Minister responsible for Ontario's Family Responsibility Office admits liability and will pay damages
October 25, 2006
Transcripts from the Hansard - Legislative Assembly of Ontario - Question period
FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY OFFICE
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. The FRO mistakenly issued my constituent Brandi Thorne a manual cheque for her September support payment and then deposited the same amount into her bank account, so she went and ripped up the cheque. The FRO is now withholding her October payment as security in case the cheque is actually cashed, but this was after the FRO told Ms. Thorne to complete the lost-cheque form, have it notarized and return it to them, which is everything she did. In fact, she took an unpaid day off work to get the form sworn as an affidavit. But now the FRO says that her funds are going to stay frozen for up to another 30 days anyway, just to make sure that the cheque isn't cashed.
My question is twofold, Minister: Why haven't you fixed the FRO computer problems that lead to these kinds of situations, and will you intervene personally to unlock the FRO's deep-freeze and ensure that Brandi Thorne gets access to the money she needs?
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: Yes, there was some difficulty early in September with the computer system at the Family Responsibility Office. We were very quick in responding and providing cheques to those in need. Unfortunately, after that, some received two cheques. We are trying to correct the situation, and we have communicated with the individuals involved and tried to solve the problem.
If the member from the third party has a problem, I cannot discuss it; she knows perfectly that I cannot discuss any particular case in this House. But I'll be willing and glad to sit down and try to understand and work out a solution.
Ms. Horwath: Minister, the FRO told my constituent to provide a sworn oath, and then they bumped her to the back of the red-tape lineup while withholding her support payments. Listen to what Ms. Thorne says -- this is in her own words: "Between now and November 1, I have daycare to pay for, my fifth mortgage payment on my very first house, car and house insurance and two cheques for school photos, all of which will bounce and cost me more money."
Minister, many women have been hit with bank penalties, late payment fees and interest charges because of your FRO boondoggle. Along with fixing Ms. Thorne's specific issues, will the McGuinty government agree to reimburse all FRO clients for their extra costs resulting from your inability to get their support payments to them on time, just like you were trying to get when you were in opposition?
Hon. Mrs. Meilleur: I say to the member of the third party that the FRO is a good process and helps a lot of individuals, especially women, to get the benefits they should get from the payers. I will also say that we were very quick in responding to the problems we experienced because of an old system that we're in the process of replacing.
I will offer this: Why don't you call my office and we will work to help this lady to solve her problem? If some of them have experienced extra fees, we will look at each individual case and support and help them through this difficult time.
Does this mean that the Government of Ontario is going to pay support payers and recipients for lost wages, out of pocket expenses, fees for recipients own NSF cheques, the pain, aggravation and suffering in the form of punitive and exemplary damages.
Obviously relationships between support payers and support recipients are damaged with questions made by the recipients to the payers questioning the authenticity of payment claims to the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) since FRO has failed frequently over a long period of time to properly administer funds in a timely manner in such an important situation of holding funds in trust.