It is my pleasure to present the Annual Report of the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal) for the year ending March 31, 2022. The report focuses on the Tribunal’s achievements for the year.
The Tribunal serves as the adjudicative body for those who feel aggrieved by decisions made under various pieces of legislation under the auspices of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
The Tribunal continues to work hard to carry out its adjudicative mandate and achieve its goals. We recognize the need to provide a fair and effective appeal mechanism to clients who come before us, and we have endeavoured to meet clients’ needs and expectations in the past year, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On behalf of the Tribunal members, we look forward to continuing to serve the agriculture and food sectors, as well as rural communities, throughout Ontario.
Glenn Walker, Chair
Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs Appeals Tribunal
N.B. If there is a conflict between the contents of this 2021-22 Annual Report and any legislation, the legislation shall take precedence.
THE AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS APPEAL TRIBUNAL
The Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) is an adjudicative agency of the Ontario government where decisions made by other administrative bodies can be appealed or where applications and complaints can be heard at first instance pursuant to legislation that authorizes the Tribunal to hear those matters. The Chair and all Vice-Chairs also sit on a special roster to hear Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002 matters. All members are part-time per diem appointees appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
The Tribunal’s hearing room and offices are located in the Government Building at 1 Stone Road West in Guelph, Ontario. The Tribunal also conducts hearings throughout Ontario, as necessary, to improve its accessibility.
Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tribunal has been holding its hearings electronically.
MANDATE OF 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 to have them heard by an impartial and knowledgeable tribunal the: Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002; Agricultural Products Insurance Act, 1996; Agricultural Tile Drainage Installation Act; Animal Health Act, 2009; Animals for Research Act; Assessment Act; Beef Cattle Marketing Act; Commodity Board Members Act; Drainage Act; Farm Implements Act; Farm Products Marketing Act; Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993; Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001; Grains Act; Line Fences Act; Livestock Community Sales Act; Livestock and Livestock Products Act; and Milk Act.
MISSION STATEMENT OF TRIBUNAL
To provide a fair and impartial hearing and decision-making 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 Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.
The Tribunal values:
1) Finding facts from evidence, leading to clearly reasoned and expressed decisions.
2) Respect and consideration.
3) Fairness and accessibility.
4) Continuous professional development.
5) Adherence to principles of the adjudicative process.
6) Endeavouring to reach consensus in the decision-making process.
What can be appealed to the Tribunal?
Any order, direction, decision, or policy of the local marketing boards or of a Director made under the Farm Products Marketing Act or the Milk Act may be appealed to the Tribunal. Regulations of commodity boards may also be appealed to the Tribunal. Orders, directions, or decisions of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission (Commission) that apply specifically to the aggrieved person, a group of persons of which the aggrieved person is a member or with respect to a particular dispute or incident involving the aggrieved person can also be appealed to the Tribunal. However, Commission regulations and policies, orders, directions, or decisions of the Commission that are of general application are not appealable to the Tribunal.
A producer or commodity board who is of the opinion that a member of the commodity board has contravened the Commodity Board Members Act may apply to the Tribunal to determine whether the member has contravened the Act.
A decision that results in the refusal to issue a licence, the refusal to renew a licence, or the suspension or revocation of a licence issued under the Agricultural Tile Drainage Installation Act, the Animals For Research Act, the Animal Health Act, 2009, the Grains Act, the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001, the Livestock Community Sales Act, and the Livestock and Livestock Products Act can be appealed to the Tribunal. Under the Beef Cattle Marketing Act, the Tribunal can hear appeals from decisions of a Director to not include or remove plants from a list of plants that comply with the Act and regulations.
Under the Drainage Act, the Tribunal's jurisdiction ranges from adjudicating complaints about assessments and allowances, to evaluating requests for modification of the drainage works including complaints of quality of construction and directing a municipal council to proceed with drainage works after a petition for drainage has been filed. Its powers relate more to the operational or remedial provisions of the Act.
