Small Claims Court just became bigger, at least in one jurisdiction. In the Canadian province of Alberta, the limit for civil litigation in the Provincial Court system has recently doubled from CAD $50,000 to $100,000. This means Albertans and agents like MetCredit can go to court without a lawyer in the province to collect much larger debts, benefitting from reduced costs and shorter wait times. Tim Browatzke is MetCredit’s Manager of Corporate Integrity and Legal Strategies, and he joins host Bryn Griffiths to talk about why Alberta’s provincial court claim limit increase is a significant move — and one that other provinces and states may soon follow.
As MetCredit’s Manager of Corporate Integrity and Legal Strategies and with two decades of experience in civil litigation, Tim Browatzke has a deep understanding of the Canadian legal system. Having closely followed the recent changes in the Alberta Court of Justice, Tim is excited about the upcoming increase in the court’s jurisdiction, which will allow it to hear cases up to $100,000. As a dedicated legal expert, Tim is committed to helping his clients navigate the ever-evolving legal landscape in Canada.
Bryn Griffiths [00:00:01]:
This is Overdue Advice, the podcast about how and why debt collection works for your business, brought to you by MetCredit.
Bryn Griffiths [00:00:15]:
Welcome to Overdue advice. My name is Bryn Griffiths. While there’s been a recent interesting development in the province of Alberta, the civil litigation limit has been raised from fifty thousand dollars to one hundred thousand dollars. Now while this decision helps many companies like MetCredit and others, the bigger question is this is this good news? This is only in Alberta right now, but other provinces may follow their lead. So joining us to talk about it on today’s podcast is Tim Browatsky who is the Manager of Corporate Integrity and Legal Strategies for MetCredit. So let’s get started and break this down. Hey Tim, thanks for being with us. Okay, let’s get right to it. What exactly is this?
Tim Browatzke [00:00:55]:
Well, what this is is that on April 1, 2023, the Provincial Court of Alberta changed its name to the Alberta Court of Justice. This name change coincided with the Court of Queen’s Bench changing its name to the Court of King’s Bench following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Currently, Alberta’s Court of Justice hears civil matters that are up to $50,000. And this is currently the highest amount heard by any lower court in Canada. But as of August 1, 2023, the Alberta Court of Justice is going to be increasing amounts that they can hear civil matters for, and that will be up to $100,000.
Bryn Griffiths [00:01:39]:
Okay, so why is this big for MetCredit?
Tim Browatzke [00:01:42]:
It’s not just big for MetCredit, it’s important. The Alberta Court of justice has its own processes and procedural requirements which are typically less rigid and formal than the Court of King’s Bench, and so the decisions are typically more expeditious. This would be important because this allows greater access to justice relating to civil matters. In the process, self representation is allowed or representation by name. Agents will be allowed. Costs of lawyers involvement are cut out, making better access to the general public and some businesses. Okay, so currently Alberta Court of justice individuals can self represent, but if the matter is over $50,000, you have to bring an action in the Court of Kings Bench and this still requires a lawyer and some obvious hefty fees. Again, August 1, anything above 100,000 will need to be heard at the Court of Kings Bench level, therefore requiring a lawyer representation. Again, fees that are required in the Alberta Court of Justice.
Bryn Griffiths [00:02:57]:
Let’s make this perfectly clear right off the top here that every time we say the Court of Queen’s Bench, we’re going to throw a Toonie into the jar, okay? Because I bet you’re still making that mistake, right?
Tim Browatzke [00:03:06]:
Well, yeah, absolutely. And there is going to be a cut off line here even where they’re not going to be accepting documents at the Court of Kings Bench that say Court of Queen’s Bench. And that’s coming here shortly. I don’t know the exact date here, but we have a little bit of leeway between the name changes to get our documents up to date.
Bryn Griffiths [00:03:24]:
Okay, so obviously important for MetCredit and some other people. Is this important for the consumer? How does this affect them?
Tim Browatzke [00:03:31]:
Well, for the consumer, it’s great for businesses, it’s great for individuals, it’s great for employers and employees, people who are injured, and even individuals who have any type of contract dispute. And again, we’re looking at a more affordable access to justice for civil matters in Alberta.
Bryn Griffiths [00:03:51]:
See, I was sitting reading this and I was thinking to myself, okay, 50,000 to 100,000 sounds big, but really, is it big? So I guess that’s the question for you. How big is that?
Tim Browatzke [00:04:04]:
It’s doubling in size. So once again, it allows businesses, individuals, employees, people who are injured, to double the amount that they’re currently allowed to bring through the Alberta Court of justice. And with there being more expeditious decisions being made through that court level, it’s going to be better for everybody involved.
Bryn Griffiths [00:04:32]:
Now, Alberta is the only one doing this. What about some of the other provinces in Canada?
