Alberta and Sask. ombudsmen to visit Lloyd

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May 26, 2015 8:15 AM

Lloydminster will be hosting a joint visit from the ombudsmen of Alberta and Saskatchewan this week where they will be showing a presentation that explains their roles and duties. They will also give a chance for one-on-one talks with local complainants who have issues that need to be resolved.

The presentation, called “What does an ombudsman do?”, will be held at the Legacy Centre on May 28 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and residents are also encouraged to book appointments if they think they have been treated unfairly with provincial government services.

“We have authority to review the administrative decisions, acts and omissions of most provincial government institutions,” said Mary McFayden, ombudsman for Saskatchewan. “What an ombudsman does is when we receive a complaint from a citizen, that they feel they’ve been treated unfairly, what we do is look at the issue to see if they actually were treated unfairly.”

“We’re a neutral and impartial office, so we’re not an advocate for the complainant who comes to our office nor are we an advocate for the government.”

McFayden says they have been trying to get out to all of the regions in Saskatchewan and when she heard her Alberta counterpart was planning a visit to Lloydminster, they decided to set up a joint-visit given the city’s “unique” position on the border.

Ombudsman for Alberta Peter Hourihan says the visit makes good sense because residents on either side of the border may have had interactions with government services from their respective provinces and the ombudsmen want to provide a joint and consistent message.

“We’re not coming to Lloydminster because there has been a spike in complaints. We’re just trying to get out and about in the province to make sure that we have a robust outreach program to the best extent possible and give Albertans an opportunity to meet with us and voice their concerns. Or in this case, we can provide a presentation just to provide further awareness,” he said.

Hourihan says that although they’ve been around for 48 years and regularly promote awareness of their services, many times when they speak to people they find a lot of citizens are unsure of what their job entails. They want people to know that the option of an ombudsman exists if they feel they have used up all of their options to get an issue resolved with the provincial government.

Hourihan and McFayden both boast high success rates when it comes to resolving the issues they deal with. Hourihan says well over 98 per cent of his recommendations are implemented while McFayden says about 90 to 95 per cent of hers are accepted annually.

“I think they’ll understand just what an ombudsman’s role is and how ombudsmen are there to help citizens if they feel they have an issue with government or if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly,” said McFayden of the what she hopes people will take from the upcoming visit. “It’s an office they can phone and maybe understand better how to deal with their issue or have someone help them deal with their issue.”

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