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Business Plan 2017-2020

 

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal)
  3. Board of Negotiation (BON)  
  4. Values/Operating Principles
  5. Human Resources
  6. Environmental Scan
  7. Programs and Activities
  8. Risk Identification, Assessment and Mitigation Strategies
  9. Resources Needed to Meet Strategic Directions
  10. Performance Measures
  11. Expected Outcomes
  12. Financial Performance
  13. Information Technology / Electronic Service Delivery Plan
  14. Initiatives Involving Third Parties
  15. Communication Plan
  16. Inquiries

Executive Summary

The Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal) is an independent, quasi-judicial appeal body constituted under Section 14 of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act that hears appeals concerning matters in the agriculture and food industry. Established under section 172 of the Environmental Protection Act, the Board of Negotiation (BON) negotiates settlements of claims under that Act.

The Tribunal and BON are accessible to those who are aggrieved and impacted by decisions made under various legislations in Ontario that govern the agriculture and food industry. The Tribunal and BON hearings and negotiations are conducted in a manner that respects the rights of all parties. Both operate in an impartial manner with full regard for the legislation under which appeals or notices are brought forward; yet, in a less formal manner than a court.

All members of the Tribunal and BON are part time per diem appointees appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Each member represents the diversity of geographical areas in Ontario and has particular background and expertise in areas relating to agricultural production, processing, marketing, labour, consumer interests, and/or drainage matters. This broad-expertise membership allows the Tribunal and BON to address all appeals or notices for negotiation brought forward, including those that require specialized technical knowledge.

The manner in which the Tribunal and BON operate and the diversity of expertise amongst the members supports the expectations of clients, government and the general public that matters before the Tribunal will be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.

Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is an adjudicative agency of the Ontario government where decisions made by other bodies can be appealed or where applications and complaints can be heard pursuant to legislation that authorizes the Tribunal to hear those matters. It is an accessible venue that allows due process to occur. All Tribunal members also serve on the Board of Negotiation. Some members of the Tribunal are also appointed to a special roster of members who may hear complaints and applications under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002.

Mandate of the Tribunal

Constituted under Section 14 of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act, the mandate of the Tribunal is to provide an independent, accessible avenue of appeal on a variety of agricultural issues under the following provincial statutes and have them heard by an impartial and knowledgeable Tribunal: the Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002; the Agricultural Tile Drainage Installation Act; the Agricultural Products Insurance Act, 1996; the Animals for Research Act; the Animal Health Act, 2009; the Assessment Act; the Beef Cattle Marketing Act; the Commodity Board Members Act; the Drainage Act; the Farm Implements Act; the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993; the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001; the Grains Act; the Livestock Community Sales Act; the Livestock and Livestock Products Act; the Livestock Medicines Act; and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act (for appeals of decisions made under the Farm Products Marketing Act and the Milk Act).

Mission Statement of the Tribunal

To provide a fair and impartial hearing and decision process for those who are aggrieved by a direction, policy, order or decision, or who require the resolution of a dispute pursuant to legislation that falls under the mandate of the Tribunal.

Board of Negotiation (BON)

Mandate of BON

Established under the authority of the Environmental Protection Act, the mandate of the BON is to negotiate a settlement of a claim where a contaminant is causing or has caused injury or damage to livestock or to crops, trees or other vegetation. Where a claimant has requested an investigation by the Minister of the Environment and a report is filed, and where the claimant and the person responsible for the injury or damage are not able to reach a settlement of the claim, either party may refer the matter to the BON for settlement. Settlements negotiated by the BON are non-binding.

Mission Statement of BON

To provide a fair and impartial process for the negotiation of a settlement of claim where a party has served a notice of negotiation upon the BON in accordance with section 172 of the Environmental Protection Act.

Values/Operating Principles

The Tribunal/BON values:

  1. Evidence-based decision making with clearly reasoned and expressed decisions
  2. Respect and consideration
  3. Fairness and accessibility
  4. Continuous professional development of its members
  5. Adherence to principles of the adjudicative process
  6. Endeavouring to reach consensus in the decision-making process

Human Resources

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) provides administrative, financial and support services to the Tribunal and BON through the Business Services Branch, Research and Corporate Services Division. In 2016, OMAFRA realigned administrative services for the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board from the Environmental Management Branch to the Business Services Branch to provide consistent, efficient administrative resources for its adjudicative agencies.

