Martin C. Barry
In a review of grievances filed over the past year by Laval residents about city departments and services, the Laval Ombudsman’s office says a total of 526 complaints were dealt with in 2017, representing an increase of 27 per cent over 2016.
Proud of record
Nadine Mailloux, the city’s full-time Ombudsman, takes pride in the fact that her two-person office managed to deal with 68 per cent of last year’s dossiers within 30 days, as well as 52 per cent within five days or less. As well, the Ombudsman’s office says it was able last year to resolve 51 per cent of complaints cases to the satisfaction of residents who presented cases.
According to the office, the Ombudsman’s office intervened directly with the municipal administration in 23 per cent of cases. In 26 per cent of cases, the office undertook in-depth investigations. The office says that 30 per cent of the complaints received concerned services provided by the city’s Public Works and Urban Planning departments.
“To properly understand you have to know how to listen,” Mailloux, a lawyer, said philosophically on May 2 during a briefing on her report held at the Ombudsman’s office at a high-rise building on Chomedey Blvd. a short distance from Laval city hall. “And to listen you have to take time. This time is sometimes limited, but it must be available.
“We are constantly repeating,” she continued, “that it is fundamental to give a chance to the taxpayer to explain the bases for the complaint, the circumstances which brought him or her to believe they were wronged by a decision, or the special treatment they are claiming for themselves, or the correction they want to make to an analysis which has been made. It thus becomes possible to consider these or to provide guidance.
Not the city’s lawyer, she says
“I advocate for an approach that’s always open and impartial, because as I often say I am not the city’s lawyer and I am not the citizens’ lawyer either – I am here to examine the circumstances of a dossier and ensure that there is a solution that is right for everyone. We try to make our decisions and our exchanges with citizens as simple as possible, keeping in mind equity and being open and accountable.”
According to the Ombudsman’s 2017 annual report, complaints made by residents to the office fall into six categories: Application of urban planning and inspection regulations, traffic, delays in getting service, administrative procedures, zoning and payment of taxes.
Examples of cases
The report contains more than a dozen examples of the types of complaints received by the Ombudsman last year. They range from snow being blown onto private property by the city during the winter, to inadequate followups by municipal inspectors.
The examples also include a complaint from a citizen about noise coming from a municipal pumping station that was disturbing her in her home, a property owner being forced to put up with newly-opened restaurant/bars near his home, and another property owner being charged a fee by the city for snow removal which was never done.