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Insolvency - CCAA - General

. Montréal (City) v. Deloitte Restructuring Inc.

In Montréal (City) v. Deloitte Restructuring Inc. (SCC, 2021) the Supreme Court of Canada considered in depth the application of the CCAA.

. Canada v. Canada North Group Inc.

In Canada v. Canada North Group Inc. (SCC, 2021) the Supreme Court of Canada sets out a brief but useful summary of the CCAA:
A. CCAA Regime

[18] The CCAA is part of Canada’s system of insolvency law, which also includes the BIA and the Winding-up and Restructuring Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. W‑11, s. 6(1), for banks and other specified institutions. Although both the CCAA and the BIA create reorganization regimes, what distinguishes the CCAA regime is that it is restricted to companies with liabilities of more than $5,000,000 and “offers a more flexible mechanism with greater judicial discretion, making it more responsive to complex reorganizations” (Century Services Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General), 2010 SCC 60, [2010] 3 S.C.R. 379, at para. 14).

[19] The CCAA works by creating breathing room for an insolvent debtor to negotiate a way out of insolvency. Upon an initial application, the supervising judge makes an order that ordinarily preserves the status quo by freezing claims against the debtor while allowing it to remain in possession of its assets in order to continue carrying on business. During this time, it is hoped that the debtor will negotiate a plan of arrangement with creditors and other stakeholders. The goal is to enable the parties to reach a compromise that allows the debtor to reorganize and emerge from the CCAA process as a going concern (Century Services, at para. 18).

[20] The view underlying the entire CCAA regime is thus that debtor companies retain more value as going concerns than in liquidation scenarios (Century Services, at para. 18). The survival of a going-concern business is ordinarily the result with the greatest net benefit. It often enables creditors to maximize returns while simultaneously benefiting shareholders, employees, and other firms that do business with the debtor company (para. 60). Thus, this Court recently held that the CCAA embraces “the simultaneous objectives of maximizing creditor recovery, preservation of going-concern value where possible, preservation of jobs and communities affected by the firm’s financial distress . . . and enhancement of the credit system generally” (9354-9186 Québec inc. v. Callidus Capital Corp., 2020 SCC 10, at para. 42, quoting J. P. Sarra, Rescue! The Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (2nd ed. 2013), at p. 14).

[21] The most important feature of the CCAA — and the feature that enables it to be adapted so readily to each reorganization — is the broad discretionary power it vests in the supervising court (Callidus Capital, at paras. 47-48). Section 11 of the CCAA confers jurisdiction on the supervising court to “make any order that it considers appropriate in the circumstances”. This power is vast. As the Chief Justice and Moldaver J. recently observed in their joint reasons, “On the plain wording of the provision, the jurisdiction granted by s. 11 is constrained only by restrictions set out in the CCAA itself, and the requirement that the order made be ‘appropriate in the circumstances’” (Callidus Capital, at para. 67). Keeping in mind the centrality of judicial discretion in the CCAA regime, our jurisprudence has developed baseline requirements of appropriateness, good faith and due diligence in order to exercise this power. The supervising judge must be satisfied that the order is appropriate and that the applicant has acted in good faith and with due diligence (Century Services, at para. 69). The judge must also be satisfied as to appropriateness, which is assessed by considering whether the order would advance the policy and remedial objectives of the CCAA (para. 70). For instance, given that the purpose of the CCAA is to facilitate the survival of going concerns, when crafting an initial order, “[a] court must first of all provide the conditions under which the debtor can attempt to reorganize” (para. 60).
. Québec inc. v. Callidus Capital Corp.

In Québec inc. v. Callidus Capital Corp. (SCC, 2020) the Supreme Court of Canada set out a useful overview of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act in the context of it's role in Canada's insolvency system:
(1) The Evolving Nature of CCAA Proceedings

[39] The CCAA is one of three principal insolvency statutes in Canada. The others are the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. B-3 (“BIA”), which covers insolvencies of both individuals and companies, and the Winding-up and Restructuring Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. W-11 (“WURA”), which covers insolvencies of financial institutions and certain other corporations, such as insurance companies (WURA, s. 6(1)). While both the CCAA and the BIA enable reorganizations of insolvent companies, access to the CCAA is restricted to debtor companies facing total claims in excess of $5 million (CCAA, s. 3(1)).

[40] Together, Canada’s insolvency statutes pursue an array of overarching remedial objectives that reflect the wide ranging and potentially “catastrophic” impacts insolvency can have (Sun Indalex Finance, LLC v. United Steelworkers, 2013 SCC 6, [2013] 1 S.C.R. 271, at para. 1). These objectives include: providing for timely, efficient and impartial resolution of a debtor’s insolvency; preserving and maximizing the value of a debtor’s assets; ensuring fair and equitable treatment of the claims against a debtor; protecting the public interest; and, in the context of a commercial insolvency, balancing the costs and benefits of restructuring or liquidating the company (J. P. Sarra, “The Oscillating Pendulum: Canada’s Sesquicentennial and Finding the Equilibrium for Insolvency Law”, in J. P. Sarra and B. Romaine, eds., Annual Review of Insolvency Law 2016 (2017), 9, at pp. 9-10; J. P. Sarra, Rescue! The Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act 2nd ed. (2013), at pp. 4-5 and 14; Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, Debtors and Creditors Sharing the Burden: A Review of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (2003), at pp. 9-10; R. J. Wood, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law (2nd ed. 2015), at pp. 4-5).

