Ontario PCs to make it harder to sue government

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There is no doubt that lawsuits are costly to government and a drain on resources.

The PCs have a plan to repeal and replace the long-standing Ontario Proceedings Against the Crown Act which outlines government liability in cases of misfeasance and negligence.

The new law would increase the legal threshold required prior to proceeding with civil litigation, including class action lawsuits, against the government. Further, it would considerably limit the instances in which the government could be on the hook for financial compensation to plaintiffs.

While all provinces set limits on how and when their governments can be sued, critics charge that what Ontario is proposing goes further than any province.

The new legislation eliminates any potential financial liability in most cases where someone is harmed by government policy or regulatory decisions made in “good faith.”

Similarly, the province will not be liable for instances in which a person says there were harmed by the government exercising its authority.

While courts have yet to weigh in on the proposed legislation, the fact it will apply retroactively to existing cases means it could potentially be used to derail ongoing matters.

Meanwhile, the proposed Crown Liability and Proceedings Act will force plaintiffs to obtain permission from a court to move forward with suing the government in the first place.

Under current law, no such permission is required to file suit.

That means an applicant will have to prove to a judge that the province acted negligently or in bad faith before proceedings begin. The problem, however, is that usually requires access to government documents or other materials that the province will not be required to provide.

Crown lawyers will also have the option to cross-examine whomever is trying to get permission to launch a suit.

Meanwhile the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is preparing to challenge the legislation if it receives royal assent. If Ontario successfully makes these changes, it is certain other provinces will follow. After all, class action lawsuits and lawsuits in general are the bane of governments. The changes could potentially eliminate weak and frivolous lawsuits. -CINEWS

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