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Ontario and Canada
Appeal Court Dicta

Appeal-Judicial Review - Reasons - Inadequate Reasons and Administrative Fairness

. Lovell v. Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry)

In Lovell v. Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) (Div Court, 2022) the Divisional Court, in a judicial review, considered the absense of reasons for the issuance of a work MNRF permit, not as an aspect of SOR reasonableness but as an administrative 'fairness' issue (here the court considers it as a Baker issue):
1. The nature of the decision being made and the process followed in making it

[79] This was a building permit application. It was not heard by an adjudicative body. No formal reasons were required. While the Applicants fault MNRF for the failure to provide reasons for granting a permit application, such reasons were not necessary in the circumstances. The issue of whether reasons should have been granted speaks to both reasonableness and procedural fairness. In Vavilov, at para. 77, the majority of the Supreme Court stated:

It is well established that, as a matter of procedural fairness, reasons are not required for all administrative decisions. The duty of procedural fairness in administrative law is "eminently variable", inherently flexible and context-specific…

[80] Further, and to repeat, at para. 136 of Vavilov, where the Applicants cited Lafontaine, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada stated:
In many cases, however, neither the duty of procedural fairness nor the statutory scheme will require that formal reasons be given at all...
. Scott v. Toronto (City)

In Scott v. Toronto (City) (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court considered a judicial review of a 'parking pad' permit denial by a municipal 'Community Council'. The court agreed that reasons for decision where not necessary as an aspect of procedural fairness:
No Duty to Provide Reasons

[47] The applicants argue that the Community Council had a duty to provide reasons as part of procedural fairness. I do not agree. Written reasons for decisions are not mandatory for all administrative decisions.

[48] The Community Council exercises powers delegated to it by City Council. It is comprised solely of elected Toronto city councillors. The City’s Procedure by-law does not require reasons. The larger context of the appeal, including the burden and impossibility of requiring elected representatives to provide reasons for the hundreds of items before a Community Council meeting, does not attract an obligation to provide written reasons. The Community Council’s decision-making process is not one that lends itself to producing a single set of reasons: Vavilov at para. 137

[49] A reviewing court must look to the record as a whole to understand the decision. Here, there is a clear rationale for the decision. Two councillors articulated their reasons. The Staff Report provided two bases for their recommendation, grounded in the regulatory scheme. Neighbours both opposed and supported the appeal. The Staff Report, the by-law, public deputations, submissions and the councillors’ duties informed their votes. The Court can discern a basis for the decision in the record. Procedural fairness does not require written reasons in the circumstances.


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