Under the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993, the Tribunal accredits general farm organizations, determines the eligibility of a Francophone farm organization to receive special funding, and decides on applications for exemption from registration and/or payment as required by the Act where individuals or farm businesses object to payment and/or registration because these actions would be in contravention of their genuinely held religious convictions and/or beliefs.
Under the Assessment Act, the Tribunal hears appeals regarding the eligibility of agricultural properties for the farm property tax class designation.
Under the Agricultural Products Insurance Act, 1996, the Tribunal has the mandate to resolve all disputes arising out of the adjustment of loss under contracts of insurance between Agricorp and an insured person, provided the person has filed an appeal within the time allowed. It can also rule on whether a person qualifies for a contract of insurance, if Agricorp has denied coverage.
The Tribunal hears applications and appeals arising out of the application of the Farm Implements Act. Applications may arise from disputes between manufacturers or distributors and dealers of farm equipment, or between an end buyer and a dealer, distributor, or manufacturer. Appeals may also arise from a decision of a Director related to the registration of a dealer or distributor.
The Tribunal has the authority to hear complaints and applications under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002. These may involve requests for access to employees on properties controlled by the employer or complaints regarding non-compliance with the Act.
Who can appeal to the Tribunal?
An appellant can be a landowner, a producer, a processor, a consumer, an employee, a transporter, a dealer, a manufacturer, a distributor, an unincorporated association or any other person or group of individuals who have a statutory right to appeal or make application to the Tribunal.
Powers of the Minister
Within 30 days after receipt by the Minister of a decision of the Tribunal made under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act (arising from appeals of decisions made under the Farm Products Marketing Act or the Milk Act) and the reasons therefore, if any, or within such longer period as may be determined by the Minister within such 30-day period, the Minister may:
- confirm, vary, or rescind the whole or any part of the decision;
- substitute for the decision of the Tribunal such decision as the Minister considers appropriate; or
- by notice to the Tribunal, require the Tribunal to hold a new hearing of the whole or any part of the matter appealed to the Tribunal and reconsider its decision.
Appeals to the Court and Referee, and Judicial Review
Decisions of the Tribunal with respect to licensing issues under the Agricultural Tile Drainage Installation Act, Animals For Research Act, Beef Cattle Marketing Act, Grains Act, Livestock Community Sales Act, and the Livestock and Livestock Products Act may be appealed to the Superior Court of Justice (Divisional Court) in accordance with the rules of the Court. Decisions of the Tribunal under the Assessment Act and the Farm Implements Act may be appealed to Divisional Court on matters of law only. There are also limited appeals to the Referee under the Drainage Act. All decisions of the Tribunal may be subject to judicial review.
2021 - 22 Highlights
Number of Matters Received by the Tribunal, by Act:
|Act||Continued from Previous Years||Received 2021/2022||Withdrawn / Invalid||Decisions||Continuing|
|FRFOA- Religious Exemptions||***2||88||0||90||0|
*Total number of decisions may be higher than total number of cases due to more than one type of decision on the same file (e.g. motion decision(s), interim decision(s), final decision, or cost decision).
**Previously reported as seven MAFRA cases continuing from 2020-21 into 2021-22 and corrected to 11 cases continued between fiscal years
*** Previously reported as 24 FRFOA – Religions Exemptions cases continuing from 2020-21 into 2021-22 and corrected to two cases continued between fiscal years
****Previously reported as zero Assessment Act cases continuing from 2020-21 into 2021-22 and corrected to four cases continued between fiscal years
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act (Appeals of Decisions made under Farm Products Marketing Act or Milk Act)
In 2021-22, the Tribunal received a total of eight appeals under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act. 11 appeals (and not seven as was previously reported) were carried forward from previous years. Nine appeals were withdrawn, and six decisions were released, resulting in four appeals being carried forward into the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993
The Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993 established a system which provides general farm organizations with a reliable source of funding. Under this Act, farm businesses with a gross farm income of $7,000 per annum or higher are required to register and to direct an annual registration fee to a farm organization that is accredited under the Act. Provision is also made for individuals to be granted exemptions from registering and/or making payment under the Act based on religious beliefs and convictions.
