Ontario Ombudsman’s term up in four days, and no one’s saying if he’s been reappointed

Ontario’s most bombastic watchdog is running out of rope and the all-party committee deciding his fate can’t agree on an outcome.

Ombudsman ’s term extension expires Monday, but his office has yet to find out whether he is staying on, being replaced or being re-upped for another short-term extension.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent ElkaimTHE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent ElkaimOntario Ombudsman Andre Marin is seeking a third term in his post.

Now, the all-party committee, comprised of a member from each of the three parties at Queen’s Park and led by Speaker Dave Levac, has sent the issue back to the three house leaders to discuss because they could not come to the required consensus decision.

“I’m disappointed we couldn’t find consensus in committee,” said PC house leader Steve Clark.

A spokesperson for Government House Leader Yasir Naqvi could not say why the house leaders have been brought back into the process, other than to say it’s ongoing discussion.

“A decision involving the Ombudsman of Ontario position has not been made to date. Since the House rose in June, the all-party panel has met several times to interview and consider applicants,” spokesperson David Mullock said. “In concurrence, the panel asked all three party’s House Leaders to also consider how to best move forward with the hiring process.”

All-party committees often select candidates for legislative officers, including the auditor general, environmental commissioner and privacy commissioner.

But the ombudsman’s appointment is no normal process: he’s seeking a third term and a slew of recent controversies have prompted some to question whether it’s time to shake up the office. Twitter spats — including a partisan fray against former Toronto police chief Bill Blair over his decision to run for the federal Liberals, feuds with several high profile strategists and a nasty exchange with a political reporter — proved a turning point last spring.

Yet, the provincial New Democrats remained publicly steadfast in their support for Marin, citing the countless government scandals he’s unearthed. While the provincial Tories and the governing Grits were both more equivocal, saying they would allow the process to play out.

Now, it’s stalled.

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In his 10 years as Ontario’s ombudsman, Marin has exposed the civil rights abuses of the G20, cracked open Hydro One’s major billing problems, prompted reform of the provincial gaming corporation and improved prenatal testing in the province. Even as his he awaits to hear whether he has been reappointed, he continues to work to implement a new mandate.

On September 1, his office — after years of campaigning — gained oversight of Ontario school boards. Marin also successfully campaigned to increase ombudsman oversight of universities and colleges and municipalities.

And, to boot, he’s scheduled to appear at an United States Ombudsman Association conference in October, to discuss the effective use of social media by government watchdogs.

His office continues to plan the trip to Phoenix, Arizona, and several staff, as many as five, would also likely attend. The conference bills itself as a meeting of both ombudsmen and their staff.

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