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Appetite for adjudication training strong in Ontario: Experts

Dan O'Reilly
Appetite for adjudication training strong in Ontario: Experts

Judging by the number of participants at a two-day training session held in Toronto in September, there is considerable interest and enthusiasm for Ontario’s adjudication system which came into effect on Oct. 1 part of the new Construction Act.

Approximately 45 people attended the session which was held in the headquarters of the conflict resolution services firm ADR Chambers.

But it wasn’t just the high number of people that is indicative of the interest in the adjudication process, says Jason Stitt, a Toronto-based instructor, facilitator, mediator, trainer, and coach with the Stitt Feld Handy Group, a division of ADR Chambers.

“They (the participants) were very excited about adjudication and were asking a lot of questions” says Stitt, the program instructor and facilitator of the construction adjudication and Ontario Dispute Adjudication for Construction Contracts (ODACC) orientation program.

A cross-section of industry representatives, ranging from architects to engineers, quality surveyors and contractors took part in the training. Some were from out of province and there even a few from Ireland and the United Kingdom, he says.

Adjudication is intended to provide real-time dispute resolution on construction disputes and to facilitate that process the provincial government selected ADR Chambers as the authorized nominating authority.

ODACC is the authority responsible for administering and overseeing the adjudication of construction disputes in Ontario.

It’s a mandate which includes creating a registry of ODACC adjudicators, writing and conducting the training, and developing a code of conduct among other objectives.

“We (ADR Chambers) got the contract in July,” says Stitt, noting that necessitated setting up ODACC, creating the training program, and writing the code of conduct in an almost parallel endeavour. Some preliminary planning had commenced as part of preparing the bid.
While ODACC “drew inspiration” from other adjudication systems in countries such as the United Kingdom, the program content is new, says Stitt.

Jason Stitt

Divided into two components, an online training module and a subsequent two-day classroom session, the training must be completed before potential candidates can formally apply to become adjudicators, he points out.

Depending on a person’s schedule and knowledge of the Construction Act, the online training takes two to three hours to complete and includes a video featuring a construction lawyer and a construction lien master.

As for the in-person training, it covers topics such as an overview of the adjudication process, the role of the adjudicator, and preparing ‘determinations’ — which is the adjudicator’s written award.

“But we were not always standing always at the front of the room lecturing,” says Stitt, referring to himself and fellow instructor, Stitt Feld Handy Group vice-president Eleanor Witmore.

At the September session the two instructors often divided the attendees into smaller groups to discuss and debate different scenarios, followed by a return to the large class format where each group providing an overview of what was discussed.

As part of the training, the participants got to critique deliberately poorly written ‘bad’ deliberations, as well as assessing the ‘characters’ in a number of fictional case studies, he says.

One person who took the training and has now been registered to be an adjudicator is former Vanbots Construction president and Bird Construction executive Matt Ainley.

“I found it (the training) very interesting,” says Ainley, who had previously served on the attorney general’s lien reform act Committee, representing the construction industry.

Now retired, he believes the implementation of the system will actually be the catalyst for many owners and contractors “to sit down and talk over their differences”.

Not everyone who participated in the September session actually intends to become an adjudicator.

Some attendees were motivated simply by a desire to broaden their knowledge of the issues affecting the construction industry, says ODACC project manager Carina Reider.

“This (adjudication) is something the construction industry has been waiting for.”

To be certified as adjudicator, potential candidates must submit a resume and a reference, completed a number of evaluation questions designed to judge their understanding of the training, plus have a number of industry qualifications including 10 years’ experience in the industry and meet other criteria, says Reider.

Since the September sessions, ODAAC conducted two more “fully booked” ones in November in Toronto and one in Ottawa.

Another one is scheduled for February, she says.

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