Public proceedings of the Board
Meeting of the Board of Directors on June 21, 2013
Board members present
John McCamus (Chair); Aly Alibhai; Nancy Cooper; Michelle Haigh; John Liston; James McNee; Derry Millar; James Yakimovich; Robert W. Ward (CEO/Ex Officio).
Colin Boal; Janet Budgell; David Field; Jawad Kassab; Charles Lafortune; Kirsti Mathers-McHenry; Sue McCaffrey; Stephanie Mealing; Fallon Melander; Kathleen Murphy; Aileen Page; Cory Philipzyk-Sambrano; Michelle Séguin; Nye Thomas
1. Meeting agenda
The meeting agenda was adopted.
2. Disclosure of conflict of interest
A Board member will recuse himself from discussion of a new Human Resources hiring policy agenda item due to a conflict of interest.
3. Board of Directors’ meetings
Minutes of Board meetings held April 18 and 19, May 16 and 31, 2013 meetings were adopted.
4. President and CEO report (second instalment)
The President and CEO presented the second instalment of his report, as follows:
4.1 Transfer payment reduction
The Board discussed the potential impact of a reduced transfer payment from the provincial government as well as LAO’s independent role in budgeting and priority-setting. The Board Chair, along with the President and CEO, will contact the Attorney General and/or the Deputy to discuss the amount and terms of the transfer reduction.
4.2 Gladue reports
LAO is meeting with the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) to discuss the possibility of LAO assuming responsibility for Gladue report-writing services. Research is underway to assess the needs, the gaps, potential models and what role LAO could play. The matter will then return to the Board for further discussion.
The Board received the second instalment of the President and CEO’s report.
5. Committee reports
5.1 Audit and Finance committee
The minutes of the Audit and Finance Committee Meeting on May 31, 2013 were adopted.
6. Board reports
6.1 2013/14 President and CEO performance contract
The Vice President and General Counsel presented the 2013/14 President and CEO’s Draft Performance Contract and requested input from the Board.
6.2 Stakeholder relations
The President and CEO reported on the comprehensive consultation and communications strategy and the unprecedented number of stakeholder consultations undertaken in recent years, to give stakeholders a preview of what LAO is contemplating and invite meaningful discussion.
The Board made these suggestions:
- LAO officially provide stakeholders with a summary of stakeholder consultation responses
- LAO add information to expand on what it means by “Value for Taxpayers;” “expansion of staff complement” should spell out additional measures that would more clearly reflect the stated deliverable, i.e.; effective deployment of staff, conflict of interest rules and business continuity management.
The Board approved the 2013/14 President and CEO’s performance contract, subject to the suggested modifications.
7. Corporate service reports
7.1 Financial statements
The Vice President and CAO presented LAO’s audited financial statements for the year ending on March 31, 2013. She reported that:
- the Auditor General of Ontario has provided an unqualified opinion
- discussions with the auditor had clarified the treatment of a one-time $6.4M received from MAG: the funds will be treated as deferred revenue as opposed to revenue for the 2012/13 fiscal year, because they relate to future expenditures, resulting in a reduction of the surplus from $15M to $9M.
- LAO will account for the cost of the unfunded tariff increases in its expenditures; they do not put LAO into a deficit position, and LAO is not drawing from the Contingency Reserve Fund for them.
The Vice President and CAO presented the audit report for the financial statements for the trust fund of LAO’s employees’ pension plan for the year ended December 31, 2012.
The Board adopted the audited financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2013 and approved the audit report for the financial statements for the trust fund of LAO employees’ pension plan for the year ended December 31, 2012.
7.3 Compensation framework report
The Vice President and CAO presented the Compensation framework report, which proposes a new compensation structure for LAO’s managers, lawyers and specialized staff as well as an increase to LAO’s portion of pension contributions. She explained that implementation of the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act had precluded implementation of the compensation framework the Board had approved in 2009.
LAO is now proposing a new five-year strategy for total rewards that would align it with other public service organizations and help LAO attract and retain talent. This strategy proposes improvements to compensation, group benefits, pay for performance and post-retirement benefits as well as some non-compensation benefits, such as an accommodations in the workplace, career development, flexible hours, etc.
She also reported that:
- an analysis had been conducted to identify appropriate salary ranges for non-lawyer, non-manager groups
- there will be incentives for employees to enter the management or specialist stream in their career development
- LAO’s defined contribution pension benefit plan will be improved.
The Board approved the following changes to LAO’s cash compensation:
- New compensation structures for managers, lawyers and specialized staff
- An increase in LAO’s portion of pension contributions to a maximum of nine per cent by 2016.
8. Policy reports
8.1 Aboriginal issues
Response to Iacobucci Recommendations
The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, presented LAO’s response to the Iacobucci report on First Nations under-representation on jury pools.