Three full-time employees are assigned to the Tribunal and BON. Staff coordinate the administration and operation of the Tribunal by planning, coordinating and supporting all required activities related to hearings, including addressing pre-hearing and post-hearing issues; liaising with parties to appeals to provide information and explanations related to hearing practices and procedures; issuing official correspondence; explaining rules of procedures to parties to appeals and their counsel and completing the necessary accountability documents required by government legislation or directives.

Legal services to the Tribunal and BON are provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General through the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Key Achievements

The Tribunal continues to carry out its adjudicative mandate and achieve its goals. The Tribunal provides a fair and effective appeal mechanism to the public. The Tribunal met its goal of attaining client survey results over 80% positive with relation to the delivery of its services. To support the increasing complexity and volume of caseload, two new vice-chairs were appointed in 2016/17.

During 2016/17, staff successfully transitioned the Tribunal to an automatic payroll system.

To date, the BON has had no requests for negotiation.

The Tribunal and BON are in compliance with the Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009 (ATAGAA) and the Agencies & Appointments Directive (AAD). Governance and public accountability documents which are compliant with both the ATAGAA and the AAD are accessed by the public through the Tribunal website or by contacting the Tribunal office. All members and staff are compliant with the requirements of the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive.

Environmental Scan

The Tribunal and BON are responsive agencies. The Tribunal processes appeals, applications and complaints as they are filed. To date, no parties have asked to appear before the BON. Consequently, the Tribunal’s workload is determined by the number of appeals received each year. Although the Tribunal is required by legislation to provide adjudicative services to the public, the Tribunal is also required to work within a set budget. As an agency, the Tribunal continues to look for ways to enhance efficiencies and effectiveness in administrative, financial and operational business processes. If the number of Tribunal appeals and related activity increases, resource (financial and administrative) concerns may result.

Of the 18 statutes for which the Tribunal and/or BON can hear appeals, applications or complaints, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act is the only legislation that states a timeline for releasing hearing decisions. The legislation states that the Tribunal shall, within 20 days after the hearing is completed, send notice of its decision and reasons, if any, to all parties to the appeal and to the Minister. The 20 calendar day requirement for releasing decisions regarding Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act cases is challenging for the Tribunal given its part time resources, particularly in those cases where multiple parties are involved, hearings are lengthy and the evidence presented is voluminous.

Issues that are likely to impact the volume of appeals, applications or complaints to the Tribunal include:

  • Decisions made by marketing boards that have a significant financial impact on the livelihood of producers and other groups.
  • The number of landowners or other entities who appeal drainage matters under the Drainage Act.

Marketing boards have the authority to make decisions, policies, regulations, orders or directions (decisions) pursuant to their powers and authorities. Where any person is aggrieved by a decision of a marketing board, that person may appeal to the Tribunal providing the appellant has first applied to the marketing board for a hearing or both have waived their respective right to a hearing. Where decisions of a marketing board have a financial impact on the livelihood of producers and other groups, there is a greater likelihood of decisions being appealed to the Tribunal.

The Tribunal finds appeals and hearings continue to increase in complexity. Additionally, as the dollar value at stake in appeals increases, the Tribunal may also see more appellants and more appellants with legal representation.

Commitments and Highlights of Strategies for 2017-2020

The Tribunal and BON will continue to deliver on its key commitments and strategies as it moves forward into the next business cycle. These commitments and strategies encompass the Tribunal’s goal of providing a fair and impartial hearing and decision process in an accessible venue. The Tribunal focuses on proficient delivery of adjudicative services, confidence in the Tribunal by parties in the appeal process, efficient decision making and timely release of decisions and compliance with all regulatory requirements.

New members will be appointed to the Tribunal in 2017/18 to replace those whose term will be expiring. Orientation and training will be provided to ensure these new members are equipped to address any issue that arises in their proceedings. Members and staff will continue to be diligent in meeting the requirements of the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive. Hearing and travel arrangements will be done in the most cost effective manner. The Tribunal and BON will ensure its Business Plan, Annual Report, and other governance and public accountability documents are in compliance with the AAD and the ATAGAA.

The Tribunal continues to be mindful of the need to meet the public’s expectations for decisions to be released in a timely manner. However, appeal matters have increased in complexity and more often involve multiple parties with legal representation. As a result, the Tribunal will continue to inform stakeholders that some decisions may take longer to complete depending on the complexity of the matter under appeal and the volume of evidence required to be considered.

