Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal Board of Negotiation Annual Report 2013-14
Table of Contents
I am pleased to present the Annual Report of the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal) and the Board of Negotiation (BON) for the year ending March 31, 2014. 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 legislation under the auspices of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The BON serves as the body that negotiates settlements between parties under the provisions of section 172 of the Environmental Protection Act.
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 have endeavoured to meet clients' needs and expectations in the past year. No matters were brought to the BON in 2013-14.
During 2013-14, the Tribunal experienced a number of changes in Tribunal members through departures and their replacement with new members. As a result, a total of five new members were appointed to the Tribunal in late 2013. The Tribunal will be experiencing further changes in membership in 2014-15 as six members will be completing their appointments with the Tribunal, one resigned to pursue other interests, and two others advised that they would not be seeking a further reappointment when their term expired in 2014-15.
The Tribunal continues to use a client survey to obtain feedback on the services it provides. The results of the survey assist the Tribunal in its ongoing efforts to improve the delivery of its services, and to evaluate the Tribunal's performance. I am pleased to report that the ratings provided by clients in the key areas of services provided by the Tribunal remain at high levels.
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.
The Agriculture, Food & 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. Most Tribunal members also serve on the Board of Negotiation (BON) established under section 172 of the Environmental Protection Act.
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.
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 to all parties that appear before it.
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: Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002; 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 Crop Insurance Act (Ontario), 1996; 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.
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.
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 Board of Negotiation in accordance with section 172 of the Environmental Protection Act.
The Tribunal values:
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 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, regulations, 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 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 complaints about assessments and allowances, to 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 class designation.
Under the Crop Insurance Act (Ontario), 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 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.
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 has 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:
Powers of the Courts
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.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act (Appeals of Decisions made under Farm Products Marketing Act or Milk Act)
In 2013-14, the Tribunal completed a total of two hearings arising from appeals under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act. Both of the appeals were denied.
The Tribunal received seven additional appeals during 2013-14. Six of those appeals will be heard in 2014-15 and one was withdrawn. An appeal received in 2012-13 that was requested by the appellant to be put on hold, was withdrawn in 2013-14 as a result of the matter being resolved between the parties. Another appeal received in 2012-13 that was requested by the appellant to be put on hold, will proceed to be heard in 2014-15.
The Tribunal received no requests for review of a decision under this Act in 2013-14.
Number of decisions issued by commodity is as follows:
Crop Insurance Act (Ontario), 1996
IThe Tribunal received one appeal under this statute in 2013-14; however, it was subsequently withdrawn by the appellant.
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 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 on the basis of religious beliefs and convictions.
In 2013-14, the Tribunal received 103 applications for a religious exemption under the Act. Each valid application was forwarded to the accredited farm organizations and reviewed by the Tribunal. When, after review of 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. One hearing was held by the Tribunal in 2013-14.
The Tribunal granted a total of 100 religious exemptions - 91 exemptions from both registering and paying the prescribed fee, 7 exemptions from paying the fee only, and two exemptions from registration only. Three applicants did not meet the application criteria as their gross farm income was less than $7,000.
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 three years.
In its 2012-13 Annual Report, the Tribunal reported that following the completion of the NFU-O hearing on December 14, 2012, the Tribunal issued a decision without reasons on December 19, 2012 denying the NFU-O's application and subsequently issued detailed reasons for the denial on April 15, 2013. In 2013-14, the NFU-O requested a review of that decision which was denied. The NFU-O subsequently sought a judicial review of the Tribunal's decision with the Court ordering that the NFU-O be accredited for a three-year period commencing December 19, 2012.
No new applications for accreditation or special funding were received by the Tribunal in 2013-14.
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 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.
The Tribunal held 11 drainage hearings in 2013-14 one of which was adjourned and will be rescheduled to be heard in 2014-15. The decision arising from one hearing held in March 2014 will be released in the next fiscal year. Of the nine decisions issued in 2013-14, two were granted and a third decision granted the appeal of one appellant and denied the appeal of the other. In the remaining six decisions, the appeals were denied.
The Tribunal also received 15 other appeals in 2013-14. Eight of those appeals were subsequently withdrawn, three appeals were not filed within the timelines required in the Drainage Act and were declined to be heard, and four appeals will be heard in 2014-15.
The Tribunal also considered one request for review of a decision issued in 2013-14 which was denied.
Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002
No new complaints or applications were received by the Tribunal under this Act in 2013-14.
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 are assessed at 25% of the residential tax rate.
In 2013-14, the Tribunal heard 26 farm property class appeals over one day. For these appeals, the farm property class was granted 23 times and denied 3 times. One additional appeal received was adjourned and will be rescheduled to be heard in 2014-15. The Tribunal also considered one request for review of a decision issued in 2012-13 which was granted.
Farm Implements Act
In 2013-14, the Tribunal spent 6.5 days hearing the damages portion of an appeal originally filed with the Tribunal in 2008. The decision arising from this hearing, which included remitted liability issues from the Court of Appeal, was issued in March 2014 and concluded that the respondent breached its contract with the appellant and the regulation under the Farm Implements Act, and was therefore liable to the appellant for damages.
The Tribunal also received two other farm implement appeals in 2013-14. One of those appeals was withdrawn and the other will be heard in 2014-15.
Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001
No appeals were received by the Tribunal under this statute in 2013-14.
Livestock Medicines Act
No appeals were received by the Tribunal under this statute in 2013-14.
