Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Ministerial orders – Port divestiture – Judicial review – Natural justice and legitimate expectations – Procedural requirements and fairness – Standard of review – Patent unreasonableness
Newfoundland and Labrador v. Canada (Minister of Transport),  F.C.J. No. 1825, Federal Court, November 2, 2005, Harrington J.
In March 2003, Transport Canada sold the port of Stephenville to Port Harmon Authority Ltd., a private for‑profit corporation. The sale took place on the express directive of the then Minister of Transport, against the wishes of both the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the town of Stephenville.
The province and the town sought a judicial review of the Minister’s decision. The Applicants submitted that the Minister’s decision to divest the port to a private for‑profit corporation was a violation of provincial authority and was contrary to the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness as well as their legitimate expectations.
With respect to the Applicants’ alleged legitimate expectations, the court held that they were mistaken in thinking that they were given a veto over any sale. They were entitled to expect to be consulted, and they were.
With respect to the standard of review, the court held that decisions of Ministers of the Crown in the exercise of discretionary powers in an administrative context should usually receive the highest standard of deference, that is to say, patent unreasonableness. Thus, an administrative discretionary policy decision is not subject to judicial review unless it was made in bad faith, did not conform with the principles of natural justice or relied upon the considerations that are irrelevant or extraneous. The court held that the Minster acted in good faith, that the principles of natural justice were observed, and that the decision was not based on irrelevant or extraneous consideration. The application was therefore dismissed.
To stay current with the new case law and emerging legal issues in this area, subscribe here.