The Tribunal will continue to use the client survey to obtain feedback on the services it provides. The results of the survey will assist the Tribunal in its ongoing efforts to improve the delivery of its services, and to evaluate the Tribunal’s performance.

Programs and Activities

The Tribunal will be delivering on the following key activities within its five key strategic directions:

  1. Liaison with Public

  • Staff liaises with parties to appeals providing non-legal advice regarding appropriate hearing, pre-hearing and post-hearing practices and procedures.
  • Annual address at the Drainage Engineers Conference.
  • Information and agency accountability documents available on the website.
  • Decisions posted to the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website (exceptions include decisions under the Assessment Act and religious exemptions pertaining to the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993).
  • Chair responds to media inquiries for the Tribunal and BON in a timely manner.
  • Compliance with French language Services Act.
  • Feedback through a survey distributed to participants once a decision is released.
  1. Processing of Appeals, Applications and Complaints

  • Screening the appeal, application or complaint to assess its compliance with the Act under which it is filed. Further information may be solicited from the parties.
  • Informing the Chair of the receipt of the appeal, application or complaint so that he may assign a panel of members to hear the dispute.
  • Scheduling the hearing. Pre-hearing conferences may be scheduled where appropriate.
  • Responding to questions about the Tribunal’s processes and procedures.
  • Tracking and administering the appeal process through to the rendering of the written decision.
  1. Hearings and Decision Making

  • Conduct hearings and negotiations in a manner that respects the rights of all parties.
  • "Apply the Rules of Procedure" made pursuant to the Statutory Powers Procedure Act to ensure a fair and cost effective determination of appeals and applications.
  • Provide unrepresented parties, prior to the hearing, adequate information on hearing procedures.
  • Issue decisions in writing.
  1. Ongoing Education

  • Annual training session for members with review of responsibilities under the applicable legislation and directives.
  • Intensive adjudicator training courses offered by the Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators.
  • Training and orientation of newly appointed members.
  • Newly appointed members participate as an observer to a Tribunal proceeding prior to being assigned to a panel.
  • Circulation of legal cases and articles of relevance.
  1. Compliance with ATAGAA and AAD

  • Ensure the Tribunal and BON are accountable, transparent and efficient in their operations while remaining independent in their decision-making.
  • Compliant with Public Accountability Documents: Mandate and Mission Statement, Consultation Policy, Service Standards Policy, Ethics Plan and Member Accountability Framework including Code of Conduct.
  • Compliant with Governance Accountability Documents: Memorandum of Understanding, Business Plan and Annual Report.
  • Governance documents posted on website fulfills government’s objective for increased transparency.

Risk Identification, Assessment and Mitigation Strategies

The Agencies & Appointments Directive requires provincial agencies to have a risk-based approach to managing agency oversight. The Tribunal and BON have no medium or high risk issues. The Tribunal and BON have identified some low corporate risks in the Strategic and Operational categories along with potential corrective action.

Risk Description Mitigation Strategies
Risk Category: Strategic
20 day timeline for making decisions in Section 16(12) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act is challenging given the complexity of cases and part time resources of the Tribunal. Short Term: The Tribunal strives to release decisions as quickly as possible and informs stakeholders that decisions may take longer than the 20 day requirement depending upon the complexity of the matter under appeal and volume of evidence required to be considered.

 

Long Term: The 20 day requirement should be removed and made consistent with Section 17(9) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act. Tribunal staff will work with the Ministry on a proposed amendment to Section 16(12) of the Act when the government is prepared to consider another omnibus bill.

 

Risk Description Mitigation Strategies
Risk Category: Accountability / Governance
Caseload/number of appeals and appeal complexity could have an impact on the Tribunal’s ability to complete decisions within suggested timelines. Mitigate the risk by informing stakeholders that the decisions may take longer than anticipated for completion depending upon the complexity of the matter under appeal and volume of evidence required to be considered.

Resources Needed to Meet Strategic Directions

  • Capable members with adjudicative experience and knowledge of agricultural matters that may be appealed to the Tribunal.
  • Ministry to provide administrative, financial and support services.
  • Legal Services provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General through the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Performance Measures

The Tribunal measures the number of days it takes to release a decision after the conclusion of a hearing. The current service standards as prescribed by legislation or the Tribunals’ Rules of Procedure are:

  • 30 days – Proceedings held under Drainage Act, and all other statutes
  • 20 days – Proceedings held under the Ministry Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act

Under the auspices of the Tribunal, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act is the only legislation that states a timeline for releasing hearing decisions. The legislation states that the Tribunal shall, within 20 days after the hearing is completed, send notice of its decision and reasons, if any, to all parties to the appeal and to the Minister.

