The Termination of Power Purchase Arrangements in Alberta: What is the Legal Position and What are the Implications of Termination?

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: The Termination of Power Purchase Arrangements in Alberta: What is the Legal Position and What are the Implications of Termination?

Case Commented On: The decisions of various buyers to “terminate” their interests in power purchase arrangements (PPAs)

In December 2015, Enmax announced that it was “terminating” its interest in a power purchase arrangement (PPA) with the owner of the Battle River 5 coal plant subject to the PPA (see Enmax terminates unprofitable-coal-fired electricity contract). That was followed this month (March 2016) with announcements from TransCanada Energy and ASTC Power Partnership (a partnership of Trans Canada Energy and AltaGas Pipelines) that they too had given notice to terminate and would be walking away from their obligations as buyers under PPAs relating to Sheerness and Sundance A and B. In announcing its decision, TransCanada indicated that it was doing so because “Unprofitable market conditions are expected to continue as costs related to CO2 emissions have increased and they are forecast to continue to increase over the remaining term of the PPA agreements.” It is generally understood that reference to “costs related to CO2 emissions” is a reference to the emissions penalty imposed by the Specified Gas Emitter Regulation (SGER), Alta Reg 139/2007. This Regulation, first introduced in 2007, requires regulated emitters (including owners of coal fired generating plants) to achieve improvements in emissions intensity at their facilities (or purchase offsets or emissions performance credits) failing which these emitters must pay into the Climate Change and Emission Management Fund. The emissions intensity target was originally set at 12% over the original baseline for the facility and the fund contribution at $15 a tonne (payable only for emissions in excess of the emissions intensity target for the facility). While the previous government dithered and procrastinated on changes to the intensity target and changes to the level of fund contribution (indeed the previous government extended the sunset provision in the regulation twice), the Notley government grasped the nettle, and, in June 2015 announced, as an interim step in the development of a more comprehensive climate change policy, that regulated emitters will be required to achieve an emissions intensity target of 15% in 2016 and 20% in 2017, while the compliance price for excess emissions will rise from $20 per tonne in 2016 to $30 per tonne in 2017. Those developments are discussed in an earlier post here.

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Posted in Energy | 2 Comments

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Overturns Discrimination Decision on Foreign Trained Engineer

By: Linda McKay-Panos

PDF Version: Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Overturns Discrimination Decision on Foreign Trained Engineer

Case Commented On: Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta v Mihaly, 2016 ABQB 61 (CanLII)

In an earlier post with Jason Wai, we discussed the decision of the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal (AHRT), in which Mr. Ladislav Mihaly succeeded in arguing that the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) discriminated against him on the grounds of place of origin, when it refused to recognize his education as the equivalent of an engineering degree from an accredited Canadian University, and by requiring him to write certain examinations to confirm his credentials. The AHRT also concluded that APEGA could not justify its registration requirements. Thus, Mihaly was successful in his claim of discrimination and was awarded $10,000 for injury to dignity. The AHRT declined to award lost wages to Mihaly.

APEGA appealed the finding of discrimination by the AHRT, and Mihaly cross-appealed, asking for $1,000,000 for lost wages and registration with APEGA, or $2,000,000 if not registered with APEGA (at para 2).

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When is a Contract between Family Members Enforceable?

By: Evaristus Oshionebo

PDF Version: When is a Contract between Family Members Enforceable?

Case Commented On: Hole v Hole, 2016 ABCA 34

At common law a contract is not enforceable unless the parties intended the contract to create legal relations. Whether or not the parties intended to create legal relations is determined objectively by examining the circumstances existing at the time of execution of the contract. However, there is a general presumption that contracts between family members are not intended to create legal relations. This presumption “derives from experience of life and human nature which shows that in such circumstances men and women usually do not intend to create legal rights and obligations, but intend to rely solely on family ties of mutual trust and affection” (Jones v Padavatton, [1969] 2 All ER 616 at 621 (CA)). The presumption is equally based on the reality that agreements between family members are usually not bargained or negotiated. However, the presumption is rebuttable by evidence. Thus, a contract between family members is enforceable where there is evidence that the parties intended the contract to create legal relations. The presumption could be rebutted by evidence showing that, although the parties are family members, the contract was reached or executed in commercial circumstances. As Professor John McCamus puts it, “[c]ommercial arrangements between family members may obviously be intended to create enforceable agreements” (John D. McCamus, The Law of Contracts, 2nd ed at 133).

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Posted in Contracts, Corporate / Commercial | Leave a comment

Shades of Grey in the Ride-Sharing World

By: Theresa Yurkewich

PDF Version: Shades of Grey in the Ride-Sharing World

The past few months have seen a hubbub of debate surrounding Uber, the taxi industry, and whether ride-sharing services are presently incorporated under municipal bylaws, and if not, whether they should be (for previous posts on this subject see here, here and here).

