LCO: Looking Back, Looking Forward

The Law Commission of Ontario doesn’t have a very long period to look back — we effectively began our work in February 2008, having spent the previous four and a half months (that included the holiday break!) since our launch getting organized in one way or another — and we really don’t have that long to look forward (since despite the above, the Agreement that created the LCO began in January 2007 and expires in January 2012 and we are in that sense entering our third year).

Looking back, I’m feeling reasonably good about the LCO’s performance: one report fully released (charging fees for cashing government cheques); one other set of recommendations (pension division on marital breakdown) released and to some extent adopted by the Government (with the final report in translation mode); a discussion paper released in our major and long-term older adults project, with another in that project also just sent to translation; work begun on our large “disabilities project”; a project options paper in family law almost completed, resulting from a significant consultation exercise involving family law expert from a wide range of constituencies; a consultation paper underway in cross-border litigation; and preliminary research completed for an employment law project. We’ve made many in person contacts with professional and community groups to let them know about us and to hear from them about them.

So, what have we learned? And how does experience to date affect my wishes for 2009?
– We have used our existing human resources to the fullest to reach this point, taking into account that people work at different paces and that projects demand different technical knowledge (and lawyers start at different stages of knowledge in an area). We’ve already satisfied our wish for another research lawyer who starts on January 5th.
– It doesn’t help to have to move from location to location, as we have had to do over the past year and a bit. I am wishing for greater permanence in that regard. I also comment our legal staff for their taking our moving around in stride and our administrative staff for shouldering this extra burden with equanimity.
– We need to get the word out about what we are doing more extensively. We’ve started to work on that, by looking at how to use the “new” media more effectively, without losing sight of the importance of “traditional” media. We’ll continue our in person contacts with various professional and community groups, but will travel more widely in Ontario.
– We need to respond to our funders’ inevitable caution in these difficult economic times; we have planned our work based on promised funding and changes, even in funding patterns, imperils our capacity to do that work. Here I do not have a wish, but an intent: to continue to show our funders that our work is worthy of their continued support and to work with them to make sure we are responsive to all our financial needs.

Finally, for now, we resolve to look to the “long term”. We want our reports to have value in the future, as is the case with the reports of our predecessor, the Ontario Law Reform Commission. We also have to be realistic that the pace of our work must reflect that the renewal of the Agreement is coming up faster that we would like.

Enough boring reflection on past and present. To everyone, a happy, productive, technologically adroit and, if not prosperous, at least an economically stable 2009!

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