Manitoulin Land Registry Office to close in-person services in October

United Manitoulin Islands Transit

GORE BAY – The Manitoulin Land Registry Office (LRO) in Gore Bay will be closing to in-person visitor counter service and all interactions will move online as of October 13.

“Ontario’s land registry offices are changing to serve Ontarians better by shifting to a digital-focused service model starting October 13, 2020,” said Harry Malhi of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services when contacted by the Recorder last week.

“It’s criminal that they are closing them,” stated Gord Keatley of Keatley Surveying in Little Current. “It’s horrible what they are doing.” 

Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne was surprised with this news. “There is a lot people can do online, but this is one step closer to everything disappearing up there (the Manitoulin District Court Office is in the same building),” he stated. “And, the government doesn’t tell anyone about these changes being made until everything slowly disappears.” 

Mayor Osborne said, “I send people up to the land registry office when they are planning to build anything, for property plans and plans of survey; they have been able to get this information at the LRO in the past.”

The announcement “means another job being eliminated from Gore Bay and Manitoulin, whether it be immediately or in the near future,” said Mayor Osborne. “I suppose we can’t scream too much because everything these days is being done online; everyone shops online, for example. But all of this affects the local area; even with banks, they are trying all the time to get people to do everything online, but what happens to the jobs that are eventually, if not immediately, lost?”   

“By embracing technology and putting people at the centre of everything we do, we are responding to the needs and changing preferences of our customers and offering timely, cost-effective services,” continued Mr. Malhi. “Ontarians are doing more online these days and our government is working hard to keep its promise of delivering simpler, faster and better services to all Ontarians.”

Theresa Carlisle, secretary of the Manitoulin Planning Board told the Recorder on Monday, “we don’t go the land registry often, but we refer our customers and landowners there when they need to get copies of survey and land-property searches, for example. So it is important to have this (counter service) here in Gore Bay, for the person-to-person option. And it is important for property search information. The office staff is helpful in providing this information. And, for a person to do this online could take them several hours if they aren’t sure what they are looking for.” 

Ms. Carlisle pointed out that lawyers, law clerks, surveyors, municipalities, title searchers and historical societies would be most affected by switching to online service. “It takes a while for people to get accustomed to working online and a lot of people aren’t comfortable working online or getting their questions answered online.” 

Mr. Malhi told the Recorder, “Ontario’s land registration system was established in 1795 and has undergone several transformations in its 225 years of existence. In keeping with our modern world, land registration is a segment of government services where customers have already adopted the digital channel as their preference. Our data shows that 99 percent of documents are registered online, 87 percent of searches are conducted online and 98 percent of surveyors submit plans for pre-approval via email. This shift has happened organically as a result of the specialized user group (i.e. lawyers, law clerks, surveyors, municipalities, title searchers and historical societies) visiting less in-person as they prefer to conduct their business online.”

Mr. Keatley told the Recorder, “yes, there are a lot of things that can be done. If you want to look at a deed, you can do this for free at the LRO but it is $3 per deed online. And right now any reference plan is $5, while online it will be $15 and if you want a paper copy it will be $15 plus a delivery fee of $15.”

“A person used to be able to walk into the LRO and someone would help you in person to find what you are looking for. This won’t be the case now,” stated Mr. Keatley who said, “this is all thank you to Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne who made the deal with Teranet to have these services provided by this private corporation, who are making massive profits. And everything the government does is secret; there was no consultation on this decision with surveyors. All we were told is here, changes are being made and this is coming. People should be able to visit a brick and mortar place and get the information you need from a person.”

Matteo Guinci, strategic communications and media advisor with the ministry of Government and Consumer Services told the Recorder, “effective October 13, 2020, customers will access land registry records online via OnLand.ca. In-person land registration services will be discontinued by end-of-day October 9, 2020.”

“Land registry staff will continue to provide critical verification and fulfillment work in back-office operations at their current locations,” said Mr. Guinci. “There will be no public-sector job loss. Customers can continue to contact them via OnLand.ca or call their local LRO for assistance. Customers can visit Ontario.ca for local LRO contact information.”

In 2010, the local land registry office went digital along with other offices throughout Ontario. In 1995 the Gore Bay LRO celebrated its 200th anniversary.