TLAB Pilots Pre-Hearing Conferences
After grappling with the question of how to increase the efficiency of the hearing process, at its May 7 Public Business Meeting, the Toronto Local Appeal Body (“TLAB”) decided it will move forward with a pilot project requiring Pre-Hearing Conferences (“PHC”) for all hearings anticipated to take longer than the typical duration.
Among several issues discussed, Item 31.5 proposed a new Practice Direction for Hearing Extensions (the “Proposed Direction”). The Proposed Direction was an attempt to address public feedback which characterized the current TLAB process as cumbersome and inefficient. It would require ‘variance-only’ hearings to be scheduled for no more than 2 hearing days and for ‘consent and variances’ hearings to be scheduled for no more than 4 hearing days. If the assigned Member believes a hearing may require additional days, the Member would hold a PHC where they could hear from all Parties on scheduling and determine the appropriate number of days required for the hearing. This proposal was intended to increase the efficiency of the TLAB process by establishing firm commitments from the Parties and representatives involved concerning the amount of time required throughout each step of the hearing process.
Throughout the discussion, several TLAB Members expressed concern that placing limitations on hearing days could hurt the current process. The Members believe that setting a limitation on the number of days for a hearing may lead to some Parties not having an adequate amount of time to defend their positions. While the Members of the TLAB acknowledged the importance of increasing the efficiency of the current process, the Members were more concerned with ensuring that those who participate in the TLAB process feel that they have been given a fair hearing with sufficient time to be heard.
As such, the Members were not in favour of the Proposed Direction. However, a pilot project for PHCs will move forward, in which certain matters will have a PHC scheduled and heard by the Vice-Chair of the TLAB. In PHCs, the Parties would be encouraged to settle or resolve the issues raised. If a TLAB hearing is still required, the Vice-Chair would establish a limit on the number of hearing days. The Board will reconsider this Item at a later date following feedback from the pilot project.