An administrative tribunal established pursuant to Alberta’s Fair Trading Act, did not commit an error of law when it referred to unsworn evidence as “testimony” or when it considered the applicant’s previous disciplinary history

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Motor Vehicle Dealers – Permits and licences – Judicial review – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter – Evidence, admissibility – Past conduct – Previous complaints – Public interest

Ahmad v. Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council, [2010] A.J. No. 525, 2010 ABQB 293, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, May 6, 2010, D.A. Sulyma J.

The applicant, Ahmad, was first granted a Salesperson Registration as an automotive salesperson pursuant to the provisions of the Automotive Business Regulation in 2001. As is set out in the Fair Trading Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. F-2, the Director of Fair Trading (“the Director”) may refuse to issue or renew a licence, may cancel or suspend a licence, and may impose terms and conditions on a licence for various reasons, including where it is in the public interest to do so. There were a number of allegations against the applicant over the years, such that he was granted a conditional Salesperson Registration in 2004 and again in 2007. Further allegations ensued and, following a hearing in February 2009, the Director cancelled the applicant’s conditional Salesperson Registration. The applicant appealed the Director’s decision to an Appeal Panel. This was not successful. The applicant sought judicial review of the decision of the Appeal Panel.

The court held that because both the Director and the Appeal Panel have experience and specialized knowledge of the motor vehicle industry and Salesperson Registrations, the appropriate standard of review was reasonableness.

The applicant argued that the Appeal Panel erred in law when it referred to unsworn evidence as “testimony” in its reasons. The court emphasized that the Appeal Panel was not bound by the rules of evidence applicable to judicial proceedings and had the power to determine admissibility, relevance, and the weight of evidence. There was no requirement that the Appeal Panel take evidence under oath. The reference to “testimony” in the Appeal Panel’s reasons was not attributable to a misconception of the difference between sworn evidence and other evidence, but rather to the Appeal Panel’s relative inexperience in legal writing.

The applicant further argued that the Appeal Panel erred when it re-investigated historical claims that resulted in criminal and / or regulator charges but no conviction. The court was not persuaded by this argument, and held that while it is true that the criminal and regulatory charges against the applicant in the past were either stayed, dismissed, or withdrawn, the Appeal Panel was entitled to consider the applicant’s entire history in the motor vehicle industry in order to properly exercise its mandate to protect the public interest. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Appeal Panel did not commit any reviewable error of law.

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