Justice Iacobucci has made several recommendations beyond those relating to the incidence of Aboriginal peoples on jury panels. He recommends that LAO:
- provide more and better cultural competency training and
- look at quality and quantity of legal representation, especially in the North.
LAO fully supports all of the Iacobucci recommendations. It has undertaken wide-ranging cultural-competency training, is reviewing the Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation, and is participating in a review of the fly-in courts.
The MAG-Iacobucci Implementation Committee received LAO’s responses to the recommendations positively.
The Board received LAO’s response to the Iacobucci recommendations.
Aboriginal Justice Strategy (AJS)
The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, presented a new expanded AJS, which will help LAO better identify and meet the needs of Aboriginal clients in a variety of different ways, such as:
- improving Gladue report-writing services
- creating location-based models for services to Aboriginal communities
- developing more internal capacity and
- embedding Aboriginal considerations into all LAO programs and services.
There was a discussion on the need for increased funding as well as, potentially, alternative sources of funding for the AJS, starting in 2014/15. A Board member suggested enhancing LAO’s liaison with Court Services, particularly with respect to fly-in courts.
The Board approved the renewal and expansion of the AJS for five years; and approved, in principle, to increase funding for the AJS by $1M per year, starting in 2014/15.
8.2 Financial eligibility project costing and next steps
The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, presented, the Financial Eligibility Modernization – Proposed Strategy and Financial Estimates report. He reviewed current and future initiatives for expanding eligibility in all programs and areas of law, noted that this report outlines a three-year plan, and highlighted some of the financial implications and strategic choices. Also discussed:
- options to mitigate the impact of the financial implications
- briefing MAG
- other service provider groups have indicated their support for this initiative
- this project will be incorporated into LAO’s business planning in the fall
- there will be a full round of consultation with all justice sector stakeholders.
- the consequences for unrepresented clients, particularly in family law matters
- the possibility of tracking the number of unrepresented clients.
The Board approved the report on financial eligibility modernization – proposed strategy and financial estimates.
8.4 Paralegal project update
The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, reported that the paralegal program is ready to launch. LAO has developed a paralegal manual, training programs and performance measures, with the goal of making LAO a leader in the use of paralegals. Consultations with individual service provider groups were proceeding. Suggestions from the Board:
- Paralegals could work extensively for LAO as part of its clinic transformation, AJS and mental health strategy initiatives and, potentially, in family law.
- More proactive communication about the project is needed.
The Board received the paralegal project update.
8.6 Affiliation agreement with Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC)
The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, presented the LAO/Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) Training Project Partnership Report.
Once the Board approved LAO’s Mental Health Justice Strategy, LAO negotiated a draft affiliation agreement with the MHCC to develop a National Mental Health Justice Training Program. As the lead agency for this program, LAO will develop training materials as well as assessment and organizational tools to provide services for clients with mental health issues in the justice system. The resulting materials and training programs will be available to be shared with other justice system stakeholders throughout Canada. This project will be cost free to LAO.
The Board approved the LAO/MHCC Training Project Affiliation Agreement.
9. Provincial Case Management Office reports
9.1 Test case transformation project
The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, presented the Test Case Transformation Project Report. A proposal will be developed that could enable the Board to establish strategic priorities for public interest and test cases.
- This project is a joint venture between the Major Case Management Office (MCMO) and LAO’s policy division.
- The Group Applications and Test Case Committee (GATCC) is comprised of external experts who review applications for LAO funding and make recommendations on cases and budgets.
- The Big Case Management (BCM) program and community legal clinics also engage in public interest or test case litigation. Some of this work is local, and may require a strategy to coordinate, assess and establish priorities for public interest and test cases at LAO, as well as improved financial and outcome reporting.
The Board approved, in principle, the test case transformation project.
9.3 Alternative Payment Arrangements
The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, presented the Alternative Fee Arrangements Update and Next Steps. He explained that the legal services community is now open to reducing the number of transactions and providing greater revenue certainty to service providers. He highlighted some of the model options.
The Board received the Alternative Fee Arrangements Update and approved next steps: to continue developing and examining alternative fee arrangement options.
9.5 Change of Solicitor (COS) in major criminal cases
The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, presented the report Causes and Consequences of COS Applications in Major Criminal Cases. He reported that a COS in the middle of a major criminal case often impacts negatively on the client, the progress of the case, the lawyer and LAO. Starting again with another lawyer can result in a significant increase in costs to LAO. Staff are working on a number of initiatives to improve management of the solicitor-client relationship. He will present specific recommendations to the Board for approval in the fall.
The Board received the Causes and Consequences of COS Applications in Major Criminal Cases report.
10. Staff lawyers at LAO
LAO has received correspondence from the Society of Energy Professionals.
The Board received the report on lawyer management at LAO.
11. Draft annual report for 2012/13
The Director General, Strategic Planning and Compliance, presented the draft annual report for 2012/13.
