Many consumers have voiced dissatisfaction to Tarion about its internal “Office of the Ombudsman”. Many have told Tarion senior management the term “ombudsman” shouldn’t be used by an employee whose responsibility it is to investigate his own employer. In order to be credible, this office requires complete independence and impartiality.
Often Tarion’s “ombudsman” has to seek approval from Tarion’s own senior management before investigating matters brought to his office by concerned consumers. By the “ombudsman’s” own admission at the April 30th, 2014 Annual Public Meeting, his office is “dependent” on Tarion’s board, and 8 out of 13 are builders.
What’s going on here?
As Mr. Marin, the Ombudsman of Ontario, stated in a paper to the “Standing Committee on General Government” in 2006: “Under no circumstances should ombudsmen be employees of the organizations they oversee“. He adds that many organizations use the term ombudsman to “create public relations departments cloaked in the mantle of ombudsmen.”
Why should Tarion be an exception to this rule?
Many consumers have relied on Tarion’s ombudsman as an “independent investigator of complaints” about Tarion, which is the definition of an ombudsman. But they have sadly found he will not investigate, or says the matter is beyond his mandate.
We get it. Then the name of this department should be changed. The title “ombudsman” gives consumers the reasonable expectation of independence and impartiality in any investigation. But under its current reporting and pay structure, this office seems unable to provide a credible investigation of its own employer’s business practices.
A Compliance Officer, reporting to the Ministry of Consumer Services, to make sure all rules and procedures are followed at Tarion, and all parties treated fairly under the rules, would seem to make more sense. This suggestion has been brought to Tarion’s senior management in writing several times, twice by consumers at Tarion’s Annual Public Meetings. But it has been repeatedly ignored or brushed aside in favour of the current in-house “ombudsman’s office”, which seems a fool’s errand.