Complaints about Ontario Cannabis Store pushed ombudsman’s case load up 30 per cent last year

Complaints about Ontario Cannabis Store pushed ombudsman’s case load up 30 per cent last year

A customer hoping to get high was left feeling low after the Ontario Cannabis Store mailed him an empty box, one of 2,411 beefs about the fledgling operation that contributed to an increase of 30 per cent in overall complaints to Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube.

“I think they really underestimated the demand,” Dube said Tuesday as he issued his annual report, detailing how his office also helped autism families frustrated at controversial changes to the treatment programs in February, a prison inmate get dentures, electric vehicle owners get rebates and a college student get financial aid she had been denied.

In a moment of “absurdity,” the government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store told the man who received the empty box that he would have to return it to get a refund, added Dube, whose staff intervened at this point to make sure that demand was waived.

Most of the problems with the cannabis operation involved a crush of orders after recreational marijuana became legal last Oct. 17 and complaints have “eased considerably since then.”

But Dube said concerns from eager customers rolled in at such a pace that the situation reminded him of “a couple of kids with a lemonade stand on a wharf and a cruise ship pulling up.”

The ombudsman’s office handled 27,419 complaints in total for the fiscal year ending March 31, with 575 alone coming from parents of children with autism with concerns about the revamped Ontario Autism Program from Premier Doug Ford’s government and new funding caps that were put in place.

Some were “frankly quite desperate,” said Dube, who noted he cannot dictate policy to legislators.

“A significant number were angry about the government’s policy decision and political approach,” he wrote in the 80-page report. “In dealing with such complaints, the ombudsman and staff distinguish political questions from administrative ones.”

Complaints about jails increased by 701 to 5,711 last year, including one from an inmate who had suffered for a year without dentures while awaiting trial and concerns from inmates who were getting methadone for addictions at different times every day, leaving them with drug withdrawal symptoms.

The family of a lottery winner who died before he could collect $2,000 in winnings got help from Dube’s office in getting the required documents to verify his ticket.

In other cases of note, a college student with a disability got $9,510 in student assistance she had been denied and a Tesla owner got help receiving the second half of his $14,000 electric vehicle rebate following what he called a “comedy of errors” in dealing with the ministry of transportation.

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