The board approved the draft annual report for 2012/13.
12. Update on clinics
12.1 Clinics in Dispute Resolution Process (ACLC)
The Regional Vice-President, Southwest Region and Specialty Clinics, presented an update on the ACLC. Level 2 of the Dispute Resolution Policy (DRP) has been invoked, and remedial measures have been imposed to protect public funds and address financial management issues.
The Board received the update on the ACLC as amended.
12.3 Clinic transformation
The Director General, Strategic Policy and Compliance, presented the Clinic Modernization – Implementation Next Steps report and reported the following:
A senior, experienced former Clinic Director has been appointed project lead for clinic modernization. In addition, LAO staff are meeting with clinic Boards and senior staff.
A number of key projects make up the modernization strategy, including its governance and management. LAO now has a Clinic Issues Committee, and clinics are modernizing project by project, with an executive lead and project leads for each initiative. The clinic modernization team will deal directly with individual clinics. Some have already begun to consider initiatives of various kinds.
There are critical differences between the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (ACLCO) and LAO clinic strategic planning proposals.
The Board received the Clinic Modernization – Implementation Next Steps report.
12.5 Clinic Information Management System (CIMS) request for proposal (RFP)
The Vice President and CAO presented the revised CIMS RFP and said that the Board had approved the issuance of the RFP at its meeting in February 2013. Staff subsequently reconsidered the decision to enter into an agreement with the Human Rights Legal Service Centre (HRLSC) and wish to explore off-the-shelf systems to determine the preferred approach.
A potential conflict of interest arose with a company that was privy to information through its involvement with HRLSC as well as its participation in documenting clinic case management requirements.
Steps have been taken to ensure that the marketplace is not disadvantaged, including engaging the services of a Fairness Commissioner to provide advice on ensuring transparency, protecting LAO and affording fair opportunities to all vendors. Steps have also been taken to protect the privacy and security of the HRLSC.
The Board approved the posting of the revised CIMS RFP.
13. Allocation of additional MAG funding
The President and CEO reported that the April 2013 provincial budget announced additional funding of $10M per year for three years. He also reported that the Attorney General clearly intended for the funds to be allocated to “low-income families, victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable groups by strengthening the capacity of Family Law Service Centres and other community and legal clinics across Ontario.”
The Regional Vice President, Southwest Region, presented the Allocation of Additional MAG Funding report. She advised that the funding is time-limited, that initiatives that receive support need to be sustainable once the funding period ends, and that the support is to go to:
- expanding Family Law Service Centres (FLSC) and expanding financial eligibility for FLSC service;
- increasing support for mediation and
- creating a Legal Aid Ontario Innovation Fund to support projects that advance clinic modernization, the Aboriginal Justice Strategy and the Mental Health Strategy.
Staff recommended that $8M of the funding be allocated to expand family law service centres and support mediation, and $2M be allocated to create the LAO Innovation Fund.
The Board approved the recommended direction for allocating the new funding.
14. Refugee services transformation update
The Director, Corporate Services Planning & Strategic Initiatives, reported that LAO is phasing in changes to refugee services incrementally. LAO does not follow the “safe country” list, and screens every claim on its own merit. Refugee claimants can now choose to be represented by staff offices or private bar lawyers, and commencing in July, will also be able to choose to go to clinics for representation. He also said that:
- A review of the Refugee Law Office is complete, and those issues that have surfaced will be dealt with.
- Updated website content and improved communications with stakeholders is under development.
- The Immigration and Refugee Advisory Committee identified misunderstandings about consultation documents, streaming and choice of counsel.
- As a result of the judicial review contingency fee issue, some members of the bar are refusing to be retained. This matter is being re-evaluated. Judicial review volumes have decreased, but their success rate has improved considerably. Further analysis is ongoing.
- Board member James McNee has agreed to serve as Board liaison on the Refugee Services Operations Review Committee.
- Staff will keep the private bar up-to-date on LAO’s Refugee law structure and policies.
The Board received the refugee services modernization update.
15. New Human Resources hiring policy
The Board member who had stated a potential conflict of interest recused himself.
The President and CEO reported that some people who want to work with LAO may have a pre-existing relationship with the organization. LAO needs to establish a recruitment policy that ensures an objective, fair hiring process in the event of a perceived conflict of interest.
LAO has developed a proposed recruitment protocol, to be implemented by its HR department and the Vice President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, based on the advice of its General Counsel and the provincial Integrity Commissioner.
The Vice President and CAO listed some individuals who may be subject to the policy, including current and former Board members, people who have contracted with LAO, certificate lawyers, government employees who regularly deal with LAO, etc. The hiring manager and HR will identify individuals who may be subject to the policy and refer the matter to the President and CEO for a decision.
The Board discussed potential human rights issues that could arise by denying qualified individuals the opportunity to apply.
The Board approved the human resources hiring policy.