It should be noted that, in some cases, decisions may take longer than anticipated for completion depending upon the complexity of the matter under appeal and the volume of evidence required to be considered. However, once a decision is completed, it is sent to the parties and those entitled to receive notice of the decision as soon as possible.

The Tribunal also monitors the number of days between the receipt of an appeal, application or complaint to the release of the decision. It does not set performance targets in this regard as delays in setting hearings are largely due to external factors. The Tribunal also tracks the number of appeals filed by commodity and statute.

The Tribunal tracks clients’ confidence in the appeal process through a client survey distributed to all parties to hearings directly after the decision is released. Client satisfaction is tracked on twenty key indicators. The Tribunal target is to maintain a minimum of 80% satisfaction rate.

Expected Outcomes

  • Proficient delivery of adjudicative services.
  • Confidence in the Tribunal by parties in the appeal process.
  • Efficient decision making and timely release of decisions.
  • Compliance with the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive.
  • Compliance with the requirements of the Agencies & Appointments Directive and Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009.

A key benefit to using administrative tribunals is that parties to a dispute may have their issue decided in a timely manner. The Tribunal has established timelines for releasing decisions after a hearing. Comparisons of timelines can be misleading as the Tribunal hears issues of varying degrees of complexity. The Tribunal measures the average days to release a decision, the range in days to release a decision and the percentage of decisions released outside its guidelines.

It is unusual that all parties to a proceeding are satisfied with the outcome, nor is that a goal to which the Tribunal ascribes. Instead, the Tribunal attempts to ensure that all parties are treated fairly and have confidence that the process used to hear the matter was reasonable.

Financial Performance

The Tribunal and the BON operate under a budget for operational expenses allocated by the ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and as such do not have their own audited financial statements. The Tribunal and BON resource requirements are incorporated under the ministry’s business plan. The budget for operating expenses allocated will continue to be used to deliver on all business priorities of the Tribunal and BON.

 

Operating Expenditures

 

Actual

2016-2017

Proposed Budget/yr.

2017-2020

Transportation and Communications $ 39, 829 $ 40, 000
Services $ 249, 034 $ 250, 000
Supplies and Equipment $ 3, 547 $ 5, 000
Total $292, 410 $ 295, 000

Information Technology / Electronic Service Delivery Plan

The Tribunal and BON operate within the Management and Use of Information and Information Technology Directive.

Initiatives Involving Third Parties

There is a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that provides a framework by which the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs provides business support to the Tribunal. The Tribunal in turn provides hearing services to AgriCorp, on a cost recovery basis, on appeals to the Tribunal of AgriCorp decisions under the Agricultural Products Insurance Act, 1996.

The MOU sets out the duration, guiding principles and financial arrangements of the agreement. It also establishes a process for review and amendment of the MOU.

Communication Plan

The Tribunal’s hearing room and offices are located in the Government Building at One Stone Road West, Guelph. The Tribunal also conducts hearings throughout Ontario, as necessary, to improve its accessibility to all parties that appear before it.

The Tribunal website is located on the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs site under Agencies, Boards and Commissions. The public website is at www.ontario.ca/omafra. General information about the Tribunal and BON, information on how to prepare for a hearing, information about upcoming hearings, the Rules of Procedure and agency accountability documents are posted on the website. The site is accessible in English and French. Decisions of the Tribunal are posted on the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website at http://www.canlii.ca/en/on/onafraat with the exception of decisions under the Assessment Act and religious exemptions pertaining to the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993.

There is an established system for the retention of Tribunal documents, for making such documents publicly available when appropriate, and for ensuring compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Archives and Recordkeeping Act, 2006 where applicable.

All inquiries to the Tribunal or BON can be made as indicated below. The Tribunal and BON Chair acts as the spokesperson for all media inquiries.

Inquiries

Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal or Board of Negotiation

1 Stone Road West

Guelph, ON N1G 4Y2

Telephone:      (519) 826-3433

Fax:                  (519) 826-4232

Toll Free:         (888) 466-2372 ext. 519-826-3433

Email:              AFRAAT@ontario.ca

Website:          https://www.afraat.ca