Law Note - Finality of Tribunal Reasons 

publication 

June 2010 - (InBrief Summer 2010)

InBrief Summer 2010
In Jacobs Catalytic Ltd. v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 353 , the Ontario Court of Appeal addressed a situation where the Labour Board released supplementary reasons: 

After a lengthy hearing, the Board rendered a two-page decision (the "first set of reasons"). Shortly thereafter, counsel for the successful party, the respondent, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("IBEW"), asked the Board to provide "fuller reasons for its decision." This request was resisted by the unsuccessful party, Jacobs Catalytic Inc., on the basis that the Board lacked jurisdiction to render supplementary reasons. Notwithstanding this objection, the Board released a redrafted decision (the "second set of reasons").

Jacobs Catalytic Ltd. brought an application for judicial review on grounds that included a challenge to the Board's jurisdiction to issue the second set of reasons. At the Court of Appeal, the parties agreed that the first set of reasons provided by the Board were inadequate. The focus was, therefore, on whether it was appropriate for the Board to have provided supplementary reasons.
 
All three judges remitted the matter back to a differently constituted Labour Board for consideration. Two sets of concurring reasons were rendered by the Court. The majority based its decision on the principle of functus officio and jurisdiction. The minority decision, written by Simmons J., held that the facts were sufficient to demonstrate that a reasonable person would believe that the Board's supplementary reasons reflected after-the-fact result-driven reasons rather than the reasoning process.
 
The following may be derived from Jacobs Catalytic Ltd. v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 353: 

  • The process to determine if supplementary reasons can be provided by a tribunal is to determine if the tribunal has a statutory right to provide supplementary reasons, consider policy and then to consider application of the common law principle of functus officio.
  • Without authority, it would be unfair to permit a tribunal to rewrite its reasons to repair deficiencies in an earlier set of reasons in the absence of reason for reconsideration.
    The ability to revise reasons would negatively impact on parties' views on the finality of tribunal reasons.
  • The ability to revise reasons would allow for manipulation of a tribunal decision being judicially reviewed. Improvement of reasons to immunize them from review will not be fair (at least when not provided for in statute).
  • A tribunal's retention of jurisdiction over an aspect of a case is generally acceptable only where that aspect has not been fully addressed; a tribunal cannot arbitrarily reserve for itself extended jurisdiction over a completed aspect of a case.
  • A tribunal's jurisdiction to determine its own practice and procedure is not expansive enough to allow it to clarify previous decisions.
  • In the view of the minority of the Court of Appeal, there is the need for tribunals to provide reasons that go to the reasoning behind a result, rather than to be written to the result itself.

This Law Note apepared in the Lang Michener LLP InBrief Summer 2010.