QUEBEC — Quebec’s ombudsman is concerned that the most vulnerable members of society might pay the price in soon-to-be-announced provincial budget cuts.
In tabling her 2013-2014 report Thursday, Raymonde Saint-Germain noted that the Liberal government’s attempts to clean up public finances and eliminate the deficit in 2015-2016 must respect the less fortunate members of society.
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She said she fully subscribes to the need for public financial recovery, but insisted it is important to respect the rights of citizens in any decisions that are made.
“In applying recovery measures, care must always be taken not to create injustice and unfairness,” Saint-Germain cautioned.
She told reporters she is concerned with the impact that any upcoming cuts would have on services provided directly to the population.
Saint-Germain said she was worried that the application of cutbacks would translate into a lack of administrative flexibility.
She also reported that, over the years, the time it takes to get services has been getting longer, adding that wait times for services and difficulties gaining access to them top the list of reasons for substantiated complaints.
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Saint-Germain mentioned that the average wait time in 2012 for a coroner’s investigation was 12.2 months and that 799 families had to wait more than a year and a half before obtaining the coroner’s conclusions concerning a loved one’s death.
“Given the serious consequences – human and financial – of long wait times on bereaved families, the Quebec ombudsman’s opinion is that the coroner’s office must make the reduction of wait times one of its priorities,” she said.
Saint-Germain also took aim at Quebec’s Revenue Department for the way it collects support payments.
“In light of the facts, the Quebec Ombudsman is not convinced that Revenu Quebec puts as much effort into collecting arrears on child support as it does when it is owed money,” she noted.
“In the cases presented in the report, Revenu Quebec’s negligence had hefty financial consequences for the parents concerned.”