Practice Directions support the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) Rules of Procedure and provide guidance about what the SBT expects of the parties and, in turn, what the parties can expect from the SBT. They assist in understanding the Rules.
A pre-hearing conference can reduce the length of, and simplify, a hearing by helping the parties to prepare properly for the hearing and by prompting pre-hearing disclosure of each party's case. The effective use of pre-hearing conferences allows the SBT to conduct more efficient, focused and effective hearings.
The SBT may direct parties to attend a pre-hearing conference or a party may request a pre-hearing. At the pre-hearing conference the parties have the opportunity to work with the SBT to: define and narrow the issue(s) in dispute; reach agreement on facts; disclose evidence and witness lists; consolidate different appeals that raise the same issue; share and exchange other information pertaining to the hearing; decide on the conduct of the hearing; and, discuss possibilities for the early resolution of the appeal. Where an appeal raises a human rights issue under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the parties will address procedural questions including when the human rights issue will be considered.
The parties shall not present evidence at a pre-hearing conference.
A pre-hearing conference may be conducted as an in-person meeting, telephone, video-conference, in writing or in some combination of these forms. An SBT Member will preside.
A "party" to a pre-hearing conference is any person or organization as defined in Rule 1.3 of the SBT's Rules of Procedure.
Upon the request of a party, the Tribunal may direct the parties and/or their representatives to attend a pre-hearing conference prior to the main hearing.
A party who requests a pre-hearing conference shall file a written request with the Tribunal setting out the reasons for the request within ten (10) days of the filing of the appeal.
The SBT will direct that the parties and/or their representatives attend a pre-hearing conference prior to the main hearing where a Human Rights Code issue is raised in the appeal, unless there are unusual or special circumstances to dispense with a pre-hearing conference.
Where a pre-hearing conference has not been held prior to the main hearing of the appeal, and a Human Rights Code issue is subsequently raised during or after the main hearing, the SBT will direct the parties to attend at a pre-hearing conference to discuss the hearing of the human rights issue.
The SBT shall also direct the parties and/or their representatives to attend a pre-hearing conference prior to the main hearing where it considers that a pre-hearing conference may assist in the just and expeditious disposition of the appeal.
Where the SBT has granted a party's request for a pre-hearing conference or where the Tribunal has directed that a pre-hearing conference be held the SBT shall notify the parties in writing of the pre-hearing conference.
The Notice of Pre-Hearing Conference shall set out the format for the pre-hearing conference (i.e. telephone conference, videoconference, oral hearing) and the date, time and location of the pre-hearing conference.
The Notice of Pre-Hearing Conference shall be sent to the parties as soon as practicable following the grant of the party's request for a pre-hearing conference or the Tribunal's direction to attend at a pre-conference hearing.
Where the parties consent, the SBT member who presided at the pre-hearing conference may hear the appeal.
As a general rule, an electronic (telephone or videoconference) pre-hearing conference shall be conducted where the purpose of the pre-hearing conference is to deal with procedural matters.
An oral, in-person pre-hearing conference shall be held where a party satisfies the SBT that an electronic pre-hearing conference is likely to cause the party significant prejudice.
The SBT reserves the right to hold any combination of electronic, oral or written pre-hearing conferences in respect of an appeal filed with the SBT, in addition to the procedure set out in this Practice Direction, where it will assist in the just and expeditious disposition of the appeal or in unusual or exceptional circumstances.
A pre-hearing conference may be held to deal with any or all of the following:
At the conclusion of the pre-hearing conference, the parties may agree to deal with any procedural issue discussed by way of consensus.
The SBT will issue an interim written procedural ruling or direction regarding the procedural issues related to the main hearing of the appeal and send it to the parties within 10 days.
Where the appeal is resolved during or following the pre-hearing conference, the appellant must withdraw the appeal as soon as possible. The SBT will confirm receipt of the withdrawal and advise the parties that the hearing is cancelled.