(Portland Press)

Progressive Conservative caucus: 1. Bay Ferries: 0.

In a court decision released today, Justice Peter Rosinski has rejected all of Bay Ferries’ arguments that a lawsuit filed by the Progressive Conservative ferry related to provincial financing of the Yarmouth ferry should be thrown out of court.

I explained the background of this issue earlier this week, after a procedural hearing:

You’ll recall that the PCs had filed a Freedom of Information (called FOIPOP) request for the [financial] records, but the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal declined to provide the records. The PCs then appealed to Information and Privacy Commissioner Catherine Tully, who ruled in the PCs’ favour, saying that the financial records should be disclosed. But Tully’s ruling does not carry the force of law, and the Liberal government still refused to disclose the records. So the PCs went to court.

The main issue as to whether the court should force the government to release the records is scheduled for a June hearing, but in the meanwhile, Bay Ferries is attempting to get the PCs’s action dismissed. That’s what yesterday’s [Monday’s] hearing was about.

Bay Ferries’s lawyer Scott Campbell argued that the PCs have no standing under the Freedom of Information Act because the act allows for a person to use the FOIPOP process and to appeal decisions. The PC caucus, said Campbell, is not a person — it is neither a natural person (as in, a human being), not a corporate person (yes, corporations are considered people in our topsy turvy legal world). Therefore, said Campbell, the PCs’ legal action shouldn’t be heard by the court.

At Monday’s hearing, PC lawyer Nicole LaFosse Parker made a motion to amend the PC court challenge such that the name of the appellant would be changed from the PC Caucus to “Tim Houston, as representative of the Progressive Conservative Caucus of Nova Scotia.”

In today’s decision, Justice Rosinski allowed that change. Moreover, he rejected every argument put forward by Bay Ferries at Monday’s hearing.

Writes Rosinski:

I need not decide whether, for purposes of commencing applications pursuant to FOIPOP, a caucus of a sitting political party, falls within the non-exhaustive definition of a “person” according of the Interpretation Act, though I would be inclined to find this could the case, given its fundamentally important public interest purpose, and in furtherance thereof by taking generous view of the wording the legislation.

[T]here reason why the leader of caucus, who unquestionably is a “person”, could not make application and thereafter become an appellant, when also incidentally identified in the style of cause as Leader of the Caucus.

Recent jurisprudence abounds with courts’ recognition of the importance of the need for them to facilitate and improve “access to justice”, and reinforce respect for the “rule of law”.

In short, Rosinski would have none of Bay Ferries’ arguments for dismissing the PCs’ lawsuit.

The issue comes back to court in the summer, when a judge will decide if the financial records should be released.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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