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Ontario ombudsman search turns nasty

Andre Marin’s days as Ontario’s most outspoken government watchdog may be numbered.

Andre Marin’s days as Ontario’s most outspoken government watchdog may be numbered.

An all-party committee tasked with deciding Marin’s fate as ombudsman can’t agree on who should get the job, prolonging a search that’s sparked controversy from Day 1.

Meanwhile, reports are swirling that the government — eager to oust the confrontational Marin in favour of former Liberal MP Susan Whelan — have mounted a campaign to discredit him.

Liberals are apparently grumbling about Marin’s expenses, including frequent travel to his Ottawa home and the extensive renovations made to his office when he switched to a new location in downtown Toronto.

Added to the volatile mix are revelations of human-rights complaints against the ombudsman’s office and an anonymous letter that points the finger at Marin for a toxic work environment.

Premier Dalton McGuinty insists he’s not out to get Marin, noting that he’s praised him in the past for his work.

But it was often a bitter pill to swallow. Marin’s flair for attention-grabbing quotes often irked politicians and staffers whose files came under the ombudsman’s microscope.

He openly feuded with former health minister David Caplan over public funding of the cancer drug Avastin, and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. has yet to fully recover from Marin’s scathing report on insider lottery wins.

When his contract wasn’t renewed and the government opened up the job for competition, opposition critics accused McGuinty of trying to silence one of his most vocal critics.

Marin dismisses the allegations as “silly gossip,” saying the move shaved $345,000 off his budget and his travel expenses are well within provincial rules.