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As the Strategic Plan 2008-2012 pointed out, assessing the performance of a law reform agency is difficult; for example, the government may implement recommendations, but not for several years. Nevertheless, it is necessary to be able to determine whether a law commission is contributing to law reform and to dialogue around the law more broadly. It is equally important to recognize the range of criteria relevant to performance. Some factors are applicable to certain kinds of projects or to particular kinds of activities, while others may transcend the activity. The following factors are illustrative of both quantitative and qualitative factors and can be used to assess the LCO’s performance as a law reform agency on an on-going basis:
- Selection of projects: are they likely to contribute to bettering Ontario law and, in some cases, improving the situation for underrepresented groups? Do they adequately reflect the “mix” of projects to which the LCO is committed?
- Selection of other activities: does the choice of conferences, symposia and other events contribute to advancing law reform or dialogue about law?
- The use of human and other resources: are they used effectively?
- Extending resources: does the LCO take the opportunity to work with others when it will result in more effective use of resources without impairing its independence and impartiality?· Relationship with other organizations: is the LCO invited to collaborate with other organizations in activities such as organizing conferences? Are other organizations willing to participate in or to partner in activities such as consultations?
- The process of carrying out the project: is it appropriate for the nature of the project?
- Coherence of final reports: are the final reports and recommendations consistent with the analysis undertaken to reach them? Do the analysis and recommendations reflect what the LCO learned through research and consultations and feedback? Are the recommendations supported by the analysis? If the LCO rejects majority views on a particular issue, does it explain why?
- Feasible recommendations: are the LCO’s recommendations feasible under current circumstances or, if made with the future in mind, would they be practical if circumstances change?
- Adherence to stated mandate: has the LCO’s work been consistent with the mandate articulated in the Agreement?
- Adherence to stated values: have the research, consultations, discussion papers and reports and follow-up reflected the LCO’s values as articulated in the Strategic Plan?
- Impact of discussion papers, final reports and recommendations: has the government adopted the LCO’s recommendations in law or policy? Have the courts referred to the LCO’s discussion papers, reports or recommendations? Have academics used the papers or reports in courses or research? Have others, such as community groups, used the LCO’s discussion papers or reports?
- Contribution to the dialogue around law reform or substantive issues: have the LCO’s discussion papers, reports or recommendations or staff members’ presentations or articles been reflected in other articles, blogs or discussions?
- Participation by staff members in conferences or publications: have staff members been invited to participate at conferences or to prepare articles?
A brief (non-exhaustive) review of ways in the LCO has satisfied these measures even since it began to undertake projects in February 2008, indicates the capacity for satisfying them in the future: the government’s adoption of recommendations in its pension division project; the Ontario Court of Appeal’s citation of the LCO’s final report in its project on the modernization of the Provincial Offences Act; the use by academics of various discussion papers and reports in their lectures and course materials; the use by members of the older adults project advisory group and others of the draft framework in that project; undertaking a mix of projects in different areas of the law; support of scholarly research through the scholar in residence program and commissioned research papers; the invitation to contribute to consultations by other law commissions; participation in a conference on reform of the Hong Kong Law Reform Commission and references in mainstream media, legal media and blogs of issues raised by the LCO; and participation in scholarly and professional conferences and publication in scholarly journals and professional newsletters by LCO staff members; collaborative organizing of conferences; and the ready involvement of a wide range of organizations and individuals in the LCO’s work.
The LCO will continue to make efforts to meet these evaluative criteria and to maintain a record of how it is meeting them during the period 2012-2016.
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