Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal Board of Negotiation Annual Report 2014-15
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, 2015. 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 2014-15.
In May 2014, the Tribunal held a meeting with Amish and Mennonite Bishops to hear and consider their religious convictions and beliefs with respect to registration or payment under the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993. These meetings are held every three to four years and once recognized, these Bishops are able to sign in support of a congregation member's application for a religious exemption under the Act.
In August of 2014, the Tribunal also held a hearing under this Act to consider an application by the Union des cultivateurs franco-ontariens for special funding to represent francophone farmers in the province. A decision was issued in September 2014 granting their eligibility for special funding.
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 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. All 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 2014-15, the Tribunal completed a total of six hearings arising from appeals under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Act. Four of the appeals were denied, one granted, and one granted in part.
The Tribunal received eight additional appeals during 2014-15. Six of those appeals were subsequently withdrawn and two were invalid as they did not meet the pre-conditions for filing an appeal. Two other appeals received prior to 2014-15 were also withdrawn and in the case of one appeal received in 2013-14, the panel refused to hear the matter after inviting submissions from the parties.
The Tribunal received one request for review of a decision to refuse to hear an appeal under this Act in 2014-15 which was denied. In the case of a decision denying an appeal issued under this Act in 2014-15, the appellant filed for a judicial review which is still pending.
Number of decisions issued by commodity is as follows:
Crop Insurance Act (Ontario), 1996
The Tribunal did not receive any new appeals under this statute in 2014-15; however, the Tribunal considered a motion by AgriCorp to dismiss a longstanding matter before the Tribunal. The motion was granted and the appellant subsequently filed a request for review of the Tribunal's decision. The request for review was denied.
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 2014-15, 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. No hearings were held in 2014-15.
The Tribunal granted a total of 93 religious exemptions - 88 exemptions from both registering and paying the prescribed fee, four exemptions from paying the fee only, and one exemption from registration only. Five applicants did not meet the application criteria as their gross farm income was less than $7,000, and a further five applicants failed to provide information to complete their application, so a total of ten applications were dismissed.
In May 2014, a panel of Tribunal members met with Amish and Mennonite Bishops to hear and consider their religious convictions and beliefs with respect to registration or payment under the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993. Once recognized by the Tribunal, these Bishops are able to sign in support of a congregation member's application for a religious exemption under the Act. These periodic meetings with Bishops facilitate the expeditious consideration of applications for religious exemptions from registering farm businesses and/or paying a prescribed fee.
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.
No new applications for accreditation were received by the Tribunal in 2014-15. However, the Tribunal held a hearing for the Union des cultivateurs franco-ontariens under Section 17 of the Act with respect to its application for special funding. The francophone organization's application for special funding was granted and a decision issued in September 2014.
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 15 drainage hearings in 2014-15 two of which were not completed until the next fiscal year, and one in which the hearing was completed but the decision released in the next fiscal year. The decisions arising from the two uncompleted hearings will be released in the next fiscal year. Of the 12 decisions issued in 2014-15, two were granted, four were granted in part and six denied.
The Tribunal also received seven other appeals in 2014-15. Three of those appeals will be heard in 2015-16, two were withdrawn, and in the case of one drainage matter the Tribunal determined that it had no jurisdiction to hear the matter. Appeals for another drainage matter were not filed within the timelines required in the Drainage Act and were declined to be heard. In addition, an appeal received in 2011-12 was also withdrawn in 2014-15.
Agricultural Employees Protection Act, 2002
No complaints or applications were received by the Tribunal under this Act in 2014-15.
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 2014-15, the Tribunal heard 18 farm property class appeals over one day. For these appeals, the farm property class was granted seven times and denied 11 times.
Farm Implements Act
IThe Tribunal received and heard one appeal under this statute in 2014-15. The appeal was granted in part.
Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001
The Tribunal received and heard one appeal under this statute in 2014-15. The appeal was denied.
Summary of Hearings Held/Applications Considered under Active Statutes
* Although no new hearings held, 2 short motion hearings were held to deal with a request to dismiss an older appeal matter.
Recent History of Applications for Religious Exemption
No parties asked to appear before the BON in 2014-15.
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 ministry's business plan.
