Annual General Meeting October 2017
CHAIRMAN's REPORT October 2017
Dear Board of Directors and CJRB supporters,
This year the CJRB continued its quest for transparency from the Ontario Assessment Review Board (ARB) tribunal. The ARB is the Ontario government tribunal that makes decisions on appeals from Ontario property owners who believe that their assessments from the municipal assessor MPAC are too high. Two main issues have arisen:
Firstly : A property owner's right to be represented by a more experienced person of their choosing appears to be under attack from the ARB's vice-chairmen. There is an apprehension that the vice-chairmen are acting in the interests of their own professional organization of lawyers. The current ARB rule states:
12 (a) a party or participant may appear in person or by representative; (b) a representative who is not licenced by the Law Society of Upper Canada must provide the Board with written confirmation of their authority to provide legal services
But over the past few years it is observed that ARB vice-chairmen Scott McAnsh and Paul Muldoon have actively undermined this principle by using their powers as vice-chairmen to cancel decisions of other ARB members that agreed with property owners. The CJRB believes that the Statutory Powers Act empowers the ARB to make its own rules in the interests of fairness. The municipality's assessor MPAC claims to be a not-for-profit corporation and as such is exempt from hiring a lawyer. In the interests of fairness, the property owner should not be forced to that expense either. Vice-chairman McAnsh writes on twitter and describes himself as a "political junkie".
"I am a lawyer offering municipal law and related services; political junkie; and avid cyclist...." Scott McAnsh? @SMcAnsh https://twitter.com/smcansh?lang=en
"Scott McAnsh is a Sole Practitioner at McAnsh Law with focus on municipal law and a Staff Lawyer with EcoJustice, a legal clinic within the University of Ottawa."
The term 'political junkie' does not evoke much confidence or suggest an ability to provide a fair or impartial hearing. Not unlike the proverb that 'a leopard cannot change its spots' it suggests that past conduct is a good indicator of future conduct. In fact, on January 26, 2017 ARB vice-chairman McAnsh "reasoned" in Okafor v. MPAC and City of Cambridge that:
"Having found that Mr. Okafor is not eligible to be a representative pursuant to [the Law Society's] Rule 9, I do not need to determine if he meet the competency requirement set out in the Statutory Powers Procedure Act."
Last year the CJRB wrote to the executive director of the ARB Mr. Jerry DeMarco and advised that the Statutory Powers Act is not subservient to the Law Society's bylaws, and that the Law Society's minutes of convocation recognize and confirm that it is necessary for the ARB to have its own independent rules to level the playing field.
It has been noted that vice-chairman McAnsh is a dues paying member of the lawyers' association and that Law Society union members benefit financially if the ARB only allows its members to be representatives. Vice-chairman Muldoon likewise cancelled a decision of ARB member Joanne Laws that allowed a non-lawyer representative. Under the principle that ' no man can serve two masters' a court of law does not allow a judge to be both a judge and a member of the lawyer's professional association or operate a private legal practice. Although the ARB is a tribunal and not a court of law, the actions of vice-chairmen McAnsh and Muldoon are nevertheless open to question.
Secondly: There is concern about how the ARB vice-chairmen handle "Requests for Review". There appears to be a perception that the vice-chairmen cancel decisions of other ARB members at the request of the assessor's law firm Conway Davis Gryski LLP when they allege errors in law but seldom if ever from property owners who present equally good arguments. For example, in an ongoing "Request for Review" made on May 5, 2017 vice-chairman Muldoon "reasoned" in response to MPAC's request to cancel parts of the decision of ARB members Margues and Stabile in Reininghaus v. Municipal Property Assessment Corporation and City of Mississauga that:
" The Board sought submissions on the review request from the other parties on June 07, 2016. The Board did not receive submissions from either the Appellant's representative Mr. Baronowski or the City of Mississauga, the latter of which did not appear at the hearing"
In reality Mr. Baronowski made a lengthy submission dated June 24, 2016. ARB member Vincent Stabile is a retired deputy judge of the Superior Court who likely knows the law better than most. The CJRB considered Mr. Muldoon's slight-of-hand to warrant an intervention. ARB rule 11 provides that "Any person may seek an order from the Board, by motion, to be added to any proceeding either as a party or a participant." To date the ARB has not responded to the CJRB's request for a motion to be added as a participant.
