OTTAWA – In a convoluted legal contretemps, all ten Canadian provinces have signed on to a class-action lawsuit headed for Canada’s Supreme Court. The provinces are suing each other over an interprovincial trade dispute involving the country-wide, cross-border movement of air and water.
“It’s precedent setting,” said Rory B. Halorrhan QC, who is the lead litigator on the complicated file. “It’s the first time anyone has been able to get all the provinces to agree on anything.”
He also admitted that the case has been challenging.
“Frankly, it’s a logistical nightmare,” he said. “We needed three tractor trailers just to get the paperwork to Ottawa.”
Halorrhan is a partner in the Toronto law firm of Newcastle, Smith, Jones & Halorrhan LLP, which initiated the class-action suit on behalf of the provinces.
The joint statement of claim charges that all provinces had been in violation of the free trade provisions of the Constitution Act of 1867 because each province had enacted legislation that restricted the movement of goods covered by the federal Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA), across provincial borders.
“And we’ve established that air and water are definitely goods,” Halorrhan said, holding up an open-topped can of air and a plastic bottle of water fixed with embossed plastic labels that said ‘air’ and ‘water’, as evidence in the case.
“Now stay with me, because here’s where it gets a bit byzantine,” he said. “Water is a principal ingredient in beer, wine and liquor and there is air in the bottles and cans they are packaged in. So that proves that the provinces all had trade barriers against air and water.”
The suit claims that each province owes $5 billion in penalties to the province on either side of it for restricting interprovincial trade on air and water. In the case where a province is only bordered by one other province, it owes $10 billion, “on general principle”, Halorrhan said.
Some federal and provincial legislation involving interprovincial trade has been relaxed recently but he clarified that the suit covers violations retroactively going back to 1928.
Newcastle, Smith, Jones & Halorrhan LLP is handling the class action suit for a ten percent contingency fee.
“The law is very clear on this. It’s all in the minutiae,” Hallorrhan said, “When we win, I have a house picked out in Rosedale.”
He also explained why the three Canadian territories weren’t part of the class action.
“All in good time,” he said. We’ll be bringing them on board for the next one. I love my job.” Source: FNT Staff
Photo credit: Original images at: CBC/Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press and Wikipedia