I haven’t been sued once in my life let alone multiple times in under a year, but I want to think that if this were not the case, that I would, at some point, be wise enough to pause and reflect upon why this might be happening and what I might do to make things better. I would also like to think that what I would not do is interpret make things better to mean bury a measure in my budget implementation bill that would make it impractical or even impossible to sue me and then continue on with the usual business of acting like a complete arsehole. This thought process is just one more item on the list of the many things that separate me from Doug Ford, it turns out.
Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are moving to make it harder to sue the Ontario government.
The PCs plan to repeal and replace the long-standing Ontario Proceedings Against the Crown Act — legislation that, among other things, outlines government liability in cases of misfeasance and negligence.
The new law would increase the legal threshold necessary to proceed with civil litigation, including class action lawsuits, against the government. Further, it would considerably limit the instances in which the government could be on the hook for financial compensation to plaintiffs.
Perhaps the most significant element of the new legislation, according to Toronto human rights and refugee lawyer Kevin Wiener, is that it eliminates any potential financial liability in most cases where someone is harmed by government policy or regulatory decisions made in “good faith.”
“What it means is that the people who exercise power over you can exercise that power negligently and cause you damage and no one will have to pay,” said Wiener.
Similarly, the province will not be liable for instances in which a person says there were harmed by the government exercising its authority.
While the act would not serve to “totally eradicate Crown liability,” Wiener said it amounts to the government arguing that “as long as people say they are acting in good faith, it doesn’t matter how incompetent they are.”
“One way to look at it is that the government is saying, ‘With great power should come no responsibility,'” he said.
Oh, and the plan is to apply these new rules retroactively, which means they’re hoping to be able to get rid of all of the current suits against them, not just drastically reduce the chances of new ones being brought in the future.
And then there’s this.
Meanwhile, the proposed Crown Liability and Proceedings Act will force plaintiffs to obtain permission from a court to move forward with suing the government in the first place.
Under current law, no such permission is required to file suit.
That means an applicant will have to prove to a judge that the province acted negligently or in bad faith before proceedings begin. The problem, however, is that usually requires access to government documents or other materials that the province will not be required to provide.
Crown lawyers will also have the option to cross-examine whomever is trying to get permission to launch a suit.
The government is framing the changes as updates and clarifications to old regulations and as a way to prevent courts from becoming backlogged with unnecessary claims and save the province money. But when you look at this government’s track record, it becomes pretty obvious pretty quickly what’s actually going on here. There’s a lot more cruelty and thoughtlessness ahead, you guys. Hopefully those already lining up to challenge this can stop it before it’s too late.