In 2021-22, the Tribunal received 88 applications for a religious exemption under the Act. This is down from 100 such applications in 2020-21 and 158 such applications in 2019-20. Each meritorious application was forwarded to the accredited farm organizations and reviewed by the Tribunal. On average, applications were responded to within 11 days. In 2021-22, the Tribunal granted a total of 90 religious exemptions in 2020-21. All 88 applications received were decided within the year and two applications (and not 24 as was previously reported) were carried over from the previous year.
Under the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993, the Tribunal is also required to accredit general farm organizations and to determine the eligibility of a Francophone farm organization to receive special funding every five years. No such hearings were required to be held during the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The Tribunal provides a readily accessible forum for appeals and applications under the Drainage Act. Matters heard include appeals pertaining to the engineer’s report and assessments under sections 48 and 54 of the Act; appeals pertaining to the quality of the construction of a drainage works under section 64 of the Act; appeals from decisions of a Municipal Council to not proceed with a petition for drainage works, or where the municipality has not decided within 30 days after the filing of a petition to proceed with a drainage works under section 5 of the Act; and applications to correct an error in an engineer’s report or to vary assessments under subsection 58 (4) and section 76 of the Act.
Tribunal hearings are held throughout Ontario, usually in the municipal office of the municipality where the drain is located and the appeal is filed. The Tribunal’s practice is to hold a single hearing for all appeals made with respect to a single drainage works. Typically, there is more than one appellant on drainage appeals. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hearings under the Drainage Act moved from in-person hearings where the drainage works is located to virtual hearings.
In 2021-22, the Tribunal received appeals relating to 16 drainage works. 12 matters were carried over from a previous year. In total, four matters were withdrawn, and 16 decisions were released. Eight matters have been carried over into the next fiscal year.
Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002
The purpose of this Act is to protect the rights of agricultural employees while having regard to the unique characteristics of agriculture, including, but not limited to, its seasonal nature, its sensitivity to time and climate, the perishability of agricultural products and the need to protect animal and plant life.
These rights include the right to form or join an employees’ association; the right to participate in the lawful activities of an employees’ association; the right to assemble; the right to make representations to their employers through an employees’ association respecting the terms and conditions of their employment; and the right to protection against interference, coercion and discrimination in the exercise of their rights.
The Tribunal has the authority to hear complaints and applications under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002 (AEPA). These may involve requests for access to employees on properties controlled by the employer or complaints regarding non-compliance with the AEPA.
The Tribunal did not receive any new applications under the AEPA during 2021-22. Of the two applications that were continued into 2012-22 from the previous fiscal year, one was withdrawn, and a decision was issued for the other.
The Tribunal hears appeals referred to it by the Assessment Review Board regarding the eligibility of properties for the farm property class tax rate. Properties which receive the farm property class tax rate are only assessed at a rate of up to 25 per cent of the residential tax rate.
In 2021-22, the Tribunal received 16 appeals regarding farm property tax. In addition, there were four appeals that were continued from the previous fiscal year, which was previously reported as zero in the 2020-21 annual report. In total, one appeal was withdrawn, and nine decisions were made, with 10 appeals being carried over into the next fiscal year.
Farm Implements Act
The Farms Implements Act has two main functions – first, to regulate farm implement dealers and distributors within the province and, second, to resolve disputes concerning farm implements between a purchaser, dealer, distributor or manufacturer.
Any person who wishes to carry on the business of a farm implements dealer or distributor within the province must register with the Director of the Farm Implements Act. The Director may refuse to grant or renew or may suspend or revoke a registration if the applicant or registrant is in breach of a condition of the registration or a provision of the Act or its regulations or would be if registered. The would-be registrant may appeal the Director’s decision to refuse, suspend, or revoke to the Tribunal.
