In a news release yesterday entitled “Resolving Lawsuits Faster and More Affordably,” the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General announced a number of notable changes to the civil justice system. Most of these changes stem from the Civil Justice Reform Project chaired by the Honourable Coulter Osborne, who released a report of findings and recommendations in November 2007.
Among the reforms announced this week is an increase in the monetary limit of the Small Claims Court to $25,000 from the current level of $10,000 and a doubling of the monetary limit for the simplified procedure in Superior Court to $100,000 from the current $50,000.
These increases become effective on January 1, 2010, more than a full year from now.
While these increases in the monetary limits are decidedly positive, the long delay until they become effective bears some comment.
At the beginning of this decade, when the small claims court monetary limit had last increased (from $6,000 up to $10,000), the enabling regulation was made on November 22, 2000 and became effective on April 2, 2001, less than five months later. In the absence of an explanation, there appears to be little reason behind the 12.5 month lead-up to implementing the increases announced this week.
There is no doubt that some of the more complicated reforms will require time for the bar, bench and the courts to prepare, but the monetary increases could and should have been enacted separately from the other initiatives and made effective much sooner to maximize the benefit and to help relieve some of the burden on the courts and litigants now, or at least during 2009.
It may be true that these reforms will actually lead to lawsuits being resolved faster and more affordably as promised in this week’s news release, but we will be waiting until 2010 to find out for sure. They say that justice delayed is justice denied. The same might be partly true of justice reforms.