Brief by the Québec Ombudsman presented to the Committee on Planning and the Public Domain concerning Bill 155
The Québec Ombudsman presented a brief to the Committee on Planning and the Public Domain concerning certain amendments to Bill 155 (In French only) – An Act to amend various legislative provisions concerning municipal affairs and the Société d’habitation du Québec, which provide that municipal bodies are subject to the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies.
While the Québec Ombudsman is in favour of the legislator’s decision to make municipal bodies subject to this Act, it cannot endorse the approach taken.
Inconsistency with the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies
The analysis by the Québec Ombudsman led it to conclude that the approach chosen in Bill 155 consists in entrusting the handling of disclosures concerning municipal bodies exclusively to the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Occupation du territoire (MAMOT).
As a result, a person who wishes to disclose a wrongdoing concerning a municipal body will not be allowed to go to the Québec Ombudsman, an organization which is independent from the government, unlike someone who witnesses a wrongdoing relating to another public body subject to the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies.
This inconsistency runs counter to the goal of simplifying the recourse offered to citizens so that no disclosure is ignored, every person who wishes to disclose is properly protected, and no one’s rights and recourse are violated.
Appropriation of the Québec Ombudsman’s powers and immunities by MAMOT
Furthermore, the Bill grants MAMOT certain powers and immunities for investigative purposes which the Québec Ombudsman enjoys as an organization independent from the government. The Québec Ombudsman is of the opinion that these powers and immunities cannot be granted to a component of the Executive simply by referral to the Québec Ombudsman’s constituting Act.
That is why the Québec Ombudsman’s brief recommended a feasible alternative that ensures simple and effective handling of complaints and disclosures concerning municipal bodies. The proposed model, in sharing the jurisdiction for disclosures between the Québec Ombudsman and MAMOT, would give whistleblowers the freedom to choose one or the other. In fact, the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies provides for this same model for organizations that report to the Ministère de la Famille.