Summary of Hearings Held/Applications Considered under Active Statutes
Recent History of Applications for Religious Exemption
* Decision issued in 2010-11
No parties asked to appear before the BON in 2013-14.
The Tribunal and the BON operate under a budget 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 ministries' business plan.
Operating expenses vary from year to year based on the number, location and complexity of appeals brought before the Tribunal. In 2013-14, overall, the Tribunal operated 8.5% over its budgeted allocation. This was, in large part, due to changes in administrative staff that support the Tribunal. Expenses incurred for Transportation and Communications were below budget by 45.6%, and slightly less than expenses incurred in 2012-13. This was due to fewer hearings held in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13.
The ministry has three full-time employees that support and provide services to the Tribunal and BON. The positions are two Tribunal Coordinators, and a Bilingual Administrative Service Representative. The ministry provides administrative and financial support through the Business Services Branch, Research and Corporate Services Division. Legal services to the Tribunal and BON are provided by the Ministry of Attorney General through the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
1. Timeliness for Releasing Written Decisions after Hearings
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act
Crop Insurance Act (Ontario), 1996
Assessment Act (Farm Property Class)
Farm Implements Act
Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001
Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993 - Accreditation & Religious Exemptions
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
As part of the Tribunal's efforts to improve the delivery of its services, a client survey is offered to all clients who come before the Tribunal. The survey focuses on four key areas - access to information from the Tribunal, the appeal process, the hearing process and the decision. The results from the client survey are captured in the performance measures section below and are used to evaluate the performance of the Tribunal against its function, commitments and strategies. The Tribunal and BON target is to achieve an overall 80% client satisfaction rate.
** Average of 20 survey questions with rating scale of very satisfied, satisfied, neutral, dissatisfied and very dissatisfied.
3. Performance Measures, Targets and Analysis
Access to Information
100% of survey respondents who accessed the Tribunal's website rated the information found on the website as neutral or higher with 60% of that group indicating they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the information. A similar number of respondents, 100%, were neutral or higher that the information on the website was easy to find, while 50% of the respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied that the information was easy to find. 50% of the respondents indicated the question about the Tribunal's website was not applicable to them or did not respond to the question, suggesting those respondents did not use the Tribunal's website.
100% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the response time of staff to information requests.
100% of respondents indicated they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the response time for the acknowledgement of their appeal. 85.8% of respondents indicated they were neutral to very satisfied with the selection of hearing dates, with 57.2% indicating they were either satisfied or very satisfied on this point.
Overall, 85.7% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the hearing process provided by the Tribunal. This is up from 80.9% being satisfied or very satisfied in the previous year.
85.8% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the location of Tribunal hearings, and 25% of those who responded to the question were satisfied to very satisfied that the location accommodated persons with disabilities with 50% indicating this question was not applicable and 25% indicating they were neutral on this issue.
75% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the process and timing for the exchange of hearing documents between parties in advance of the hearing. 100% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the information about the hearing process outlined by the Chair at the start of the hearing and with the respect and consideration given to participants by the panel at the hearing. 75% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the types of questions asked by the panel; 87.5% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the level of industry specific knowledge displayed by panel members; 75% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the impartiality displayed by panel members at the hearing; 71.5% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the overall conduct of those in attendance at the hearing, while an additional 28.5% were either neutral or did not respond to this question.
While 100% of respondents were either neutral to very satisfied with the information provided by staff about the hearing process in advance of the hearing, 75% of respondents indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with this information.
87.5% of respondents were neutral to very satisfied with the reasoning provided in the decision and the impartiality of the panel as reflected in the decision. The same percentage of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied on these two issues. 87.5% of respondents were neutral to very satisfied that the hearing decision reflected the evidence presented at the hearing while 75% were satisfied or very satisfied on this point.
While the Tribunal's target to release decisions within 30 days of completion of a hearing [20 days for decisions under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act (MAFRAAct)] improved in 2013-2014 for decisions issued under the MAFRA Act and the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, and remained relatively the same for decisions issued under the Drainage Act compared to 2012-13, 87.5% of respondents were neutral to very satisfied with the timeliness of the release of Tribunal decisions. However, only 75% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied on this issue compared to 86.4% being satisfied or very satisfied with decision release timelines in 2012-13. In 2013- 2014, all farm property tax decisions issued under the Assessment Act continued to be issued within the 30 days of completion of the hearing, with the average days to release a decision being 15 days.
Based on responses to all survey questions, 92.3% of survey respondents were neutral to very satisfied with the Tribunal's appeal process, with 78.6% of respondents being satisfied and very satisfied with the appeal process.
4. 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. In addition to the requirement previously found only in the Agency Establishment & Accountability Directive for agencies to prepare governance accountability documents - Memorandum of Understanding, Business Plan and Annual Report, the new ATAGAA required that adjudicative agencies develop both governanace accountability documents and public accountability documents - Mandate and Mission Statement, Consultation Policy, Service Standard Policy, Ethics Plan and Member Accountability Framework by April 1, 2012. The Tribunal met those requirements.
For the period April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, the following members were reappointed to the Tribunal and Board of Negotiation: John Rudics, Claire Belluz, Bill Schaefer and John O'Kane for a further two year term; Harold McNeely and Bernard Brennan for a further three year term; and Kirk Walstedt, Paula Lombardi and Tim Mousseau for a further five year term. During the same period, the following new members were appointed for an initial two year term: Stan Benda, Ed Dries, Andy McBride, Glenn Walker and Jeff Hewitt.
* Resigned from Tribunal in March 2014.
** Member's term expired and was not reappointed.
For more information:
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