The Creation of a Two Party System for Law Society of Ontario Benchers

“Let’s Return Good Governance to the LSO” – Slogan of the Good Governance Coalition.

Sparked by the outrage over the Statement of Principles, lawyers formed the STOPSop group (STOP the compelled Statement of Principles) during the last Bencher election. In response, to the success in getting benchers elected, another group has formed this year. This has led to the creation of a two party system: the StopSOP and the Good Governance parties.

The StopSop party and the Good Governance party could loosely be compared to the Republicans versus the Democrats. This two party system, positions Benchers against each other.

The Good Governance side proposes to bring decorum back to Convocation and to actively address discrimination.

Whereas, the StopSop’s slate voted to repeal the Statement of Principles, and has voted against expanding the Law Society’s breadth. As stated on their website, “StopSOP’s 22 Benchers ran as candidates on a platform of repealing the SOP and reining in the Law Society’s ever-expanding mission, sprawling bureaucracy and ballooning budgetary expenditures”.

Through their committee work and Convocation meetings, Benchers set important policy and determine matters related to the governance of Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals. Benchers gather most months of the years in a meeting called Convocation.

Now with the announcement of the Good Governance Coalition, many questions arise. Will a party system necessitate the designation of a leader? Will lawyers vote strategically for teams over voting for the individual bencher? Once in power, will votes be whipped (after all, why run as a slate)? Will there be an “in” team and a “out” team (eg official party and opposition party)? Will committee assignments be prejudiced by what team you ran on? More importantly, do lawyers and paralegals want a two party system? Is it easier to choose candidates from a vetted slate than research each individual’s platform? Who decides who gets to join which slate?

What would you like to see for the next term? How should lawyers be governed in Ontario? Do you like the idea of a party system?






  1. I think the trend towards factionalization is natural part of the evolution of any parliamentary assembly. I’m surprised the Law Society made it this long without overt partisanship.

    While benchers were once elected based on personal reputations, the growth in the number of new lawyers in Ontario has made this model untenable. Meanwhile, bencher election campaign messaging has generally devolved to simply “vote for me” with a picture of a smiling face (along with a vacuous statement on increasing access to justice), giving most voters no data points other than readily visible markers like names, gender and ethnicity (and let’s acknowledge that some voters do vote based on such factors when they have nothing else to go on).

    The Stop SOP slate at least made it very clear to voters where they stand on an important issue and gave an expectation on their overall values. (Note that the only commitment demanded by Stop SOP was for the candidate to repeal the Statement of Principles requirement. It did not exert any continuing control.)

    Now we have another group saying “we’re not those guys”. I think many votes will flow to the partisan candidates, to the detriment of the non-aligned. The emergence of quasi-parties is a positive feedback loop, as it will become harder for candidate to get elected without “party” endorsement or association (how often do you see successful independent candidates in any provincial or federal elections?). Voters will naturally sort themselves based with their ideological camp as defined by one or two wedge issues, leaving little room for centrism, nuance or practical compromise (much like the “fully mature” democracy south of the border).

    Suppressing party politics may increase incumbency advantage, much like in municipal elections.

    This probably all sounds very fatalistic but I do hope bencher candidates run on substantive platforms with real ideas and values rather than empty slogans to stem this trend.

  2. The comparison to a parliamentary assembly reveals the sad truth. The theory is that law societies exist to serve the public interest. The reality is that they serve the interests of their lawyer members. Maybe, instead of the handful of benchers appointed by the government, the public should be given the opportunity to vote for the majority of benchers.

    Those who don’t demonstrate an interest in serving the public interest won’t get re-elected.