In an effort to achieve some transparency from the ARB, the CJRB filed an access to information request to examine the vice-chairmen's unpublished file of "Request for Review" decisions. Of interest is the relationship between the ARB's vice-chairmen and the assessor MPAC's law firm Conway Davis Gryski LLP. The ARB's response to the request was unacceptable and has been appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. The matter will be adjudicated in the coming months. Stay tuned.
FOOTNOTE: Key findings of the Auditor General's Report released December 6, 2017 • (1) Board members ranked low during a recruitment competition were appointed. • (2) Evaluation of the Review Board’s overall performance needs improvement •(3) The actual work time reported by the Review Board’s full-time members is not consistent or analyzed .• (4) The Review Board does not conduct quality reviews of members’ oral decisions • (5) The decision-making process by board members could be more transparent. • (6) Annual caseload statistics reported to the public have been overstated for many years. • (7) Large backlog of unresolved appeals continues, with some appeals dating back to 1998.
I am also pleased to report that over the past year the CJRB continued to grow its readership and to add new supporters and members who recognize the value of maintaining the CJRB's reference website. In relation to general court cases, some CJRB's supporters attended the recent conference and workshop for self represented persons held in Toronto on October 4th. The event was sponsored in part by The National Self-Represented Litigants Project. Our members reported that the take-away message from this event is that "Justice degrades with delay... when this is understood by all of those who govern, we will finally be making progress to some form of access to justice."
The CJRB Facebook page initiatives of our colleague Larry Elford of Lethbridge Alberta have been productive in distributing information. Larry was also featured recently on the CBC's 'The National' concerning the practices and slights-of- hand in Canada's investment industry that adversely affect middle class savings.
Our colleague Gwen Landolt's book 'The Great Betrayal' was released in May. "Charter and Constitution aficionados will appreciate newly revealed factoids in this judicial and Parliamentary drama over life and death. For example, "which former Supreme Court Justice observed that special interest groups weighed in on what should go into the 1982 constitution but Canadians were never consulted on the basic question of whether they wanted a charter or not?”
In June, our colleague Al Rosen launched his latest book titled 'Easy Prey Investors"' at venues sponsored by Schulich School of Business at York U in Toronto and in Ottawa. "Easy Prey" outlines shortcomings in the court and legal regulatory system that have put people's savings, and possibly the entire economy, at risk.
Our colleague Liz Marshall's book 'Property Rights 101-An Introduction' is also available on Amazon.ca She has been extremely busy on several files, and provided testimony to a recent Environmental Review Board hearing that ultimately rejected new wind turbines installations near Stayner Ontario. She also appeared before a legislative committee considering the so-called fair hydro plan. Also on her radar are amendments to the Income Tax Act such as a new small business tax, and a carbon tax. She is concerned about efforts by the Ontario Department of Education to close some rural Ontario schools and continues to write reports on the origins and preservation of property rights that seem to be constantly under attack from ill informed government officials. Liz has nominated Anthony Kaluzny of Grimsby Ontario to the Board. Also nominated is Allison Kooijman of Vernon British Columbia. Ms. Kooijman has been vocal in pursuing less litigious and less costly means for resolving patient-doctor disputes arising from questionable treatments or mistakes.
The CJRB website was upgraded to a PHP8 platform not long ago but keeping pace with the latest upgrades in software and operating systems is a constant challenge . Recently some users of the CJRB website experienced problems accessing some information, and also in using the "contact us" page that contains a "captcha". A "captcha" consists of letters or words that the user must read and reproduce to prevent robots from submitting spam etc. The CJRB's technical assistant based in Vancouver is working to correct these issues and make repairs.
I remain grateful for the continued support of the CJRB's directors and executive and look forward to a productive 2017-2018 year ahead.
F. C. (Ted) DeCoste