Alberta – Preliminary “ruling” on jurisdiction not an “award” – #637

In Brazeau (County) v Drayton Valley (Town), 2022 ABQB 443, Justice Davidson considered the timeliness of an application for judicial review of both an arbitrator’s preliminary ruling on jurisdiction and the final award. The issues raised on the application are relevant beyond the statutory tribunal regime under the Municipal Government Act, RSA 2000, c M-26 (the “MGA”) and have broader significance. Of most interest is: (1) Justice Davidson’s determination that the limitation period for a challenge to an award begins to run only once there has been compliance with the statutory formalities of an award, including the requirement that it be signed; and (2) Justice Davidson’s conclusion that an application for ”judicial review” of an arbitrator’s preliminary jurisdiction “ruling” must be made within 30 days after it is released, and cannot be challenged as part of a review of the final award, even if it is sent to the parties again as an attachment to the final award. It is not part of the final award.

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British Columbia – Court sets aside arbitrator’s decision for breach of procedural fairness – #615

In Bedwell Bay Construction v. Ball, 2022 BCSC 559, Justice Giaschi granted a judicial review application to set aside an interim decision of an arbitrator (the “Arbitrator”) of the Residential Tenancy Branch (the “RTB”) and to remit the matter back to the RTB for redetermination de novo before a different arbitrator. In doing so, the Court accepted the petitioner’s argument that the arbitrator did not act fairly when it required the petitioner to present its case first (even though it did not have the burden of proof), and denied it the right to cross-examine and to provide reply evidence and submissions. The Court held that this amounted to breaches of the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness. These findings have relevance to commercial arbitrations.

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Alberta – Previous arbitral award did not create res judicata for regulator – #589

In TransAlta Corporation v Alberta (Utilities Commission), 2022 ABCA 37, TransAlta Corporation (“TransAlta”) argued on appeal that the Alberta Utilities Commission (“AUC”) erred in law when it refused TransAlta’s application to decide, as a preliminary matter, that certain issues were rendered res judicata by a previous arbitral award arising out of a dispute between TransAlta and a legislated entity called the “Balancing Pool”. The majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal as: (1) the AUC decision was an interlocutory ruling in an unfinished proceeding and the AUC may ultimately agree with the arbitral award; and (2) the AUC did not err when it refused to apply res judicata as a preliminary matter as it was making a decision in a different statutory context than the arbitral tribunal.

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Québec – Statutory tribunal chair disqualified for bias for comments made in presence of witness during hearing break – #582

In Terrebonne Police Brotherhood Inc. v Truchon, 2022 QCCS 34, Justice Poulin granted, in part, the plaintiff union’s application for judicial review of a decision rendered by a three-person statutory tribunal. The tribunal had dismissed the union’s motion for an order disqualifying the entire tribunal based upon comments made by the chair, which were overheard by a witness and an observer during a break in the hearing. Justice Poulin set aside the tribunal’s ruling and found that those comments demonstrated both a lack of impartiality and a lack of open mind on the part of the chair, which warranted his disqualification. However, the other two members of the panel were not disqualified, even though they contributed to the unanimous decision dismissing the union’s motion. The chair’s comments could not be imputed to them.

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BC – Arbitrator’s decision set aside for lack of procedural fairness – #575

In Cyrenne v YWCA Metro Vancouver, 2021 BCSC 2406, Justice Baird of the British Columbia Supreme Court set aside a statutory arbitrator’s decision to grant an Order of Possession in a residential tenancies dispute under the Residential Tenancy Act, SBC 2002, c 78 (the “RTA”). He found that the hearing lacked procedural fairness because the arbitrator failed: (i) to judicially consider an adjournment request (dismissing it out of hand); and (ii) to give the tenant a reasonable opportunity to fully present her case (e.g. cutting her off in the middle of her submissions after a “time limit” had expired). Although the Arbitration Act, SBC 2020, c 2 does not apply to RTA disputes, it is illustrative of what procedural fairness dictates in relation to fair hearings.

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Newfoundland and Labrador – Labour Arbitrator’s Collective Agreement Interpretation Passes Vavilov Reasonableness Muster – #559

In Pennecon Maintenance Services Limited v. Fish, Food & Allied Workers, 2021 NLSC 141, Justice Knickle ruled that a labour arbitrator reasonably interpreted a collective agreement in light of the precepts laid down in both Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65 [Vavilov] and Sattva Capital Corp. v. Creston Moly Corp., 2014 SCC 53 [Sattva]. Although arising from an application for judicial review, Justice Knickle’s analysis provides relevant insights applicable to private arbitration disputes as they relate to contract interpretation.

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