Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey says he is confident newly appointed Construction Act adjudication administrator ADR Chambers will be able to ramp up and prepare to launch by Oct. 1 as required by legislation.
It’s an assurance matched by Allan Stitt, president of Chambers, the province’s new Authorized Nominating Authority (ANA).
“We are very confident that we will be able to launch on Oct. 1 and we do not anticipate asking for an extension,” Stitt said in a written response to questions submitted by the Daily Commercial News.
Downey appointed the Toronto-based firm July 18. The ANA is tasked with administering the adjudication system for construction disputes, including the training and qualification of adjudicators, as part of the province’s new prompt payment and adjudication system.
The late date of the appointment, less than two-and-a-half months before the prompt payment and adjudication regime takes effect, had some stakeholders concerned the ANA would not be ready by Oct. 1 but both Downey and Stitt asserted Chambers has adequate time to fulfill its legislated responsibilities.
“We wanted to make sure we got it right,” said Downey. “It went out for competition and we wanted to do it right the first time so it took some extra time.
“It is a first-in-Canada innovation so it is new ground, so we don’t have that experience in-house. But the quality and depth of experience of the members of ADR Chambers is significant.
We have been working in the conflict resolution field for over 25 years,
— Allan Stitt
“We have tremendous optimism about the new ANA, we have full confidence in ADR Chambers and I think it will be a success.”
Stitt said the firm has not set up a system like an ANA in any of the jurisdictions it is active — the Chambers website touted the firm as “the world’s largest dispute resolution service provider” — but it has designed numerous alternative dispute resolution programs for companies and organizations.
“We have been working in the conflict resolution field for over 25 years and have forged a lot of strong relationships. We work hard to help those with conflicts achieve results quickly and at a reasonable cost,” Stitt wrote.
Construction lawyer Jason Annibale of McMillan LP, who has led panel discussions addressing lien, prompt payment and adjudication reforms as part of an Osgoode Professional Development program, vouched for the competence of Chambers in the mediation and adjudication field and for Stitt’s reputation for excellence as an administrator.
“I have a great deal of respect for ADR Chambers and I think they’ll do fine,” said Annibale.
“I know Allan and I think very highly of Allan as an advocate, as a mediator, as a person and as an administrator.”
David Frame, director of government relations for the Ontario General Contractors Association, said shortly after the announcement there is a lot of work to be done given the adjudication system launches in terms of days, 75, and there are other mandated tasks Chambers has to accomplish.
“We don’t know a lot about the company but from looking at their website, they are obviously experts in this field so that is a good start,” he said. “They have to maintain a roster of adjudicators, which means put a roster together. They have to decide on the qualifications of adjudicators and they have to recruit them, they have to develop a body of policy and procedures and then educate the adjudicators on those policies and procedures, and most importantly they need to communicate with the industry.”
Other responsibilities include setting up a fee structure and a complaints process, it was also noted.
“Obviously 75 days is not a long time to do that,” said Frame.
The Chambers website lists dozens of mediators and adjudicators, many with experience in the construction sector. Frame noted they will be required to be trained specifically on the Construction Act, which received royal assent in December 2017.
Ultimately we would like to see the pool of adjudicators grow to include architects and engineers and contractors
— John Mollenhauer
Toronto Construction Association
Downey said, “I have full confidence that with the base of scholarship that ADR Chambers has they will apply that basic knowledge to the construction sector.”
Stitt said he anticipated the ANA will add to its current roster, drawing from Ontario’s construction sector.
“Our roster members have a lot of construction experience and we expect that others, not currently on our roster, will also conduct adjudications under the regime,” he stated. “We will be happy to include as adjudicators people who are not currently on our roster but have the background and skills necessary to make the project a success.”
John Mollenhauer, president and CEO of the Toronto Construction Association, said the system would be best served by adjudicators with diverse backgrounds in the sector.
“Ultimately we would like to see the pool of adjudicators grow to include architects and engineers and contractors, all with the right experience, but in the early going I would expect that it will primarily be lawyers,” he said. “They are certainly well suited to contract-related disputes but I would like to see others in that pool.”
As for the other tasks Frame enumerated, Stitt noted his firm had just been appointed and had not yet met extensively with the ministry to map out a plan.
“It is just premature so soon after our appointment and before we meet with the Ministry to give those answers,” he wrote.
Downey said the government would be watchful as the new system unfolds to ensure the important goals of the reforms are met.
He said in a prepared statement, “The new construction adjudication system, as overseen by the Authorized Nominating Authority, will cut through the red tape that slows down the dispute resolution process, getting projects back on track and ensuring workers are paid on time.”
— with files from Angela Gismondi