[41] Among these objectives, the CCAA generally prioritizes “avoiding the social and economic losses resulting from liquidation of an insolvent company” (Century Services, at para. 70). As a result, the typical CCAA case has historically involved an attempt to facilitate the reorganization and survival of the pre-filing debtor company in an operational state — that is, as a going concern. Where such a reorganization was not possible, the alternative course of action was seen as a liquidation through either a receivership or under the BIA regime. This is precisely the outcome that was sought in Century Services (see para. 14).

[42] That said, the CCAA is fundamentally insolvency legislation, and thus it also “has the simultaneous objectives of maximizing creditor recovery, preservation of going-concern value where possible, preservation of jobs and communities affected by the firm’s financial distress . . . and enhancement of the credit system generally” (Sarra, Rescue! The Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, at p. 14; see also Ernst & Young Inc. v. Essar Global Fund Ltd., 2017 ONCA 1014, 139 O.R. (3d) 1, at para. 103). In pursuit of those objectives, CCAA proceedings have evolved to permit outcomes that do not result in the emergence of the pre-filing debtor company in a restructured state, but rather involve some form of liquidation of the debtor’s assets under the auspices of the Act itself (Sarra, “The Oscillating Pendulum: Canada’s Sesquicentennial and Finding the Equilibrium for Insolvency Law”, at pp. 19-21). Such scenarios are referred to as “liquidating CCAAs”, and they are now commonplace in the CCAA landscape (see Third Eye Capital Corporation v. Ressources Dianor Inc./Dianor Resources Inc., 2019 ONCA 508, 435 D.L.R. (4th) 416, at para. 70).

[43] Liquidating CCAAs take diverse forms and may involve, among other things: the sale of the debtor company as a going concern; an “en bloc” sale of assets that are capable of being operationalized by a buyer; a partial liquidation or downsizing of business operations; or a piecemeal sale of assets (B. Kaplan, “Liquidating CCAAs: Discretion Gone Awry?”, in J. P. Sarra, ed., Annual Review of Insolvency Law (2008), 79, at pp. 87-89). The ultimate commercial outcomes facilitated by liquidating CCAAs are similarly diverse. Some may result in the continued operation of the business of the debtor under a different going concern entity (e.g., the liquidations in Indalex and Re Canadian Red Cross Society (1998), 1998 CanLII 14907 (ON SC), 5 C.B.R. (4th) 299 (Ont. C.J. (Gen. Div.)), while others may result in a sale of assets and inventory with no such entity emerging (e.g., the proceedings in Re Target Canada Co., 2015 ONSC 303, 22 C.B.R. (6th) 323, at paras. 7 and 31). Others still, like the case at bar, may involve a going concern sale of most of the assets of the debtor, leaving residual assets to be dealt with by the debtor and its stakeholders.

[44] CCAA courts first began approving these forms of liquidation pursuant to the broad discretion conferred by the Act. The emergence of this practice was not without criticism, largely on the basis that it appeared to be inconsistent with the CCAA being a “restructuring statute” (see, e.g., Uti Energy Corp. v. Fracmaster Ltd., 1999 ABCA 178, 244 A.R. 93, at paras. 15-16, aff’g 1999 ABQB 379, 11 C.B.R. (4th) 204, at paras. 40-43; A. Nocilla, “The History of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and the Future of Re-Structuring Law in Canada” (2014), 56 Can. Bus. L.J. 73, at pp. 88-92).

[45] However, since s. 36 of the CCAA came into force in 2009, courts have been using it to effect liquidating CCAAs. Section 36 empowers courts to authorize the sale or disposition of a debtor company’s assets outside the ordinary course of business.[3] Significantly, when the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce recommended the adoption of s. 36, it observed that liquidation is not necessarily inconsistent with the remedial objectives of the CCAA, and that it may be a means to “raise capital [to facilitate a restructuring], eliminate further loss for creditors or focus on the solvent operations of the business” (p. 147). Other commentators have observed that liquidation can be a “vehicle to restructure a business” by allowing the business to survive, albeit under a different corporate form or ownership (Sarra, Rescue! The Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, at p. 169; see also K. P. McElcheran, Commercial Insolvency in Canada (4th ed. 2019), at p. 311). Indeed, in Indalex, the company sold its assets under the CCAA in order to preserve the jobs of its employees, despite being unable to survive as their employer (see para. 51).

