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As a former President of the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia admitted, while evaluation of an entity’s performance usually is based on the entity’s mandate, “[t]he mandate or purpose of most Law Reform Commissions…is usually set out so broadly that evaluation of the performance of the Commission in any reasonably precise or specific way is very difficult….”  He conceded, however, that “a general assessment is perhaps possible.”[8]  However difficult, it is important to assess the performance of a law reform body, but it is equally important to recognize the range of ways in which success might be measured.  The impact of the OLRC also indicates that tracking the impact of a law commission’s influence requires openness: some of the OLRC’s reports influenced the development of law in provinces other than Ontario, the development of proposed legislation by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada and the approach taken by courts in certain matters.[9]   Ways of measuring the performance of a law commission include the following:

  • Translation of recommendations or frameworks into legislation: It must be remembered, however, that legislative responses to law reform recommendations do not always occur in the short-term. As Hurlburt points out, it was ten years before any of the first Law Commission of Canada’s recommendations were reflected in legislation.[10] Indeed, it has been suggested that no jurisdiction has “effectively tackled” the issue of “how to secure governmental legislative and official attention once law reform reports are produced.”[11]
  • Acknowledged impact by the judiciary on their decision-making of discussion papers, reports and/or recommendations;
  • Use by academics and others of the work carried out by the LCO; in some cases, the result may be to extend the LCO’s analysis in a particular area to take into account new developments, while in other cases, academics might base their own analysis on that carried out by the LCO;
  • Quality of the work produced by the LCO, as indicated in articles on law reform, for example;
  • Adoption by other jurisdictions of LCO analysis or recommendations;
  • Contribution to the dialogue on law reform or on substantive areas of law through LCO participation in conferences or conferences organized at least in part by the LCO;
  • Collaboration with other law commissions or other bodies and groups in advancing law reform;
  • The number of proposals made to the LCO;[12]
  • Extent to which the LCO is known in the legal and non-legal communities and its reputation in those communities; and
  • The extent to which the LCO meets its own self-professed values and satisfies its identified processes, as articulated in this Strategic Plan.

The LCO will be externally evaluated at the beginning of its third full year of operation (2010).  It did not begin operations until the fall of 2007 and will require at least 18 additional months to evidence its capacity to meet its mandate and its preferred method of operation. The beginning of 2010 is an appropriate time for an external evaluation, both because it will allow the LCO to establish itself and will provide sufficient time for the evaluation prior to the time partners will be making decisions about extending funding.  The review will have to take into account that realistically, many of the measures identified above will not have had time to ripen; even so, it should be possible for an external reviewer to comment at least on the quality of work produced and the LCO’s adherence to its values and processes.

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