In a letter responding to a written inquiry from the Guardian, John Ivison writes: ‘Ontario’s ombudsman’s report of March 23 – which received substantial media coverage – has appeared to have vindicated the mayor and council.’ The inquiry has not been released and Ivison said he couldn’t comment on its contents
Toronto mayor Rob Ford says his city officials have been “vindicated” by a report from Ontario’s ombudsman, but another local official says it doesn’t tell the whole story of what occurred in 2014.
In a letter responding to a written inquiry from the Guardian, John Ivison writes: “Ontario’s ombudsman’s report of March 23 – which received substantial media coverage – has appeared to have vindicated the mayor and council.”
But John Madigan, the city’s director of transportation planning and building, said in an interview: “We still have a lot to learn.”
He spoke after a press conference held in Toronto on Friday to announce the city had received a complaint about the scope of the probe. Madigan said that a large amount of information has not been turned over, including departmental memos and information on industrial corridors in the city. “There’s just been no real internal procedure or basic information shared with us.”
He added that the investigation is inadequate because it doesn’t place enough emphasis on the city’s alleged flaws and ineffectiveness in responding to residents. The city says the ombudsman did not go past the initial inquiry into a complaint made by resident Bob Magder, who claimed that the city had failed to properly respond to requests for information.
The Mayor’s Office and the city said that the findings of the probe were never intended to be the final word on the Ford’s administration.
In a statement to the Guardian, they said: “As the report shows, it was inaccurate to state that the city’s implementation of the Toronto waterfront plan was held up by a ‘lack of co-ordination between departments.’”
Their investigation found that residents complained to city staff about a lack of consultation and spending of money for a city-wide website, which they said was nothing more than a vehicle for giving residents access to information they should be receiving from the city itself.
The Mayor’s Office continued: “In our view, the chief ombudsman’s report paints a very one-sided picture of the city’s functioning, and may be unfamiliar to a significant number of Torontonians.”
The city has invited the ombudsman and city council to sit down and talk through their findings and express their view on the points raised in the ombudsman’s report. The city now says it will get “consultation, fact-based analysis and assessment from experts” about how to respond to residents’ concerns.
The Mayor’s Office said that details on how and where these expert consultations will take place will be released to the public and the media, along with a plan for the responses to the various points made in the ombudsman’s report.
“The city takes seriously its responsibility to act swiftly on citizens’ concerns,” the statement added.
The City said it is still in the process of reviewing the report and requested a meeting with ombudsman Paul Dube to explain the process.
“When we engage with the city as they have today, we want to tell them exactly what we’re going to do,” said Madigan. “The ground is shifting and we need to get to work quickly.”
Madigan and the city have also agreed to set up an independent consultative council, consisting of residents and other city council members, to form a long-term strategy for the city, concentrating on “general principles” about how they will work together.