March 12, 2013 by Harmeet Singh, Online Editor
The Financial Services Commission of Ontario is reaching the midway point of a six-month pilot aimed at streamlining part of its mediation process and saving mediators’ time.
Effective Jan. 2, the pilot program allows the parties involved in mediation who have already been assigned mediation dates, or who have files more than 50 days old, to go through one e-mail address to request rescheduling or adjournment.
“We introduced this pilot project to ensure primarily that we could continue to clear the backlog as quickly as possible while still offering mediation within the required 60 day timeline,” said Kristen Rose, a spokesperson for FSCO.
Prior to implementing the pilot, FSCO was receiving upwards of 100 requests per week for adjournments or rescheduling, and the administrative task was taking up a significant amount of mediators’ time, Rose noted.
There was not a consistent approach and requests were usually put through as long as both parties involved agreed, she noted.
“Participating parties are holding mediation dates which do not go ahead due to late or last minute rescheduling requests,” FSCO stated in its stakeholder notice on the pilot.
“These requests only require that parties provide a new date that is agreed upon together, without input from FSCO. Consequently, mediation dates are not being fully utilized. This is contributing to the existing backlog, and resulting in FSCO being unable to offer an original mediation date within 60 days of the file being assigned to the eCalendar.”
Now, those eligible in the pilot need to e-mail the mediation address with a written rationale for their rescheduling or adjournment request. Only one mediator handles the account, and their decision is final, according to FSCO’s site.
FSCO has already seen a decrease in the number of requests coming in, and will assess how the pilot is working at the halfway point. After the six months are up, the commission will consider implementing a more formal process.
The commission’s mediation backlog is significant, and it has been working to address it for some time. Last September, FSCO began assigning up to 2000 files per month to private vendor ADR Chambers to help reduce the backlog.
ADR Chambers also introduced a similar pilot for the files it was handling, streamlining rescheduling and adjournment requests through one e-mail address.
For 2012, the mediation backlog was 17,540 and the average wait time for mediation was 414 days.