The types of disputes between purchasers, dealers, distributors, and manufacturers addressed by the Act relate to repair charges, warranties, repair parts, failure to perform, buy-back provisions, and serial number and safety standards, to name a few.
The Tribunal received no new applications under this Act during the 2021-22 fiscal year.
|Category||2021-22 Budget||2021-22 Actual||2021-22 Variance||2020-21 Actual|
|Transportation and Communications||$37,600||$2,150.11||$35,449.89||$4,316|
|Supplies and Equipment||$900||0||$900||$265|
The Tribunal operates under an operational expenses budget allocated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and as such does not have its own audited financial statements. The Tribunal resource requirements are incorporated under the ministry’s business plan. The budget for operating expenses allocated will continue to be used to deliver on the Tribunal’s business priorities.
For 2021-22, the Tribunal was allocated $308,500 for its operating expenditures under the categories of transportation and communications ($37,600), services ($270,000), and supplies and equipment ($900). Actual operating expenditures totalled $238,485, resulting in underspending of $70,014.56.
Tribunal spending in the services category includes member per diem payments which totalled $236,335.33 in 2021-22 and represents a budget surplus of $33,664.67. The amount underspent reflects the Tribunal’s continued virtual hearing operating environment during the 2021-22 fiscal year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tribunal spending in the transportation and communication category where reimbursement of member travel expenses is paid from was recorded as $2,150.11 or underspent by $35,449.89. This significant underspending can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because province-wide restrictions prevented the Tribunal from holding in-person hearings, its transportation and communications allocation remained largely untouched. The supplies and equipment category recorded actual spending of $0 or a budget surplus of $900. The total surplus over the three categories has been recorded as $70,014.56.
Comparatively, in 2020-21, the Tribunal was allocated $345,000 for its operating expenditures under the categories of transportation and communications ($42,000), services ($302,000), supplies and equipment ($1,000). Actual operating expenditures totalled $216,647 resulting in surplus budget of $128,353.
The Tribunal cannot predict how many new appeals, applications or complaints will be brought forward by the public, clients, or stakeholders in any given fiscal year. Budget forecasting is based on trends in historical volumes of hearings, active matters that transcend the previous fiscal year, government fiscal policies or social, environmental, or economic factors that have the potential to impact the sector.
The ministry has three full-time employees that support and provide services to the Tribunal. The ministry provides administrative and financial support through the Corporate Projects Planning Unit, Research and Corporate Services Division. Legal services to the Tribunal are provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General through the Legal Services Branch (LSB) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs behind an ethical wall from other LSB counsel and ministry staff.
- Efficient decision making and timely release of decisions.
The Tribunal’s target is to release decisions within 30 days of completion of a hearing with the exception of decisions under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act which has a decision timeline of 20 days from the completion of a hearing.
- Confidence in Tribunal by participants in the appeal process.
The Tribunal’s target is to achieve an overall client satisfaction rate of 80 per cent.
1. Timeliness for Releasing Written Decisions after Hearings
In 2021-22, the Tribunal released decisions under the following Acts within the specified time frame:
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act: The Tribunal released six decisions under this Act during the 2021-22 fiscal year, with the average number of days to release a decision being 35 days after the hearing.Year over year, this represents a 17-day improvement in terms of timeliness to release decisions, as the average number of days to release a decision in 2020-21 was 52 days.
Drainage Act: The Tribunal released 16 decisions under the Drainage Act, 284 days after the hearing was completed. On average, the total number of days to release a decision after a draining hearing was held was 25 days. Measured against the targeted standard of 30 days after completion of a hearing, six of the 16 decisions required more than 30 days to release a decision.
