September 17, 2014

Speech of the Ombudsperson - Tabling of the 2013-2014 Annual Report

Corps

The 2013-2014 Annual Report of the Québec Ombudsman is being tabled at a time when a difficult, but nonetheless unavoidable, task of budget recovery is taking shape. In this context, it seems important to recall certain of the principles and criteria that must be part and parcel of the examination of public services and social programs underway.

In applying financial recovery measures, care must always be taken not to create injustice or unfairness. Respecting the principles of transparency, solidarity with the most vulnerable among us and accountability is critical given this juncture. For this to happen, rigorous and realistic gauging of the impact of the decisions considered must occur. Here I am referring to repercussions in human, social and economic terms, for individuals and businesses alike. In their applied form, these measures must never constitute a denial of human rights. This is an essential requirement in the examination process.

Vision, empathy and vigilance will be needed in order to do this. I am therefore calling for the fair distribution of resources and improved efficiency in order to preserve direct public services as much as possible, services that must be provided at reasonable cost and within a reasonable time. I consider this to be the leading challenge of public services for the months and years ahead.

Over the years, wait times for services, difficulties accessing them and infringement of rights have topped the list of grounds for complaints deemed substantiated by the Québec Ombudsman. This year is no exception. Our findings also shed light on other kinds of flaws, whether shortcomings in quality control, unannounced service interruptions, lack of coordination among programs or services, pointless bureaucratic requirements or administrative rigidity. In this regard, I would call for flexibility to prevail in examining situations that are unforeseen or not standard.

I must point out that often the problems noted further to the investigations we conduct are structural or related to work or service organization. The automatic assumption should not be that deficient work quality or staff dedication are to blame. This year, we intervened in every region of Québec with respect to 55 of the 79 government departments and agencies within our jurisdiction, or 70%, and concerning 173 of the 286 health and social services institutions and bodies subject to the network's complaint examination procedure, or 60%.

In closing, I would like to underscore the openness of the government departments and agencies as well as the bodies within the health and social services network that made significant positive changes further to our interventions. More than 98% of our recommendations were approved, which serves to confirm both the rigour of our investigations and the collaborative attitude of public servants.