Tim Browatzke [00:04:38]:
There are other provinces in Canada. Every province has something similar, like a small claims court or a provincial court. Civil division. Currently the only two provinces that have something similar to Alberta where you’re able to hear claims at a higher value is Ontario and NBC. And in Ontario small claims court, they hear matters up to 35,000. Similarly, the provincial court and British Columbia civil division hears matters up to 35,000. The difference in both of those jurisdictions is typically agents are not allowed to represent clients. In Ontario, paralegals are licensed by the law society to represent their clients in court. And in BC, again, agents are typically allowed to be representing their clients in court, and you require lawyers or self representation in that province.
Bryn Griffiths [00:05:39]:
So I was talking to some people that I know over the last few days about this, and we talk about civil litigation, but then you ask somebody, okay, so what do you know about civil litigation? And really, I found that everybody knows what it says, but they don’t only really know how it works. Can we break that down a little bit? What is it?
Tim Browatzke [00:06:01]:
Yeah, absolutely. So civil litigation is where matters are heard with respect to adjudicated by a court or a judge, by bringing an action through the court for things that are with respect to amounts of money owing for goods and services. Debt claims like credit cards, motor vehicle or personal injury claims, employment claims, damage to property, breach of contract claims and even things like return of personal property. Civil litigation and is a process where you commence an action at the court level, and whether it’s for a right or wrong, a judge will make a decision on those matters that are adjudicated. When you receive the adjudicated judgment or default judgment, this allows the judgment holder to utilize civil enforcement measures as prescribed in Alberta under the Alberta Civil Enforcement Act to cover a debt. So the court process is set up to hear disputes of various natures and judges will make judgment on these types of decisions. And once you have this order or a judgment, you file a rid of enforcement with the Court of King’s Bench and then you’re able to take civil enforcement steps to enforce your right or that judgment or order that was obtained.
Bryn Griffiths [00:07:26]:
So from a MetCredit standpoint, I’m guessing this means that legal fees would be reduced a little bit. Is that fair to say?
Tim Browatzke [00:07:35]:
Well, currently approaching not much for my credit, but for our clients.
Bryn Griffiths [00:07:43]:
Tim Browatzke [00:07:44]:
So with the amount being increased, those were matters that typically had to be heard in the Court of King’s Bench. Previously the Court of Queen’s Bench and again, they required a lawyer to attend. That lawyer would be required to obviously send their bills for their hours that they put into it.
Bryn Griffiths [00:08:03]:
Tim Browatzke [00:08:05]:
In disputed manners litigation being the tens of thousands of dollars, by increasing that amount to $100,000, you’re cutting out that lawyer, you’re cutting out that $10,000 bill for disputed matter that had to be litigated through this process.
Bryn Griffiths [00:08:22]:
Tim Browatzke [00:08:23]:
And again, you’re bringing access to justice for civil matters and it’s cost effective.
Bryn Griffiths [00:08:34]:
The other thing that everybody always wonders is, does that speed things up a little bit? Because going through the courts can be rather time consuming. I know it’s kind of unfair to ask you right now because we’re just kind of getting rolling with this thing, but what do you expect to happen there?
Tim Browatzke [00:08:49]:
What I really think is that in Alberta they’re pretty expeditious. The judges are very fair minded individuals who make fair decisions and I think it’s going to take a lot of the backlog at the Court of Queen Bench level with respect to civil matters that are burning them right now. And I think my opinion is that there’s not going to be much of a change with respect to timing of hearings or trials and again, an expeditious decision probably be made.
Bryn Griffiths [00:09:30]:
So if you’re a business owner in Alberta, I got to think this is going to get a big thumbs up.
Tim Browatzke [00:09:37]:
Absolutely. And I think, as I had mentioned in the past, it’s just an opportunity for access to individuals and businesses to hear civil matters that typically would have had to involve a lawyer. Now it won’t.
Bryn Griffiths [00:09:52]:
Now you look at things right across the country on a national scope. How closely will these other provinces be watching what’s happening in Alberta here in 2023 in regards to this?
Tim Browatzke [00:10:03]:
Well, I’m sure people are going to have their eye on this process and what’s to come. Whether or not they’re follow suit, that’s still to be heard or decided. Making these decisions to increase the limit takes a long time and a lot of consultation. I know going back at least ten years, there was rumors in Alberta that this was going to happen. So if it does happen in other provinces, it’s probably going to be something that will happen down the road.
Bryn Griffiths [00:10:33]:
What about growing pains? Do you expect that there’s going to be much everything kind of takes a little bit of time to kind of, I guess, find its way. Are you expecting the same sort of thing, a little clunky to begin with?
Tim Browatzke [00:10:45]:
Well, I would expect there to be some growing pains, and I would expect there to be some pivoting by the Alberta Court of justice to probably enforce more of the Court of King’s Bench procedures under the rules of court, more so than they currently are.
Bryn Griffiths [00:11:06]:
Now, let’s talk about you and how you get started at MetCredit. How long have you been there now?
Tim Browatzke [00:11:14]:
Well, funny enough, as of June, it will be my 21st year with MetCredit.
Bryn Griffiths [00:11:18]:
Tim Browatzke [00:11:20]:
So it’s been a long time.