Farm Registration and Farm Organization Funding Act: The Tribunal issued 90 decisions on Applications for religious exemption during the 2021-22 fiscal year. On average, decisions on religious exemptions were released within 11 days of receiving the application. Measured against the Tribunal’s 30-day service standard, 100 per cent of decisions released on religious exemptions met this service standard in 2021-22.
Agricultural Employee Protection Act: The Tribunal did not receive any new applications under this Act in the 2021-22 fiscal year, while two applications were carried forward from the previous 2020-21 fiscal year.
Of the two applications that were carried forward, one was withdrawn, while a decision was reached on the other. In particular, the decision that was released in 2021-22, was for an application for a judicial review, on a matter that had been previously heard by the Tribunal through an application for a constitutional challenge, on the same matter which had been initially received by the Tribunal dating back to the 2016-17 fiscal year. The decision reached in this matter related to the judicial review in 2021-22 was not of the Tribunals, but of a higher court to uphold the Tribunal’s original decisions on this matter as captured through the constitutional challenge and original matters before the Tribunals. As the decision on the judicial review did not belong to the Tribunals, the ordinary 30-day service standard to release a decision from the Tribunal did not apply in this scenario.
Farm Implements Act: No decisions were released under the Farm Implements Act during the 2021-22 fiscal year.
Assessment Act: The Tribunal hears appeals referred to it by the Assessment Review Board regarding the eligibility of properties for the farm property class tax rate. Properties which receive the farm property class tax rate are assessed at up to 25 per cent of the residential tax rate.
A total of 16 new applications were received under the Assessment Act in 2021-22, in addition to four applications that were carried forward from the 2020-21 fiscal year (which had been previously reported as being zero applications carried forward). The Tribunal issued a total of nine decisions under this Act in 2021-22, one application was withdrawn and 10 applications will be carried forward into the 2022-23 fiscal year. Across the nine decisions released in 2021-22, the average time to release a decision was 99 days, meaning that all nine decisions released exceeded the 30-day service standard.
This stands in stark contrast to the 2020-21 fiscal year. However, the 2019-20 fiscal year was relatively similar to the range and average days required for a decision in the 2021-22 fiscal year.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act
|Fiscal||Average Days to Release Decision||Range of days||Number/per cent over 20 days|
|2021-22||35||1 - 88||4/6 (67%)|
Assessment Act (Farm Property Class)
|Fiscal||Average Days to Release Decision||Range of days||Number/per cent over 30 days|
|2021-22||99||43 - 156||9/9 (100%)|
|Fiscal||Average Days to Release Decision||Range of days||Number/per cent over 30 days|
|2021-22||25||2 - 62||6/16 (37.5%)|
Agricultural Employees Protection Act
|Fiscal||Average Days to Release Decision||Range of days||Number/per cent over 30 days|
Note: For performance tracking purposes, the date a decision is released is used to designate the fiscal year in which it is tracked, rather than the date of the hearing.
2. Client Satisfaction
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tribunal offered a hard copy client survey to all clients who came before the Tribunal, with the goal of using the results to improve its service delivery. The survey focused on four key areas – access to information from the Tribunal, the appeal process, the hearing process and the decision. The survey was used to evaluate the performance of the Tribunal considering its function, commitments, and strategies. The Tribunal target was to achieve an overall 80 per cent client satisfaction rate.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pivot to virtual hearings, the Tribunal’s survey and surveying approaches continued to undergo modernization processes to better understand client satisfaction with virtual hearings, as well as to optimize client engagement through survey responses. The Tribunal expects these efforts to be realized in the form of greater client satisfaction insights to be reflected in next year’s 2022-23 annual report.
The Tribunal membership and support staff strive to provide excellent client service in the delivery of the hearing services and actively pursue opportunities for continuous improvement. During the 2021-22 fiscal year, the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated multiple public lockdowns. This could be a primary contributor to the low survey response rate that the Tribunal observed. Only 10 surveys were collected in 2021-22.
