Table of Contents
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, 2021. 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, I look forward to continuing to serve the agriculture and food sectors, as well as rural communities, throughout Ontario.
Glenn Walker, Chair
The Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (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. 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, Guelph. The Tribunal also conducts hearings throughout Ontario, as necessary, to improve its accessibility.
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 Products Insurance Act, 1996; the Agricultural Tile Drainage Installation Act; 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 Milk Act).
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 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.
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 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 or not 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, the Livestock and Livestock Products Act, and the Livestock Medicines 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, formerly the Crop Insurance Act,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 or not 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.
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 has a statutory right to appeal or make application to the Tribunal.
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.
Decisions of the Tribunal with respect to licensing issues under the Agricultural Tile Drainage Installation Act, the Animals For Research Act, the Beef Cattle Marketing Act, the Grains Act, the Livestock Community Sales Act, the Livestock and Livestock Products Act and the Livestock Medicines 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.
Number of Matters Received by the Tribunal, by act
|Act||Continued from Previous Years||Received 2020/2021||Withdrawn / Invalid||Decisions||Continuing|
|FRFOA- Religious Exemptions||31||100||0||107||24|
*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, interim, final decision or cost decision.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act (Appeals of Decisions made under Farm Products Marketing Act or Milk Act)
In 2020-21, the Tribunal received a total of eight appeals under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act. 15 appeals were carried forward from previous years. 13 appeals were withdrawn, and three decisions were released, resulting in seven appeals being carried forward into the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993 established a system which provides general farm organizations with a reliable source of funding. Under the 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 2020-21, the Tribunal received 100 applications for a religious exemption under the Act. This is down from 158 applications in 2019-20. Each valid application was forwarded to the accredited farm organizations and reviewed by the Tribunal. On average, applications were responded to within five days. In 2020-21 the Tribunal received 64 requests for replacement letters, down from 76 in 2019-20, but still up from 2018-19, when the Tribunal received 49 requests. When, after reviewing an application, it is not clear to the Tribunal that an application is based on a genuinely held religious belief or conviction, the Tribunal schedules a hearing. The Tribunal also holds a hearing if there is an objection by one of the accredited farm organizations. The Tribunal held no such hearings in 2020-21.
The Tribunal granted a total of 107 religious exemptions in 2020-21. 24 applications were not decided within the year and 31 applications 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 determine the eligibility of a Francophone farm organization to receive special funding every five years.
In 2020-21, the Tribunal held an eligibility hearing for L’Union des cultivateurs franco-ontariens (UCFO) under section 4(2) of the Act. The hearing was conducted in writing. This organization’s eligibility was renewed in the fall of 2020 for another three years; however, O. Reg. 783/20, which came into effect on January 1, 2021, states that the eligibility order ends on September 1 in the fifth year after the year in which the order is issued, and the effective period of an eligible francophone farm organization that was deemed eligible by order of the Tribunal before January 1, 2021 ends on September 1 in the fifth year after the year in which the Tribunal order accrediting the farm organization was issued. Accordingly, UCFO will be eligible for its next eligibility order on September 1, 2025.
In 2018-19, the Tribunal held reaccreditation hearings for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and the National Farmers Union – Ontario under Section 4(2) of the Act. All three organizations were reaccredited for a further three years; however, O. Reg. 783/20, which came into effect on January 1, 2021, states that a reaccreditation order ends on September 1 in the fifth year after the year in which the order is issued, and the effective period of an accreditation of a farm organization that was accredited by order of the Tribunal before January 1, 2021 ends on September 1 in the fifth year after the year in which the Tribunal order accrediting the farm organization was issued. Accordingly, all three general farm organizations will be eligible for reaccreditation on September 1, 2023.
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 sections 58(4) and 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 2020-21, the Tribunal received appeals relating to 11 drainage works. Seven matters were carried over from a previous year. In total, five matters were withdrawn, and 1 decision was released. Twelve matters have been carried over into the next fiscal year.
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.
In March 2016, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and 10 former employees of MedReleaf Corp filed complaints with the Tribunal alleging that MedReleaf was in contravention of the AEPA. The substantive decision was released in August 2018. Constitutional issues related to the legislation were also raised by the complainants with hearing dates during the 2019-20 fiscal year. A decision on the Constitutional issues was released during the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The Tribunal received three applications under the AEPA during 2020-21. One of these applications was withdrawn, and the remaining two are continuing into the 2021-22 fiscal year.
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.
In 2020-21, the Tribunal received 16 appeals regarding farm property tax. This is half the number of appeals received in 2019-20. Two appeals were carried over from the previous year, 6 appeals were withdrawn, and 12 decisions were made, with zero appeals being carried over into the next fiscal year.
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 Tribunal received no such applications for a hearing during the 2019-20 fiscal year.
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 sole application that was carried over from a previous fiscal year was withdrawn during 2020-21. The Tribunal received no new applications under this Act during the 2020-21 fiscal year.
|Transportation and Communications||42,000||4,316||37,684||54,671|
|Supplies and Equipment||1,000||265||735||499|
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 2020-21, the Tribunal was allocated $345,000 for its operating expenditures under the categories of transportation and communications ($42,000), services ($302,000), and supplies and equipment ($1,000). Actual operating expenditures totalled $216, 647, resulting in underspending of $128,353.
Tribunal spending in the services category where member per diem payments are recorded was $211,883 or a budget surplus of $90,117. The amount underspent reflects the Tribunal’s postponing hearings for approximately six months before it became evident that pandemic restrictions would be ongoing and deciding to implement virtual hearings.
