SCC No. Case Name Province of Origin Keywords

40034 B.W. (Brad) Blair v. Premier Doug Ford ON Courts — Dismissal of proceeding that limits debate — Freedom of expression


Attorney General for Ontario v. Information and Privacy Commissioner, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation(Ont.)

Access to Information — Access to records — Exemptions

A journalist with the CBC made an application under the Act for disclosure of the mandate letters addressed from the Premier of Ontario to each minister setting out’s the Premier’s policy priorities for the minister’s mandate. The Cabinet Office opposed the disclosure on the basis of s. 12(1) of the Act, the introductory language of which provides that a government head shall refuse to disclose a record where the disclosure would reveal the substance of deliberations of the Executive Council or its committees.

In Order PO‑3973, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario ordered disclosure of the mandate letters to the CBC. He determined that a record not listed at subparagraphs (a) to (f) will qualify under the opening words of s. 12(1) if the context or other information would permit accurate inferences to be drawn as to actual Cabinet deliberations at a specific Cabinet meeting. The words do not encompass the outcome of the deliberative process, such as policy choices. The Commissioner found that Cabinet Office must provide sufficient evidence to establish a linkage between the content of the record and the actual substance of Cabinet deliberations, and concluded that neither the content and context of the letters nor the evidence and representations of Cabinet Office met the test under section 12(1). The Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed the applicant’s application for judicial review and the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed the appeal, with Lauwers J.A. dissenting.

Charter of Rights — Freedom of expression — Labour law

The applicant is an employee in a bargaining unit of the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”). The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (“PIPSC”) is the certified bargaining agent for her unit. In December 2017, Ms. Bernard asked for a voting key to participate in a ratification vote on a tentative agreement reached between PIPSC and the CRA. She was advised by PIPSC that in order to receive a voting key, she would have to become a Regular member and was informed as to how to change her status. She declined to do so and filed an unfair labour practice complaint. That complaint was dismissed by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board. The applicant’s appeal from that decision was dismissed.


B.W. (Brad) Blair v. Premier Doug Ford(Ont.)

Courts — Dismissal of proceeding that limits debate — Freedom of expression

In November 2018, the Premier of Ontario, the respondent, Doug Ford, announced that a new Commissioner for the Ontario Provincial Police (“OPP”) would be appointed; the applicant, Brad Blair, was acting as Interim Commissioner at the time and was not chosen for the position. In December 2018, Mr. Blair sent a letter on official OPP letterhead to the provincial Ombudsman, and released a copy to the public, alleging several improprieties in the appointment process for the new OPP Commissioner. In December 2018 and January 2019, Mr. Ford made three statements to the media in which he appeared to suggest that Mr. Blair had “broken” or “breached” the Police Services Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P. 15. In March 2019, Mr. Blair sued Mr. Ford for defamation, on the basis of the three statements, seeking damages in the amount of $5 million. In response, Mr. Ford brought a motion to dismiss the defamation action, pursuant to s. 137.1 of the Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C. 43, a provision designed to allow for the early dismissal of “strategic litigation against public participation” (“SLAPP” lawsuits).

The motion judge at the Superior Court of Justice granted Mr. Ford’s motion, and dismissed Mr. Blair’s defamation lawsuit against him. The Court of Appeal unanimously upheld this decision.