Bryn Griffiths [00:11:21]:
Now, you’re the manager of let me get this straight here. Manager of corporate integrity and legal strategies.
Tim Browatzke [00:11:28]:
That’s correct. And so my roles relate to managing legal recoveries, compliance and privacy. Again, I’m representing our clients in civil matters with respect to here in Alberta. And there are other duties that I have, and I manage our lawyers and legal business partners.
Bryn Griffiths [00:11:56]:
So I got to think you got to do a lot of reading to kind of keep up with everything, right?
Tim Browatzke [00:12:00]:
There’s a lot of reading, yes.
Bryn Griffiths [00:12:03]:
Not just in the Alberta region, but across the country. How much of a crisscross is there between, let’s say maybe Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, that kind of thing? Everybody’s a little different in every different jurisdiction, is that not true?
Tim Browatzke [00:12:20]:
Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot of similarities, like between Ontario and DC. But you’re very similar between Alberta and Saskatchewan. Now and then you’re talking about Quebec, and that’s a whole different world, right?
Bryn Griffiths [00:12:33]:
Tim Browatzke [00:12:35]:
Whether it’s dealing with courts or dealing with the legislation of each of these provinces, everybody has their own. A lot of people expect me to remember it off the top of my head, but I have to do my research all the time. You can’t remember everything. And that’s why when you say there’s a lot of reading, there is a lot of reading.
Bryn Griffiths [00:12:54]:
When you started out with MetCredit 21 years ago, where did you start? What were you doing first?
Tim Browatzke [00:13:00]:
Wasn’t that funny? I started at MetCredit 21 years ago, I think was in the cure department. I actually came to MetCredit not thinking this was going to be a career. I came to MetCredit thinking this was going to be a job, right. And one year later you look back, you’re like, wow, it’s very interesting how this turned in from a job to a career that I wasn’t expecting.
Bryn Griffiths [00:13:25]:
I got to tell you how many people I’ve interviewed doing this podcast, and that’s exactly what they said everybody said exactly the same thing. They looked at it as being a job and it turned into a career. So you started 21 years ago doing that and then how did you move into this new position just over time.
Tim Browatzke [00:13:42]:
Over five years or so? It was something that I had an interest in and so got some training, got experience, trial and error. And all of a sudden the last 15 years or so, this has been my main area of management for the company.
Bryn Griffiths [00:14:06]:
Don’t you find it amazing that you kind of jumped on board here and didn’t realize that it was going to turn into this? And now here you are.
Tim Browatzke [00:14:17]:
As you had mentioned, you talking to some other people who have that same experience. There’s other people in the industry that I’m aware of that have the same experience that I have and it’s interesting. It’s something that I like to do and I guess for now I’ll continue to be doing it. And it looks like I’m going to be a lot more busier with this increase in Alberta.
Bryn Griffiths [00:14:40]:
And the guy at the top seems to also get a fair mention or two because he seems to have a really good handle on I hate using the term employees because it’s almost like it’s family for him in a lot of ways. But are you funding that with Brian?
Tim Browatzke [00:14:55]:
Oh, yeah, I mean, when you work with somebody for 21 years, there’s a family connection there. Absolutely.
Bryn Griffiths [00:15:02]:
Okay, so now we’re going to be watching this thing take effect here over the next few months, that sort of thing. When do you think you’ll have a good read on everything? Maybe by December or much earlier than that.
Tim Browatzke [00:15:13]:
Within the first few months. We’ll see what happens. I anticipate this will be a good opportunity for our clients and so I do anticipate seeing an increase in matters being litigated through the Alberta Court of justice. So I think we will be a little bit more busier going into the later part of this year.
Bryn Griffiths [00:15:38]:
You know that I think you only said Court of Queens Bench once after I mentioned the toonie jar. Congratulations on that.
Tim Browatzke [00:15:47]:
Not a fool.
Bryn Griffiths [00:15:50]:
Hey, thanks for your time today. This is an interesting step forward and I’ll be curious to see exactly I’m sure you will too. Curious to see how the rest of the provinces view the way Alberta handles this and whether or not this will be adopted by other provinces. Do you think that’ll happen?
Tim Browatzke [00:16:05]:
It could, but these changes take time. I don’t something that’s going to happen overnight or in the next year, but possibly.
Bryn Griffiths [00:16:13]:
Thanks for your time today. This is fantastic stuff.
Tim Browatzke [00:16:16]:
No problem. Thank you.
Bryn Griffiths [00:16:17]:
Hey, it’s easy to find us online. MetCredit is on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter @MetCredit. You can also check out Brian Summerfelt’s blog. It’s easy to find that too. It’s blog.MetCredit.com. And don’t forget, the website also includes numerous helpful tools and calculators to assess your business’ debt risk. We also want to hear from you. So subscribe like or leave us a review on this or any of our podcasts. And make sure you share this podcast with your friends or business associates. You can drop us a line at OverdueAdvice@MetCredit.com. Overdue Advice, the podcast about cash flow strategies to grow your business. I’m Bryn Griffiths.