Coalition said it intends to prevent vote-splitting, which favoured the FullStop slate in 2019
A new coalition of Law Society of Ontario bencher candidates launched Monday.
The Bencher Good Governance Coalition, which currently has 28 candidates, announced its aim to bring civility back to the law society, protect self-regulation, and prevent the FullStop slate – formerly, StopSOP – from gaining more ground in the 2023 bencher elections.
“It's important that we give members of the professions a competent representative group of individuals to support, so that FullStop… doesn't take over the Law Society in 2023,” says Atrisha Lewis, a law society bencher in Toronto, and partner in McCarthy Tétrault’s Litigation Group.
The Coalition intends on fielding a full complement of candidates, and its announcement states that its members will not be required to advance a particular platform and will be free to vote as they choose.
“The Law Society has important responsibilities to regulate lawyers and paralegals in the public interest. It needs experienced leadership to fulfil those responsibilities,” says Megan Shortreed, an incumbent bencher and chair of the LSO Professional Regulation Committee. “We need to elect Benchers who will safeguard the reputation of the professions in the eyes of the public.”
“Self-regulation depends on good governance, which is why so many recognized leaders of the legal profession have stepped up to run as Coalition candidates.”
Since the last election, the FullStop slate has taken a number of positions which have raised concerns for Shortreed. They have been responsible for numerous “costly and time-consuming” motions from the floor, which have been largely unrelated to the law society’s mandate. The slate’s members have attempted to freeze the LSO’s compensation fund, which compensates clients for fraud. They voted against budgets which “responsibly reduced” member fees and proposed a 25-percent cut “without regard to the necessary expenses of regulation, thereby jeopardizing the Law Society’s ability to self-regulate.” Shortreed adds that at last week’s Convocation, slate members proposed repealing the Bencher Code of Conduct.
“Incumbent members of the Good Governance Coalition, together with lay benchers, have managed to restrain the Full Stop’s agenda on close votes, time and time again,” she says.
Lisa Bildy, a lawyer and campaign manager for FullStop, questions the Coalition’s definition of “good governance.”
“The establishment benchers and their supporters brought the profession such ‘good governance’ ideas as a compelled Statement of Principles and an Inclusion Index to enable Big Law to virtue signal at the expense of the rest of the membership.”
“Now they want free rein again with members' dues, without the StopSOP slate members in the way to hold them accountable,” says Bildy. “The renamed FullStop slate will be back, with a larger group this time, to ensure the LSO is transparent, sticks to its statutory knitting, and keeps regulatory and budgetary excesses in check. That's what we call good governance.”
Members of the coalition say one of its main purposes is to prevent the vote splitting which brought 22 members of the FullStop slate to the law society in 2019. “While the slate only received about one third of the votes, it prevailed because the remaining two-thirds of the vote was split among the 95 other candidates,” said the announcement.
Greg Monforton says he and his fellow Coalition candidates have become increasingly alarmed by the actions of the FullStop slate and worries that they threaten the profession’s self-regulation if allowed to continue their current trajectory.
“We have formed this coalition to give the lawyers of Ontario a clear choice: between serious, experienced, and principle-based leadership and an ideology based in divisive rhetoric,” says Monforton, a bencher candidate from Windsor and past president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.