Assessing client satisfaction from the 10 surveys collected, and measured against the target 80 per cent client satisfaction rate, the Tribunal’s performance in the four areas of assessment were as follows for the 2021-22 fiscal year:
- Satisfaction with access to information: 67 per cent of survey responses indicated the client was very satisfied and/or satisfied. Comparatively, only three per cent of survey responses indicated the client was very dissatisfied.
- Satisfaction with the appeal process: 80 per cent of survey responses indicated the client was very satisfied and/or satisfied. Comparatively, 10 per cent of survey responses indicated the client was very dissatisfied.
- Satisfaction with the hearing process: 80 per cent survey responses indicated the client was very satisfied and/or satisfied. Comparatively, 10 per cent of survey responses indicated the client was very dissatisfied.
- Satisfaction with the decision: 78 per cent of survey responses indicated the client was very satisfied and/or satisfied. Comparatively, 10 per cent of survey responses indicated the client was very dissatisfied.
N.B. All the “very dissatisfied” responses came from the same survey respondent.
- Compliance with Requirements of the Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009
The Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009 (ATAGAA). The purpose of the ATAGAA is to ensure that adjudicative tribunals are accountable, transparent, and efficient in their operations by having in place governance and public accountability documents, which include a Memorandum of Understanding, Business Plan and Annual Report; and a Mandate and Mission Statement, Consultation Policy, Service Standard Policy, Ethics Plan and Member Accountability Framework by April 1, 2012. The Tribunal continued to meet these requirements in the 2021-22 fiscal year.
In accordance with ATAGAA, the Tribunal reviewed its public accountability documents in November 2015 to determine whether they required any amendments. The Tribunal was satisfied with the documents as written.
The Tribunal is guided by the mission of the Public Appointments Secretariat to ensure the most qualified individuals having the highest personal and professional integrity serve the public on the province’s provincial agencies. Updated membership and respective term and compensation information for the Tribunal as of the 2021-22 fiscal year is as follows:
|Member Name||Term||Location||Per Diem Rate|
|GLENN WALKER (Chair)||09-Jan-2022 - 08-Jan-2025||Chatham||$788|
|STEVE MOUTSATSOS||06-May-2021 - 05-May-2023||Sudbury||$788|
|MARC A. J. HUNEAULT||13-May-2021 - 12-May-2023||Sudbury||$788|
|ROBERT FULLER||03-Jun-2021 - 02-Jun-2023||Simcoe||$788|
|DON MCNALTY||07-Jul-2021 - 07-Jul-2023||Singhampton||$583|
|JOHN JOHNSTON||08-Jul-2021 - 07-Jul-2023||Guelph||$583|
|CHRISTINE GREYDANUS||31-Jan-2021 - 30-Jan-2024||Petrolia||$788|
|KATIE DEBLOCK BOERSMA||28-Feb-2021 - 27-Feb-2024||Mitchell||$788|
|TRICIA SCHOUTEN||28-Feb-2021 - 27-Feb-2024||Richmond||$788|
|BRANDI NEIL||02-May-2021 - 01-May-2024||Orangeville||$788|
|ANDREW MCBRIDE||17-Aug-2021 - 16-Aug-2024||Wingham||$583|
|SARAH JUDD||22-Jul-2020 - 21-Jul-2022||Simcoe||$472|
|JUDY DIRKSEN||15-Apr-2021 - 14-Apr-2023||Harriston||$472|
|BETTY ANN MACKINNON||29-Apr-2021 - 28-Apr-2023||Glencoe, On||$472|
|DAVID STEVENS||20-Jun-2021 - 19-Jun-2024||Springford||$472|
|DAVID FAWCETT||29-Aug-2021 - 28-Aug-2024||Markdale||$472|
All inquiries to the Tribunal can be made as indicated below.
Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal
1 Stone Road West, Guelph, ON N1G 4Y2
Toll Free: 1-888-466-2372 ext. 519-826-3433