The regional centre for the Federal Bankruptcy Court for the Southwest Region, with jurisdiction over Waterloo, Bruce, Differin, Grey and Wellington Counties, will be unable to hear bankruptcy cases as of November 30, 2018.
Effective November 30, 2018, longstanding judge Robert Stevens will retire from the Deputy Registrar position. The government hiring freeze means that no immediate replacement will take his place, leaving 35% of London’s civil caseload at a complete stoppage. This percentage of the caseload is specific to bankruptcy and collection proceedings and cannot be heard in any other courtroom.
“Until the hiring freeze stops, my entire industry is unable to pay fees to the bankruptcy court,” remarked Licensed Insolvency Trustee John Adamson. “It is not just creditors that are losing money – the court is as well.”
The Insolvency industry put forth guidance to showcase that government officials continued to collect thousands of dollars in court fees since September 11, 2018, the last day that Mr. Stevens was in court.
“If officials knew that Deputy Registrar Stevens was retiring, they should have stopped taking fees,” says Mr. Adamson. “They have known that the hiring freeze would cause the court to be unable to schedule hearings.”
The court has effectively been closed since September 11th, as Ontario took no steps towards hiring anyone after Deputy Registrar Stevens’ retirement announcement. Cases that are in limbo cause individuals to be unable to obtain discharges from bankruptcy. This has the same effect as freezing their assets and financial lives as if they are bankrupt.
Experts have concluded that more people than normal within the jurisdiction of the court will need bankruptcy court in the coming months. Large numbers of layoffs in the automotive sector means that more people will require access to bankruptcy proceedings, which they will not have until the government hiring freeze is lifted.
Additionally, the court serves the government as a profit centre because of the court fees that it collects on bankruptcy filings. Because the bankruptcy court is shut down, the government is losing money alongside private citizens with every lost and frozen case.
The residents of Ontario are justifiably outraged, and the solution is simple,” says Mr. Adamson. “Doug Ford’s government should prioritize its citizens above red tape, bureaucracy and politics. This government should hire someone immediately for the Deputy Registrar position. It will be interesting to see if the government refunds the fees they have taken from Ontario residents. All they can do is keep calling their MPPs, which I have done as well. Even as an industry professional, I get nowhere.”