Lawyers sound alarm over new law that could limit lawsuits against Ontario government
PUBLISHED PATRICK WHITE by in Global mail on APRIL 16, 2019
Ontario Minister of Finance Vic Fideli delivers remarks following an announcement, in Toronto on August 13, 2018.
A proposed law tucked into last week’s Ontario budget has alarmed lawyers, who describe the government’s planned legislation as a potentially unconstitutional attempt to insulate the province from lawsuits.
As part of the budget introduced last Thursday, the government said it would repeal the Proceedings Against the Crown Act, a 56-year-old piece of legislation that defines the circumstances under which the government can be sued.
“The Proceedings Against the Crown Act that’s currently on the books is an old law, from 1963,” she told reporters on Monday. “And what we’re doing is we’re clarifying the law.”
“Much will depend on how the new provisions are interpreted by the courts, if the Bill is passed, but I would expect that tort claims against the Government will become more difficult, and that government lawyers will become more aggressive in bringing motions to strike,” Andrew Lokan, a partner at Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein and co-author of Constitutional Litigation in Canada, said in an e-mail. “At a minimum, it will likely be more expensive and complex to bring negligence claims against the Government.”
Ms. Mulroney acknowledged the amendments would limit lawsuits against the government over policy changes when the government is acting in good faith, but said this reflects settled law and a Supreme Court decision.
The proposed law is written to apply retroactively, meaning several continuing suits could be extinguished.