organizations tend to clean up their act and recommit to serving the public interest.

But Marin pointed out that the ombudsman's office still doesn't have the power to probe complaints against municipalities, hospitals and the children's aid societies.

He said it was "frankly embarrassing" that Ontario is the only province where patients can't complain to the provincial ombudsman.

"The Ministry of Health's budget is something along the lines of $35 billion … yet there's no oversight in hospitals. It just doesn't make sense to me."