Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Workers compensation – Tribunal’s power to consider its own decisions – Judicial review – Jurisdiction – Statutory provisions – Standard of review – Correctness – Compliance with legislation
Watson v. Alberta (Workers’ Compensation Board),  A.J. No. 485, 2010 ABQB 280, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, April 26, 2010, D. Lee J.
The applicant, Watson, applied for judicial review of two decisions of the Appeals Commission of the Workers’ Compensation Board. In the first, the Appeals Commission had held that the Dispute Resolution and Decision Review Body (“DRDRB”), a legislatively designated internal review board within the Workers’ Compensation Board, has the power to reconsider its own decisions. In the second, the Appeals Commission had considered whether the applicant was properly entitled to temporary total disability benefits, even though the applicant had not appealed this aspect of the DRDRB’s decision to the Appeals Commission.
Citing Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick, 2008 SCC 9, the court noted that true jurisdictional questions arise where a tribunal must explicitly determine whether its statutory grant gives it the authority to decide a particular matter. In accordance with this definition, the court held that the determination of whether the DRDRB had the power to reconsider its previous decision is a true jurisdictional question and reviewable on a standard of correctness. For the same reason, the determination of whether the Appeals Commission has the power to consider an issue that has not been appealed is also subject to the standard of correctness.
Turning to the first decision, the court noted that as a general rule, once a final decision in respect of a matter is made by a tribunal, that decision cannot be revisited simply because the tribunal has changed its mind. Although s. 17(3) of the Workers’ Compensation Act, RSA 2000, c. W-15 provides that the Workers’ Compensation Board has the authority to reconsider any matter that it has dealt with and to rescind or amend any decision or order previously made by it, no such power is expressly delegated to the DRDRB. In fact, s. 46(5)(b) of the Workers’ Compensation Act provides that the DRDRB’s power are limited to confirming, varying or reversing any decision made in respect of a claim. Because a person who has a direct interest in and is dissatisfied with a decision made by the DRDRB can appeal the decision to the Appeals Commission, the DRDRB does not require the power to reconsider its own substantive decisions and, accordingly, the court found that no such inherent jurisdiction should be implied.
With regard to the second decision, s. 13.1(1)(a) of the Workers’ Compensation Act provides that the Appeals Commission has the exclusive jurisdiction to examine, inquire into, hear and determine all matters and questions arising in respect of appeals from decisions made by a review body. Given the wording of this provision, the court held that because the applicant did not appeal the DRDRB’s decision that she was entitled to temporary total disability benefits, the Appeals Commission did not have the jurisdiction to address that issue or to alter the DRDRB’s decision in that regard.
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