Executive Chair’s Report
On behalf of all Members and staff, I am pleased to provide an update on a number of Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario (ELTO’s) accomplishments for the fiscal period which ended on March 31, 2014.
At ELTO, the 2013-2014 fiscal year was a year of transition and renewal. ELTO made succession plans for key leadership positions, while remaining focused on effectively fulfilling the cluster mandate and the legislated mandates of the five tribunals. ELTO sought to enhance the confidence and trust of the public, government and parties to cases. This included a focus on priorities to support:
- the core business of resolving disputes;
- government initiatives for agencies, boards and commissions; and
- internal initiatives to better promote accountability and efficiency.
During 2013-2014, several case and hearing management strategies were developed or completed to improve the timely and fair resolution of cases across ELTO, including a review of the rules and practice directions for Renewable Energy Approval appeals before the ERT, a new practice direction for Growth Plan hearings before the OMB, an information sheet for lengthy OMB hearings, and the creation of an ELTO-wide roster of cross-appointed Members who are available to conduct mediations in response to demands at any tribunal in the cluster.
The ARB Streaming Strategy, which was previously developed in consultation with staff, Members and stakeholders, continued to make excellent progress. The strategy was designed to address the outstanding backlog of cases from previous assessment cycles and improve the ARB’s ability to resolve new cases within the current 2013-2016 cycle.
As of March 31, 2014, the ARB received 45,000 new appeals for the 2012 current value assessment on the 2013 and 2014 taxation years. The total number of outstanding appeals was 62,000 on 32,000 properties. The ARB continues to see progress on the resolution of the backlog of appeals as the pre-2012 assessment cycle appeals now total 23,000 (a reduction of 70 per cent of the backlog of appeals).
ELTO provided input into a number of government initiatives affecting the operation of its independent tribunals, including the Ministry of Finance’s Special Purpose Business Property Assessment Review and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s review of the land use planning system. In addition, the leadership of the tribunals that report through the Ministry of the Attorney General came together to identify common goals for future planning of programs, facilities and technology in order to improve service and implement innovative solutions to the challenges facing adjudicative tribunals across Ontario.
In the fall of 2013, ELTO consulted throughout the organization to develop a vision statement, strategic directions and initiatives that reflect the organization’s focus for the future. This important exercise supported the development of the 2014-2017 Business Plan, which has been submitted to the Attorney General and will be published once it has been approved. The Vision Statement and the Business Plan emphasize the core public service role that ELTO plays. These documents will ensure that the organization is client-focused and committed to excellence in resolving environment and land disputes for all Ontarians.
In 2013-2014, ELTO convened its external Advisory Committee on a quarterly basis to receive feedback on access to justice, with a particular focus on remote, rural and northern communities. The Committee also reviewed a number of ELTO initiatives, including a review of information available on ELTO’s website, draft practice directions, proposed rule changes and alternate hearing formats.
ELTO continued to implement initiatives that create a more resilient organization that can respond in an effective and timely way to client needs. To this end, ELTO held a number of position competitions throughout the year to fill vacancies at the leadership and Member levels. ELTO identified many highly qualified candidates based on the qualification criteria of substantive area knowledge and aptitude for impartial adjudication and alternative dispute resolution. ELTO trained newly appointed Members to help fill the roles of recently retired Members.
ELTO also continued to provide an expanded professional development program that is developed through consultation with Members. The program ensures that Members continue to develop the skills and knowledge required in their positions. ELTO used electronic and in-person programs, covering a range of substantive and procedural issues. Tribunal specific training was also conducted to enhance substantive area expertise in each tribunal, and where applicable, specialized training offered by third parties was used to supplement ELTO training, particularly in the orientation of new Members.
As Alternate Executive Chair of ELTO, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has provided input on how services could be improved at ELTO. The input of those who are served by ELTO is a valuable source of information as ELTO continues to grow as a public service organization. ELTO is committed to being a learning organization that looks to share and develop best practices across tribunals.
I wish to thank all Members and staff who contributed to ELTO’s important public service work over the past year. I look forward to the 2014-2015 fiscal year as ELTO seeks to continuously improve its services and strives to be a leading example of an effective and efficient client-focused organization.
Jerry V. DeMarco
Alternate Executive Chair – Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario