No one will mistake it for a McDonald’s, but Ontario’s property registration branch recently served its one-millionth online customer.

The branch, which falls under the ministry of consumer and business

services, manages the land registry system. People can use the registry to search title on property to make sure there are no outstanding debts or charges. But since 1999 a growing number of Ontario residents have had the option of registering and conducting searches online.

Randy Reese, the project manager for electronic land registration, says the move to develop some kind of an electronic automation system began in the 1980s. “”We’ve got 200 years’ worth of paper documents,”” Reese says. “”You can imagine how many there were. All the interest in property over all those years and all those parcels in Ontario have been recorded and kept.””

The idea was to create digital copies of all the documents and extract important information about the property to form an abstract. Reese says the government worked at it for a number of years before deciding to partner with Teranet Inc.

The electronic land registration portion of the project began in 1999 with a pilot program in London and has since expanded to cover more than 60 per cent of registration volume.

Predicting how it would grow and evolve was difficult. Reese says it was the only group in the world developing this kind of system

“”It grows as the economy grows. We’re very much dependent on the stage of the real estate market.”” Reese says. “”When the market’s hot we have a lot more registrations and searches.”” More than 88,000 registrations were submitted electronically in November.

Reeses says the project has saved the ministry money because it no longer has to pay rent in Toronto to house paper. It also created workload efficiencies through remote work sharing. Some rural offices, he says, do not have the same workload volume per staff member as the busier sites.

“”Now that they’re in electronic format we can balance that workload around the province,”” Reese says. “”That’s been a big win for us.””

Susan Elliott, director of program management for Teranet Inc. says the Teraview software has attracted a great deal of international interest.

“”It’s a complicated system so it’s pretty neat when you see how we stack up,”” Elliott says. “”That’s probably the thing both Teranet and the government are to be commended for.””

“”You can successfully integrate a very complex system into both the government’s workflow and your user community workflow. And I can say since I’m a lawyer, but you won’t find a more difficult group to change-managed than lawyers. We hate change.””

The system covers 12 jurisdictions in Ontario currently provide electronic registration: Middlesex (Londo

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