In Alberta, and more particularly Edmonton and Calgary, it became a race to test the present regulatory framework and adapt it if necessary. In navigating around the bylaws, Uber was offering a lower cost method of transportation to the status quo taxi service. Concerns were raised on three main topics: fares, fees, and safety. Fast forward to this month, and both municipalities have an adapted framework in place, and the Government of Alberta has weighed in on insurance requirements for drivers operating for hire. In the midst of what seems like a saga of Uber battles, this post will discuss the amendments and outline what they mean for ride-sharing in Alberta.

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Calculating Damages for a Trespass to Land, Actionable Per Se

By: Jonnette Watson Hamilton

PDF Version: Calculating Damages for a Trespass to Land, Actionable Per Se

Case Commented On: Corlis v Blue Grass Sod Farms Ltd., 2016 ABPC 55 (CanLII)

Frank Corlis, the plaintiff in this action, was awarded the precise sum of $5,500.80 in damages for Blue Grass Sod Farms’ trespass to his land. As an old-fashioned trespass to land case, this decision’s most interesting points are about the calculation of damages. Cases explaining damages for these torts that are “actionable per se” are not that common.

The facts were a little unusual. Glen Armitage owned a quarter section of land that produced sod and he sold a portion of it in 2005 to Corlis. Corlis’ land was undeveloped, except for its production of sod. Although Corlis planned to build a home on the land, he never took any steps to do so.

Blue Grass Sod Farms leased the Armitage land for $85 per acre in 2009. The company had some discussions with Corlis about looking after his land and harvesting the sod, but the two never reached an agreement then. By 2009, Corlis had stopped visiting his land very often. He did not look after it himself and he had not hired hire anyone to do so either. He apparently thought that Blue Grass was caring for his land as “the neighborly thing to do” (at para 10), but Judge James Glass, sitting in Red Deer, found that there was no agreement about harvesting sod between Blue Grass and Corlis.

When Blue Grass harvested the Armitage land in 2013, they also harvested sod from Corlis’ land, sold that sod and made a profit from that sale. When Cortis visited his land in 2013 with a prospective purchaser, he noticed that his sod was gone. When he phoned Blue Grass, he was told that if they were cutting the sod, then they were taking the sod. The company admitted that it harvested the sod from about 80,000 square feet of Corlis’ land.

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Posted in Property, Torts | 1 Comment

Court Confirms that the AUC Can Take the Lead in Examining the Scope of the ISO’s Reporting Obligations

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: Court Confirms that the AUC Can Take the Lead in Examining the Scope of the ISO’s Reporting Obligations

Case Commented On: Independent Power Producers’ Society of Alberta v Independent System Operator (Alberta Electric System Operator), 2016 ABQB 133

Alberta has a competitive electricity market which functions through the power pool coordinated by the Independent System Operator (ISO) known in Alberta as the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) (see the Electric Utilities Act, SA 2003, c E-5.1 ss 17 – 18 (EUA)). In simple terms power producers bid blocks of power (price/quantity pairs) into the pool at the price at which they are prepared to be dispatched (e.g. GenCo bids 10 MW at $40/MWh) on an hourly basis for the following seven days. Generators may change their offer prices closer to real time as the market unfolds: see MSA, Alberta Wholesale Electricity Market, 2010. The ISO ranks all bids in merit order (i.e. starting with the lowest bids) and moves up the ladder of bids until supply meets the load (demand). The last unit dispatched sets the system marginal price which is received by all generators which are dispatched. Thus, if the price settles at $80/MWh that is the price that GenCo will receive. If the price settles at $30/MWh GenCo will not be dispatched. See AESO, “Determining the Wholesale Market Price for Electricity”.

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The Public Interest Exception to the Normal Costs Rule in Litigation

By: Shaun Fluker

PDF Version: The Public Interest Exception to the Normal Costs Rule in Litigation

Case Commented On: Gendre v Fort Macleod, 2016 ABQB 111

This judgment by Madam Justice K.D. Nixon touches on the public interest exception to the normal rule in Canadian law that the unsuccessful party in litigation is liable to the successful party for either a portion of or all the successful party’s legal costs (commonly known as ‘costs follow the event’). The substantive matter in this case involved an application by the Mayor of Fort Macleod seeking to have the Court set aside bylaws and resolutions passed by the Council of the Town of Fort Macleod which removed the Mayor’s powers. The Mayor argued the passage of such bylaws and resolutions amounted to an abuse of process by the Council. Justice Nixon dismissed this judicial review application in Gendre v Fort Macleod, 2015 ABQB 623, and the media reported that the Council sought approximately $100,000 in legal costs against the Mayor. One of the arguments put forward by the Mayor in an attempt to shield himself from costs was that his action constituted public interest litigation.

