On Dec 14, 2010 the Ontario Divisional Court gave judgement in a judicial review of the Terry Fox Drive Extension environmental assessment process. This decision, for which leave to appeal may be sought, appears to be precedent-setting and has significant implications in Ontario.
1. Despite the City’s attempt to challenge the standing of the South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.(SMHCRC), the court ruled that the SMHCRC:
(a) has a genuine interest in the matter;
(b) that there is a serious issue to be tried; and
(c) there is no other reasonable and effective manner for the issue to be resolved.
This appears to be an important precedent that will assist other public interest groups assure their standing before the courts.
2. Despite the City’s assertion that the Minister of the Environment as well as the City of Ottawa should have been a party to the case, the court ruled that the City on its own exercised a statutory power of decision that was subject to judicial review.
This aspect of the decision appears to indicate that municipalities will be held accountable for the effect of their own decisions, notwithstanding the involvement of other authorities.
3. Despite the City’s assertion to the contrary, the City’s decision to proceed with construction of the road is a statutory power of decision and thus subject to review. Furthermore, the City’s decision to proceed without filing an Addendum that was available for public review has broad public interest implications because of the lack of opportunity for public review.
This appears to indicate that municipalities who decide to proceed with projects without filing an Addendum that was available for public review are subject to judicial review by the courts.
4. Despite the City’s assertion that the situation was moot because the road was near completion, the court agreed that it is not too late to address items such as whether the environmental mitigation is appropriate.
This means that it is not too late to do the right thing.
5. With regard to whether the City of Ottawa was required to file an Environmental Assessment (EA) Addendum the court determined that it could not conclude that the City’s decision to proceed without filing an Addendum was unreasonable.
This aspect of the decision appears to raise a number of questions which require careful consideration by members of a broad community of interest.
In summary the SMHCRC successfully defended itself on several legal challenges made by the City of Ottawa on questions of legal standing, applicability, mootness, and the extent to which the City was subject to judicial review.
The SMHCRC now has 15 days to consider whether it should request leave to appeal on the remaining aspects of the decision.