The LCO and Family (Pension) Law Reform

I want to do a little bragging today (on behalf of a number of people). Yesterday (November 24, 2008), the Attorney General introduced in the Legislature reforms to family law, including on division of pensions on marital breakdown. Now, this was a project the LCO undertook a year ago.

We had heard that clarifying the law on pensions on marital breakdown was a priority for family lawyers, as well as pension administrators (and the parties, if they only knew it!). The message was, “just make the rules clear,” and so we did just that. The Board of Governors approved the the LCO’s undertaking the project a year ago in November 2007. John Hill, our MAG LCO Counsel in Residence, burrowed down as soon as he joined us in mid-March of this year, to learn family law and pension law with an anticipated report release date this November.

In the summer, we learned that the Attorney General was interested in introducing amendments to the family law regime, including to the pension provisions. MAG staff told us they were interested in seeing our recommendations – the only problem was that they had a somewhat shorter deadline than we had established. We couldn’t miss the opportunity, and John burrowed down even further and was able to develop recommendations to take to the Board of Governors for their approval in time (with everyone pitching in) to submit them to MAG. We released them publicly at the same time.

And so the fruit of our efforts saw light in the Legislature yesterday. While the proposed amendments do not include all our recommendations, they include the most important. We do not kid ourselves that our projects and the government’s intentions will coincide so well as often as we’d like, but this was a very nice beginning. Not only John, but others (notably Janice Williams, our Administrative Assistant and the Board of Governors) as well, made this opportunity reality by their extra effort. Equally important, the staff at MAG were sensitive to our needs: perhaps most importantly, to be able to release the recommendations at the same time to maintain the clarity of the LCO’s role as an independent law reform commission.

This was a real partnership effort – and one that gained the LCO a mention in Hansard, thanks to the Attorney General’s introduction of Bill 133! We’ll be releasing our final report shortly (and, yes, it will include the recommendations that the Government did not accept!).

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