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Posted in Access to Justice, Costs | Leave a comment

Constitutional Exemptions for Physician Assisted Dying: The First Case of Judicial Authorization in Alberta

By: Jennifer Koshan

PDF Version: Constitutional Exemptions for Physician Assisted Dying: The First Case of Judicial Authorization in Alberta

Case Commented On: HS (Re), 2016 ABQB 121 (CanLII)

On February 29, 2016, Justice Sheilah Martin of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench released a decision providing authorization for physician assisted death to HS, an adult woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This is thought to be the first case outside of Quebec where a court has confirmed the eligibility of a claimant for a constitutional exemption following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Carter v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 SCC 4 (CanLII) (Carter II). As I noted in a previous post, in Carter I (Carter v Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5) the Supreme Court struck down the criminal prohibition against physician assisted death (PAD) on the basis that it unjustifiably violated the rights to life, liberty and security of the person in section 7 of the Charter. That remedy was suspended for a year to allow the federal government time to enact a new law without leaving a gap in the legislative scheme that might be used to induce vulnerable persons to take their own lives. The Court declined to grant exemptions from the suspension in Carter I given that none of the claimants were in need of immediate relief; Gloria Taylor, the only Carter claimant who had originally sought an exemption, had died before the Supreme Court hearing (2015 SCC 5 at para 129). In Carter II, the Supreme Court extended the suspension of its remedy by 4 months to account for the change in federal government (see Elliot Holzman’s post on Carter II here). In light of the extraordinary nature of the extension — which permitted an unconstitutional law to remain in effect for an extended time — the Court granted a constitutional exemption to competent adults when they met certain criteria: (1) they clearly consent to the termination of life and (2) they have “a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition and that cannot be alleviated by any treatment acceptable to the individual.” (2016 ABQB 121 at para 2). This post will focus on the role of courts that are called upon to assess claimants’ eligibility for constitutional exemptions, as discussed by Justice Martin in the HS case.

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Posted in Constitutional, Remedies | 1 Comment

Don’t Think Twice: The Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Board’s Power to Correct for Procedural Unfairness

By: Jonnette Watson Hamilton

PDF Version: Don’t Think Twice: The Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Board’s Power to Correct for Procedural Unfairness

Case Commented On: Hewitt v Barlow, 2016 ABQB 81 (CanLII)

It may be a good idea to accord the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Board (RTDRS) the power to set aside its own orders and re-hear a dispute when it recognizes that one of its orders is the result of a procedurally unfair process. However, I am not certain that the RTDRS has the power to do so under the current legislation: the Residential Tenancies Act, SA 2004, c R-17.1 (the Act) and the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Service Regulation, Alta Reg 98/2006 (the Regulation). I am almost certain that the RTDRS does not have the power to do so for the reasons set out by Master in Chambers, A. R. Robertson, in Hewitt v Barlow. The best remedy for the currently intolerable position that too many tenants have been put in by procedurally unfair RTDRS orders would be amendments to the Regulation. Helpfully, that Regulation expires on April 30, 2016. Although section 35 of the Regulation states that the purpose for its expiration is to ensure that it is reviewed for relevancy and necessity, rather than for fairness, its expiration is still an opportunity. Given the number of recent cases that have come before various Masters of the Court of Queen’s Bench requiring judicial review of RTDRS orders on procedural unfairness grounds, it is to be hoped that the legislature takes this review seriously and remedies the demonstrated flaws in the Regulation in order to ensure better access to justice for tenants and greater certainty about the powers of the RTDRS for all.

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Posted in Access to Justice, Landlord/Tenant | 5 Comments

Costs Not Appropriate in Protection Against Family Violence Act Litigation

By: Jennifer Koshan

PDF Version: Costs Not Appropriate in Protection Against Family Violence Act Litigation

Case Commented On: Denis v Palmer, 2016 ABQB 54 (CanLII)

This is a short comment on a short decision by the Court of Queen’s Bench on whether costs are appropriate in reviews of emergency protection orders (EPOs) under the Protection Against Family Violence Act, RSA 2000, c P-27 (PAFVA). The case is rather notorious, as the party seeking costs was Jonathan Denis, former Justice Minister and Solicitor General for Alberta, against whom an EPO was made right before the provincial election last spring. Breanna Palmer, Denis’s former wife, obtained an ex parte EPO from the Provincial Court against Denis and his mother Marguerite on April 25, 2015. Following the review hearing that must be held for all EPOs (see PAFVA s 3), Justice C.M. Jones gave an oral decision on May 4, 2015 in which he rejected the Denises’ request for an order setting aside Palmer’s application before the Provincial Court for an EPO nunc pro tunc (i.e. retroactively); granted their request to abridge the time for service, and revoked the EPO. He left it to the parties to reach an agreement regarding costs, but when they were unable to do so, the Denises brought the costs issue back before Justice Jones.

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Posted in Access to Justice, Costs, State Responses to Violence | Leave a comment