Operating expenses vary from year to year based on the number, location and complexity of appeals brought before the Tribunal. In 2014-15, overall, the Tribunal operated 8.14% over its budgeted allocation. This was, in large part, due to an increase in the number of hearing days in 2014-15 compared to the previous fiscal year - 38 hearing days in 2014-15 vs 27 hearing days in 2013-14. Expenses incurred for Transportation and Communications were also slightly over budget which, again, were related to the increased number of hearing days in 2014-15 compared to the previous year.
The total remuneration paid to Tribunal members for adjudicative services rendered during 2014-15 was $260,856.
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)
* does not include 3 applications considered by means of a written hearing
** 4 day hearing involving multiple parties
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
87.5% of survey respondents who accessed the Tribunal's website were either satisfied or very satisfied with the information found on the website, while 12.5% were dissatisfied with the information on the website. A similar number of respondents, 88.8%, were either satisfied or very satisfied that the information on the website was easy to find, while 12.5% were dissatisfied with the Tribunal's information on this point. 68% 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 rated the response time of staff to information requests as neutral or higher with 85.7% of the respondents indicating they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the response time of staff.
100% of respondents rated the response time for the acknowledgement of their appeal as neutral or higher, with 87.5% of respondents either being satisfied or very satisfied with the response time. 100% of respondents indicated they were neutral to very satisfied with the selection of hearing dates, with 91.6% indicating they were either satisfied or very satisfied on this point.
Overall, respondents were satisfied with the hearing process provided by the Tribunal. 91.7% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the location of Tribunal hearings, and 92.8% of those who responded to the question were satisfied to very satisfied that the location accommodated persons with disabilities.
95.7% 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. 95.8% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the information about the hearing process outlined by the Chair at the start of the hearing. While a similar percentage were satisfied and very satisfied with the information provided by Tribunal staff in advance of the hearing, 4.2% of respondents indicated they were dissatisfied with the information provided by Tribunal staff.
91.6% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the industry specific knowledge displayed by the panel and a similar percentage of respondents were also satisfied or very satisfied by the types of question asked by the panel. 95.8% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the impartiality displayed by panel members at the hearing; 100% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the respect and consideration for participants displayed by the panel at the hearing, and 100% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the overall conduct of those in attendance at the hearing.
95.8% of respondents were neutral to very satisfied with the reasoning provided in the Tribunal's decisions and the impartiality of the panel as reflected in the decision. However, 4.2% of respondents were dissatisfied on these two points. 91.6% of respondents were neutral to very satisfied that the hearing decision reflected the evidence presented at the hearing while 79.1% were satisfied or very satisfied on this point, and 8.3% of respondents indicated they were dissatisfied on this point.
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 again in 2014-2015 for decisions issued under the MAFRA Act, the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act (FRFOFAct), and the Farm Implements Act. 83% of decisions issued under the MAFRA Act in 2014-15 were issued within 20 days while the decision issued under the FRFOFAct was issued within 16 days. The number of decisions issued under the Drainage Act within 30 days was down slightly from the previous year (67% compared with 78% in 2013-14); however, one of the decisions arose from a four day hearing involving multiple parties and considerable evidence to be considered.
95.8% of respondents were neutral to very satisfied with the timeliness of the release of Tribunal decisions, with 87.5% of respondents being either satisfied or very satisfied on this point. This is a considerable improvement over 2013-2014 when only 75% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the timeliness of the release of Tribunal decisions. In 2014-2015, 17 out of 18 farm property tax decisions issued under the Assessment Act were issued within 30 days of completion of the hearing, with the average days to release a decision being 20 days.
In response to the question about overall satisfaction with the Tribunal's appeal process, 95.8% of survey respondents were neutral to very satisfied with the Tribunal's appeal process, with 91.6% of respondents being satisfied and very satisfied with the appeal process. 4.2% of respondents indicated they were dissatisfied with the Tribunal's appeal process; however, the comments provided by this respondent in the survey would suggest this individual's dissatisfaction was related to the decision and not 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 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 continues to meet those requirements.
For the period April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015, Sharon Weitzel and Jane Sadler Richards were reappointed to the Tribunal and Board of Negotiation. In addition, during this period the following new members were appointed for an initial two year term: Maurice Janisse, Brenda Lammens and Arnold Strub. Replacements continue to be sought for other members whose term expired during the fiscal year.
* Member's term completed.
** Member's term expired and did not wish to be reappointed.
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