Administrative law – Municipalities – Property assessment – Appeals – Jurisdiction – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Right of appeal – Standard of review – Correctness
Manitoba (Provincial Municipal Assessor) v. Seagram Co.,  M.J. No. 393, Manitoba Court of Appeal, November 3, 2003, Huband, Philp, Twaddle, Hamilton and Freedman JJ.A.
Seagram had owned and operated a distillery for producing aged whisky on two parcels of land separated by a public road and under separate certificates of title in the rural municipality of Gimli. The two parcels were assessed for real property taxes under separate roll numbers. When Seagram received notice of the 1999 tax assessment, it did not appeal. Later in 1999, the assessor amended the assessments and the municipality issued adjusted tax statements for 1999. One of the statements imposed supplementary taxes while the other showed a reduction.
Upon receipt of the adjusted tax statements, Seagram appealed the decision to the Board of Revision of the Municipality, arguing that the total of the assessments for the two parcels should be reduced. Seagram was unsuccessful before the Board of Revision, but had some success on its appeal to the municipal board. The Assessor had objected to the Board reopening the original 1999 assessments in their entirety when Seagram had not appealed them earlier in the year.
The Assessor was granted leave to appeal on that issue.
The Court of Appeal conducted a pragmatic and functional analysis to determine the standard of review that was appropriate for the decision under review in this matter. The court noted that although the Municipal Assessment Act contained a statutory right of appeal, leave was required to appeal and the appeal was limited to questions of jurisdiction and law. Further, although the expertise of the board had been acknowledged by the court, the Board in these circumstances was held to have no greater expertise in the area that would demand deference by the court, given that the question on appeal was to do with the specific provisions and the overall purpose of the legislation.
The court also stated that the question being one of law militated in favour of a less deferential approach and, the standard of correctness applied.
The court held that there were no special rules for interpreting taxation legislation but that of the modern principle, the legislative text must be read in their ordinary sense harmoniously with the scheme and object of the Act.
The court held that with respect to roll no. 155800, the parcel of land for which a reduction of taxes was issued, there was no right of appeal provided for under the statute.
With respect to roll no. 199700, Seagram did have a right of appeal pursuant to section 328 of the Municipal Act which expressly provided for an appeal where an imposition of supplementary taxes had been made.
The court held that section 321(1)(b) of the Municipal Act gave the taxpayer the right to apply for a revision when supplementary taxes were imposed as a result of the assessment of property and business as opposed to other stated reasons. The court held that it would be the assessment of the property as a whole which should be reviewed and not just the assessment of an improvement on that property. Thus, when an assessed value of property is amended and supplementary taxes are imposed pursuant to a statement and demand for adjusted taxes, due to new improvements on the property, the entire real property assessment should be considered by the Board of Revision and Board. In this case, the entire real property assessment was for roll no. 199700 only. In conclusion, the court held that the matter should be referred back to the Board for further consideration, with the Board having committed an error of law by determining that the real property assessment for roll no. 155800 was open for review, given that Seagram had no right of appeal in regard of the amended reduced taxes for that parcel of land. Further, the Board had not committed an error of law by determining that the entire real property assessment for roll no. 199700 was open for review when Seagram appealed its 1999 supplementary taxes for that parcel of land.
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