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Appeal-Judicial Review - Reasons - Post-Vavilov

. 2541005 Ontario Ltd. v. Oro-Medonte (Township)

In 2541005 Ontario Ltd. v. Oro-Medonte (Township) (Div Court, 2023) the Divisional Court considered a motion for statutory leave to appeal, here brought under the s.24(1) of the Ontario Land Tribunal Act, 2021 against a 'review decision' of the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) (the 'review decision' was only to procedurally require a review (para 16), not the substantive review result).

Here the court quotes the leading Vavilov case for current doctrine on the adequacy of reasons for decision:

[56] The Moving Party argued that the Chair based his decision on insufficient reasons in the Hearing Decision, yet failed to specify which reasons were insufficient, ironically, leading to the fact that his own reasons on the review were insufficient. The Moving Party relied on Wright v Coleman, 2015 ONSC 2744, para. 21, and Barbieri v. Mastronardi, 2014 ONCA 416, paras. 18, 22, 24, 25 for the proposition that reasons for decision must “provide some insight into how the legal conclusion was reached and what facts were relied upon in reaching that conclusion” in order to allow for “meaningful appellate review”.

[57] In Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65 (CanLII), [2019] 4 SCR 653, the court stated as follows:
[91] A reviewing court must bear in mind that the written reasons given by an administrative body must not be assessed against a standard of perfection. That the reasons given for a decision do “not include all the arguments, statutory provisions, jurisprudence or other details the reviewing judge would have preferred” is not on its own a basis to set the decision aside: Newfoundland Nurses, at para. 16. The review of an administrative decision can be divorced neither from the institutional context in which the decision was made nor from the history of the proceedings.

[92] Administrative decision makers cannot always be expected to deploy the same array of legal techniques that might be expected of a lawyer or judge — nor will it always be necessary or even useful for them to do so. Instead, the concepts and language employed by administrative decision makers will often be highly specific to their fields of experience and expertise, and this may impact both the form and content of their reasons. These differences are not necessarily a sign of an unreasonable decision — indeed, they may be indicative of a decision maker’s strength within its particular and specialized domain. “Administrative justice” will not always look like “judicial justice”, and reviewing courts must remain acutely aware of that fact.

[93] An administrative decision maker may demonstrate through its reasons that a given decision was made by bringing that institutional expertise and experience to bear: see Dunsmuir, at para. 49. In conducting reasonableness review, judges should be attentive to the application by decision makers of specialized knowledge, as demonstrated by their reasons. Respectful attention to a decision maker’s demonstrated expertise may reveal to a reviewing court that an outcome that might be puzzling or counterintuitive on its face nevertheless accords with the purposes and practical realities of the relevant administrative regime and represents a reasonable approach given the consequences and the operational impact of the decision. This demonstrated experience and expertise may also explain why a given issue is treated in less detail.

[94] The reviewing court must also read the decision maker’s reasons in light of the history and context of the proceedings in which they were rendered. For example, the reviewing court might consider the evidence before the decision maker, the submissions of the parties, publicly available policies or guidelines that informed the decision maker’s work, and past decisions of the relevant administrative body. This may explain an aspect of the decision maker’s reasoning process that is not apparent from the reasons themselves, or may reveal that an apparent shortcoming in the reasons is not, in fact, a failure of justification, intelligibility or transparency. Opposing parties may have made concessions that had obviated the need for the decision maker to adjudicate on a particular issue; the decision maker may have followed a well-established line of administrative case law that no party had challenged during the proceedings; or an individual decision maker may have adopted an interpretation set out in a public interpretive policy of the administrative body of which he or she is a member.

[95] That being said, reviewing courts must keep in mind the principle that the exercise of public power must be justified, intelligible and transparent, not in the abstract, but to the individuals subject to it. It would therefore be unacceptable for an administrative decision maker to provide an affected party formal reasons that fail to justify its decision, but nevertheless expect that its decision would be upheld on the basis of internal records that were not available to that party.

[96] Where, even if the reasons given by an administrative decision maker for a decision are read with sensitivity to the institutional setting and in light of the record, they contain a fundamental gap or reveal that the decision is based on an unreasonable chain of analysis, it is not ordinarily appropriate for the reviewing court to fashion its own reasons in order to buttress the administrative decision. Even if the outcome of the decision could be reasonable under different circumstances, it is not open to a reviewing court to disregard the flawed basis for a decision and substitute its own justification for the outcome: Delta Air Lines, at paras. 26-28. To allow a reviewing court to do so would be to allow an administrative decision maker to abdicate its responsibility to justify to the affected party, in a manner that is transparent and intelligible, the basis on which it arrived at a particular conclusion. This would also amount to adopting an approach to reasonableness review focused solely on the outcome of a decision, to the exclusion of the rationale for that decision. To the extent that cases such as Newfoundland Nurses and Alberta Teachers have been taken as suggesting otherwise, such a view is mistaken.
[58] In his 6-page Review Decision, the Chair identified the Rules and test to be applied, set out the factual background, summarized the request for review, responded to the issues of timing and abeyances, explained the ground upon which the rehearing was granted and why this was the only appropriate result. Shorter reasons do not equate to insufficient reasons. This court is satisfied that the Chair covered the necessary items and set out his reasoning for necessity of a rehearing. His findings were responsive to one significant and fundamental issue raised by the Township. The Chair found that there was no justification to order the repeal of the entire By-law. This was based on extensive review submissions that the Township made to the Tribunal.

[59] There is no reason to doubt the correctness of the decision on this basis.


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Last modified: 17-10-23
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