Shaping and influencing policy development and legislation is an important role of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA). It is just one of the ways that the OBA serves its members and ensures they are well supported in their everyday work.
OBA advocacy efforts happen in a variety of ways and impact the profession, and the work of our members, in a variety of ways. From liaising with government, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, and others, the OBA’s advocacy work is multifaceted.
In terms of government advocacy, appearances before legislative committees and amendments to legislation are often considered evidence of successful advocacy, and these are important accomplishments the OBA has often achieved.
Advocacy entails much more as well. It includes establishing and maintaining a reputation as a trusted thought leader, so that we are invited to weigh in on important decisions. It’s about being helpful, content experts who can help decision makers sketch out ideas and plan for success. It is about being informed and staying up-to-date so that timely information can be shared in the lead-up to any decision making.
These are all roles that the OBA performs on behalf of its members every day, and the outcome of this work is abundant. Through its various advocacy efforts, the OBA is keeping members conversant with the activities at Queen’s Park, giving members the opportunity to participate in the development of policy and legislation, and, at times, even protecting constitutional rights by identifying and lobbying for amendments to proposed and existing legislation.
During the Ontario Legislature’s spring sitting (February 17, 2015 – June 4, 2015), OBA advocacy occurred in a variety of facets.
It is a longstanding tradition of the OBA’s to bring sector expertise to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services business law reform efforts. In the most recent Provincial Budget (2015-16), the government announced a comprehensive review of Ontario's business law statutes. The OBA is organizing a Business Law Reform Summit in October in order to collect ideas and views and provide input.
As a result of our outreach, public affairs initiatives and excellent reputation for providing practical expert advice, the OBA was invited to comment in government consultations related to the design of the Ontario Retirement Pensions Plan, the review of the Construction Lien Act, the independent review of sexual assault in health professions, and the review of the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act. We have also proactively provided input, based on the guidance of our members from our 40 practice-specific Sections, including Bill 66, Great Lakes Protection Act; Bill 56, Ontario Retirement Pension Plan Act; Bill 45, Making Healthier Choices Act; and Bill 49, Ontario Immigration Act – all of which were either introduced or considered during the Legislature’s spring session.
We have also celebrated two major successes with important OBA-recommended amendments to Bill 49, Ontario Immigration Act and Bill 45, Making Healthier Choices Act.
For Bill 49, we identified four elements of the proposed legislation that were of significant concern to Immigration Lawyers specifically and to the bar more broadly and were instrumental in achieving committee amendments to address all four areas of concern. In general terms, these OBA-recommended amendments eliminated the bill's provisions for warrantless entry to law offices, protect solicitor-client privilege, enhance fairness by eliminating absolute liability penalties, reinforce the rule of law and protect self-regulation.
For Bill 45, we presented concerns that the bill, as originally drafted, was overly broad and imposed liability on parties for matters that were not within their control. The OBA proposed specific language to government and the Standing Committee, which was adopted as the only substantive amendment to the bill.
The OBA works every day, in a variety of ways, to advocate on behalf of its members and to give members an opportunity to contribute to a collective voice. Overall, our advocacy work is rooted in thought leadership and carried out through process and courses of action.
The Legislature’s spring session was an active, successful time for the advocacy efforts of the OBA and its members, and this work will only continue. To learn more about the OBA’s work in advocacy, click on this link.