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Toronto’s government has communications problems, ombudsman says

City of Toronto ombudsman Fiona Crean, making a presentation at a City Council meeting Oct. 4 2012.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean has issued her annual report.

Ms. Crean said her office addressed 1,430 complaints in 2012. She said the three divisions that received the most complaints were municipal licensing and standards, revenue services, and Toronto Community Housing.

Ms. Crean, who held a news conference at city hall Thursday to discuss the report, said her office is focused on systemic remedies that will fix problems for thousands of residents, instead of one at a time.

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She said the most common complaints were about poor communication, inadequate service, and unfair decisions.

"The communications issue is a huge problem. That really does need addressing. There is no reason to not be able to get back to residents, to explain promptly, properly, and fully what it is that's going on," she told reporters.

Ms. Crean's latest report – which cost approximately $8,700 – did not make any recommendations. She said she wanted the public service to focus on consolidating her earlier recommendations.

Ms. Crean, whose office opened in April, 2009, said confusion about her role remains. She said has seen some resistance from some public servants and councillors.

"I think that for the public service, as they see investigations happen more frequently and at a systems level, in pockets there is increased resistance to that," she said. "That's about a learning curve, as it is with some councillors. It's about understanding the role of the ombudsman and it's about understanding that we're actually here to assist in improving administration."

In September, Ms. Crean issued a report that found Mayor Rob Ford's office meddled in the recruitment process for a number of city boards. Mr. Ford disputed the findings and later suggested abolishing Ms. Crean's office.

When asked Thursday if the mayor's office had constrained her ability to do her job, Ms. Crean said no.

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"I have a fine relationship with his office," she said.

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