[46] Ultimately, the relative weight that the different objectives of the CCAA take on in a particular case may vary based on the factual circumstances, the stage of the proceedings, or the proposed solutions that are presented to the court for approval. Here, a parallel may be drawn with the BIA context. In Orphan Well Association v. Grant Thornton Ltd., 2019 SCC 5, [2019] 1 S.C.R. 150, at para. 67, this Court explained that, as a general matter, the BIA serves two purposes: (1) the bankrupt’s financial rehabilitation and (2) the equitable distribution of the bankrupt’s assets among creditors. However, in circumstances where a debtor corporation will never emerge from bankruptcy, only the latter purpose is relevant (see para. 67). Similarly, under the CCAA, when a reorganization of the pre-filing debtor company is not a possibility, a liquidation that preserves going-concern value and the ongoing business operations of the pre-filing company may become the predominant remedial focus. Moreover, where a reorganization or liquidation is complete and the court is dealing with residual assets, the objective of maximizing creditor recovery from those assets may take centre stage. As we will explain, the architecture of the CCAA leaves the case-specific assessment and balancing of these remedial objectives to the supervising judge.

(2) The Role of a Supervising Judge in CCAA Proceedings

[47] One of the principal means through which the CCAA achieves its objectives is by carving out a unique supervisory role for judges (see Sarra, Rescue! The Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, at pp. 18-19). From beginning to end, each CCAA proceeding is overseen by a single supervising judge. The supervising judge acquires extensive knowledge and insight into the stakeholder dynamics and the business realities of the proceedings from their ongoing dealings with the parties.

[48] The CCAA capitalizes on this positional advantage by supplying supervising judges with broad discretion to make a variety of orders that respond to the circumstances of each case and “meet contemporary business and social needs” (Century Services, at para. 58) in “real-time” (para. 58, citing R. B. Jones, “The Evolution of Canadian Restructuring: Challenges for the Rule of Law”, in J. P. Sarra, ed., Annual Review of Insolvency Law 2005 (2006), 481, at p. 484). The anchor of this discretionary authority is s. 11, which empowers a judge “to make any order that [the judge] considers appropriate in the circumstances”. This section has been described as “the engine” driving the statutory scheme (Stelco Inc. (Re) (2005), 2005 CanLII 8671 (ON CA), 253 D.L.R. (4th) 109 (Ont. C.A.), at para. 36).

[49] The discretionary authority conferred by the CCAA, while broad in nature, is not boundless. This authority must be exercised in furtherance of the remedial objectives of the CCAA, which we have explained above (see Century Services, at para. 59). Additionally, the court must keep in mind three “baseline considerations” (at para. 70), which the applicant bears the burden of demonstrating: (1) that the order sought is appropriate in the circumstances, and (2) that the applicant has been acting in good faith and (3) with due diligence (para. 69).

[50] The first two considerations of appropriateness and good faith are widely understood in the CCAA context. Appropriateness “is assessed by inquiring whether the order sought advances the policy objectives underlying the CCAA” (para. 70). Further, the well-established requirement that parties must act in good faith in insolvency proceedings has recently been made express in s. 18.6 of the CCAA, which provides:
Good faith

18.6 (1) Any interested person in any proceedings under this Act shall act in good faith with respect to those proceedings.

Good faith — powers of court

(2) If the court is satisfied that an interested person fails to act in good faith, on application by an interested person, the court may make any order that it considers appropriate in the circumstances.

(See also BIA, s. 4.2; Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1, S.C. 2019, c. 29, ss. 133 and 140.)
[51] The third consideration of due diligence requires some elaboration. Consistent with the CCAA regime generally, the due diligence consideration discourages parties from sitting on their rights and ensures that creditors do not strategically manoeuver or position themselves to gain an advantage (Lehndorff General Partner Ltd., Re (1993), 17 C.B.R. (3d) 24 (Ont. C.J. (Gen. Div.)), at p. 31). The procedures set out in the CCAA rely on negotiations and compromise between the debtor and its stakeholders, as overseen by the supervising judge and the monitor. This necessarily requires that, to the extent possible, those involved in the proceedings be on equal footing and have a clear understanding of their respective rights (see McElcheran, at p. 262). A party’s failure to participate in CCAA proceedings in a diligent and timely fashion can undermine these procedures and, more generally, the effective functioning of the CCAA regime (see, e.g., North American Tungsten Corp. v. Global Tungsten and Powders Corp., 2015 BCCA 390, 377 B.C.A.C. 6, at paras. 21-23; Re BA Energy Inc., 2010 ABQB 507, 70 C.B.R. (5th) 24; HSBC Bank Canada v. Bear Mountain Master Partnership, 2010 BCSC 1563, 72 C.B.R. (5th) 276, at para. 11; Caterpillar Financial Services Ltd. v. 360networks Corp., 2007 BCCA 14, 279 D.L.R. (4th) 701, at paras. 51-52, in which the courts seized on a party’s failure to act diligently).

[52] We pause to note that supervising judges are assisted in their oversight role by a court appointed monitor whose qualifications and duties are set out in the CCAA (see ss. 11.7, 11.8 and 23 to 25). The monitor is an independent and impartial expert, acting as “the eyes and the ears of the court” throughout the proceedings (Essar, at para. 109). The core of the monitor’s role includes providing an advisory opinion to the court as to the fairness of any proposed plan of arrangement and on orders sought by parties, including the sale of assets and requests for interim financing (see CCAA, s. 23(1)(d) and (i); Sarra, Rescue! The Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, at pp- 566 and 569).


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Last modified: 10-01-23
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