Tribunal spending in the transportation and communication category where reimbursement of member travel expenses is paid from was recorded as $4,316 or underspent by $37,684. 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 $265 or a budget surplus of $735. The total surplus over the three categories has been recorded as $128,353.
For 2019-20, the Tribunal was allocated $325,000 for its operating expenditures under the categories of transportation and communications ($45,000), services ($279,000), supplies and equipment ($1,000). Actual operating expenditures totalled $396,938 resulting in over-spending of $71,938.
The Tribunal cannot predict how many new appeals 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 Tribunal continues to be involved in a lengthy matter under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act, which will continue into the 2021-22 fiscal year.
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 of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
- 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.
In 2020-21 the Tribunal released decisions under the following Acts within the specified time frame:
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act: The Tribunal released three decisions under this Act during the 2020-21 fiscal year, with the average number of days to release a decision being 52 days after the hearing.
Drainage Act: The Tribunal released 1 decision under the Drainage Act, 284 days after the hearing was completed. The decision, that of the Cranberry Creek Drain matter, took so long to write because the hearing was extraordinarily long and complicated, taking over 12 days to hear and involving 40 self-represented appellants and additional interested landowners. The Vice-Chair heading the hearing panel had a heavy case load due to several experienced Vice-Chairs not being reappointed the previous year and was not able to complete the decisions within 30 days.
Farm Registration and Farm Organization Funding Act: The Tribunal issued 107 decisions on Applications for religious exemption during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Applications for religious exemption that were accompanied by a Bishop’s signature were processed within an average of five days. There were no applications for re-accreditation from an accredited farm organization during the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Agricultural Employee Protection Act: One decision was released under this Act during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The file was bifurcated, with the decision on the substantive hearing being completed in 133 days on August 29, 2018. The second part of the case was a constitutional challenge, with the decision being completed in 182 days.
Farm Implements Act: No decisions were released under the Farm Implements Act during the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Assessment Act: The average time to release a decision under the Assessment Act was 19 days, with the range being from 15 days to 24 days.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act
|Fiscal||Average Days to Release Decision||Range of days||Number/per cent over 20 days|
Assessment Act (Farm Property Class)
|Fiscal||Average Days to Release Decision||Range of days||Number/per cent over 30 days|
|Fiscal||Average Days to Release Decision||Range of days||Number/per cent over 30 days|
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.
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tribunal offered a 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 survey was not updated to reflect the change to virtual hearings in time to collect data on client satisfaction during the 2020-21 fiscal. Clients will be invited to complete updated satisfaction surveys on decisions released during the 2021-22 fiscal.
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. Although no surveys were collected during the 2020-21 fiscal, it is noteworthy that the Tribunal received no complaints during the fiscal year, and only one request for review of a decision and one judicial review were filed.
One request for review of a decision under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act was filed with the Tribunal during the 2020-21 fiscal, and one request for judicial review with respect to the Tribunal’s decision on the Constitutional Question in the Agricultural Employee Protection Act matter was filed with the courts during the 2020-21 fiscal.
3. Compliance with Requirements of the Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009
The Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009 (ATAGAA) came into force (in part) on April 7, 2010. 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 met those requirements.
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. No new appointees were added to the Agency during the April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 period.
|Position||Member||Term||Per Diem Rate|
|1||CHAIR (PART-TIME)||GLENN WALKER||09-Jan 2020 - 08-Jan-2022||$788|
|2||VICE-CHAIR (PART-TIME)||EDWARD DRIES||26-Apr-2019 - 25-Apr-2021||$583|
|3||VICE-CHAIR (PART-TIME)||JOHN O’KANE||31-Dec-2018 - 30-Jun-2019||$788|
|4||VICE-CHAIR (PART-TIME)||ANDREW MCBRIDE||17-Aug-2019 - 16-Aug-2021||$583|
|5||VICE-CHAIR (PART-TIME)||CHRISTINE GREYDANUS||31-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2021||$788|
|6||VICE-CHAIR (PART-TIME)||KATIE DEBLOCK||28-Feb-2019 - 27-Feb-2021||$788|
|7||VICE-CHAIR (PART-TIME)||TRICIA SCHOUTEN||28-Feb-2019 - 27-Feb-2021||$788|
|8||VICE-CHAIR (PART-TIME)||HAROLD MCNEELY||04-May-2016 - 03-May-2021||$788|
|9||VICE-CHAIR (PART-TIME)||JAMES MCINTOSH||18-May-2019 - 17-May-2021||$583|
|10||VICE-CHAIR (PART-TIME)||BRANDI NEIL||02-May-2019 – 01-May-2021||$788|
|11||MEMBER (PART-TIME)||MAURICE JANISSE||22-Oct-2016 - 21-Oct-2019||$472|
|12||MEMBER (PART-TIME)||FRED STULP||22-Jul-2017 - 21-Jul-2020||$472|
|13||MEMBER (PART-TIME)||SARAH JUDD||22-Jul-2017 - 21-Jul-2020||$472|
|14||MEMBER (PART-TIME)||LEE HOLLING||14-Feb-2019 - 13-Feb-2021||$472|
|15||MEMBER (PART-TIME)||DAVID FAWCETT||29-Aug-2019 – 28-Aug-2021||$472|
|16||MEMBER (PART-TIME)||DAVID STEVENS||20-Jun-2019 – 19-Jun-2021||$472|
|17||MEMBER (PART-TIME)||PETER KORONEOS||29-Aug-2019 – 28-Aug-2021||$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