The Applicant Association sought judicial review of the Province’s decision to substitute its own compensation package for provincial judges for that recommended by the 2003 Judicial Compensation Commission. The court held that while the Province’s action met the “rationality” test, the Province had not demonstrated that exceptional circumstances existed such that it could reject the Commission’s recommendations. The court therefore allowed the judicial review to the extent of providing the Province with 90 days to reconsider the Commission’s recommendations and to justify its rejection on the ground of exceptional circumstances.
Administrative law – Remuneration of judges – Judicial Remuneration Commission – Recommendations – Government rejection – Simple rationality standard – Judicial review – Decisions reviewed – Ministerial orders
Alberta Provincial Judges’ Assn v. Alberta,  A.J. No. 936, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, August 20, 2004, MacCullam J.
The Alberta Provincial Judges Association sought judicial review of the Province of Alberta’s decision to substitute its own compensation package for provincial judges for that recommended by the 2003 Judicial Compensation Commission. In general, the Province increased salaries in the first year by only approximately 9% in response to the Commission’s recommendation of increases in the order of 18%.
The court held that if a Province chooses not to accept one or more of the recommendations of a Commission report, it must be prepared to justify its decision, if necessary, in a court of law. The standard of justification was one of simple rationality. However, the Province also had to demonstrate that exceptional circumstances justified the rejection of the Commission’s recommendations.
The court noted that the Province’s decision with respect to salaries was based in refusal to pay more than necessary to attract qualified candidates. These reasons met the justification standard of simple rationality. However, the court held that the government’s reasons for justifying the rejection of the Commission’s recommendations did not meet the “exceptional circumstances” test. The court therefore directed the government to reconsider the Commissioner’s recommendation and to justify its rejection on the ground of exceptional circumstances. If it did not do so within 90 days, the Commissioner’s recommendations would become effective.
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