Orphan Well Association v Grant Thornton Limited: What’s at Stake in Redwater

By: Fenner L. Stewart

PDF Version: Orphan Well Association v Grant Thornton Limited: What’s at Stake in Redwater

Case Commented On: Orphan Well Association v Grant Thornton Limited, 2017 ABCA 124 (CanLII) (leave granted)

I. Introduction

This week, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) granted leave to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to hear its appeal of Orphan Well Association v Grant Thornton Limited (Redwater) (for more on the Redwater decision, see Nigel Bankes’ post). The Court of Appeal’s decision in Redwater has punched a hole in the AER’s program for ensuring that licencees of oil and gas wells have the capital necessary to satisfy their reclamation and abandonment obligations. The ruling effectively allows trustees in bankruptcy to disclaim worthless assets (e.g., non-producing wells where the abandonment process is not yet complete), while selling valuable assets (e.g., producing wells). Redwater grants secured creditors the best chance possible to be compensated from the bankrupt’s assets, while guaranteeing that Alberta’s oil and gas industry (and potentially taxpayers) pay the cost for the bankrupt’s reclamation and abandonment obligations. As things stand today, if Redwater is not reversed, even more wells will be orphaned, adding to the already alarming number on the books of the Orphan Well Association (OWA). Continue reading

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ABCA Agrees that Long Term Disability Plan was Bona Fide

By: Linda McKay-Panos

PDF Version: ABCA Agrees that Long Term Disability Plan was Bona Fide

Case Commented On: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local No. 1007 v Epcor Utilities Inc., 2017 ABCA 314 (CanLII)

In two earlier rather complex decisions (Epcor Utilities Inc. v International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 1007 (McGowan Grievance) (2015), 22 CCPB (2d) 57, 2015 CanLII 62763 (AB GAA), application for judicial review dismissed; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1007 v Epcor Utilities Inc., 2016 ABQB 574 (CanLII)), Epcor Utilities Inc.’s long term disability plan was held at first glance to discriminate based on age, but was defended because it was a legitimate and genuine (bona fide) pension plan. In an earlier post, I described the lower court’s focus on statutory interpretation of subsection 7(2) of the Alberta Human Rights Act, RSA 2000, c A-25.5 (AHRA).

After an appeal by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1007 (IBEW), the ABCA (per Justices Ronald Berger, Frans Slatter and Jo’Anne Strekaf) upheld the ABQB’s ruling. Continue reading

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Procedural Fairness in the Issuance of a Ministerial Order to Dismiss a Municipal Councilor under Section 574 of the Municipal Government Act

By: Shaun Fluker

PDF Version: Procedural Fairness in the Issuance of a Ministerial Order to Dismiss a Municipal Councilor under Section 574 of the Municipal Government Act

Case Commented On: Buryn v Alberta (Minister of Municipal Affairs), 2017 ABQB 613 (CanLII)

Municipalities in Alberta are creatures of statute and thus subject to both the oversight of the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Minister) and Alberta courts. When the affairs in a municipality go offside, the Municipal Government Act, RSA 2000, c M-26 (MGA) provides mechanisms for bringing matters back into line. Municipal affairs in Thorhild County seem to have taken a turn for the worse several years ago, and led to the submission of a petition by electors asking the Minister to inquire into the conduct of the Thorhild municipal council and its chief administrative officer. The MGA provides the Minister with authority to conduct an inquiry into the affairs of a municipality or the conduct of municipal councilors. These powers are exercised on a fairly regular basis, with 33 entries listed on the government website since December 2009. The inspection into the affairs at Thorhild culminated in a Ministerial Order dismissing three members of the Thorhild council. On the eve of the recent municipal election, in Buryn v Alberta (Minister of Municipal Affairs) Madam Justice Dawn Pentelechuk quashed the Ministerial Order as unlawful for failing to afford the councilors procedural fairness.

Continue reading

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Clarified: The Rebuttable Presumption of a Purchase Money Resulting Trust

By: Jonnette Watson Hamilton

PDF Version: Clarified: The Rebuttable Presumption of a Purchase Money Resulting Trust

Case Commented On: Singh v Kaler, 2017 ABCA 275 (CanLII)

Singh v Kaler is a useful case for two purposes. First, it clearly describes the work that a presumption does–making useful evidentiary points. Second, it clarifies the test for finding a resulting trust based on the payment of money. Clarification of the law was evidently necessary. According to the majority–Justices Patricia Rowbotham and Sheila Greckol (at para 22)–the trial judge erred in law by applying the test for resulting trust that was set out in cases predating the 2013 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Nishi v Rascal Trucking Ltd, 2013 SCC 33 (CanLII). While there is a dissenting opinion, the dissent is confined to a limitations point; the Court of Appeal is unanimous on the presumption and resulting trusts points. Continue reading

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Age Discrimination and Ameliorative Program Protections to be Broadened Under Alberta Human Rights Act

By: Jennifer Koshan

PDF Version: Age Discrimination and Ameliorative Program Protections to be Broadened Under Alberta Human Rights Act

Legislation Commented On: Bill 23, An Act to Amend the Alberta Human Rights Act

On November 1, 2017, Bill 23, An Act to Amend the Alberta Human Rights Act, had first reading in the Alberta Legislature. As I noted in a post in February 2017, Bill 23 was spurred by a Charter challenge commenced by elder advocate Ruth Adria. She argued that the exclusion of protections against age discrimination in respect of services available to the public and tenancies in sections 4 and 5 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, RSA 2000, c A-25.5 (AHRA), violated her constitutional equality rights. The Alberta government did not fight the challenge, and consented to an order requiring age discrimination to be added to the AHRA by January 2018. The government then undertook consultations on the apparently thorny issue of how the amendments would affect adult-only condominiums, cooperatives, and apartments. Bill 23 attempts a compromise, and if passed, it will allow some exceptions to the new prohibitions against age discrimination in this context. But there are apparent gaps and uncertainties in the Bill that the government may wish to address, as I will elaborate upon here. Bill 23 will also add to the AHRA a new provision, section 10.1, protecting ameliorative policies and programs, which also merits some commentary. Continue reading

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