On June 20, 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal to Paul Magder, in his legal proceeding seeking the removal of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford from his post for breach of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. The Supreme Court’s decision in this sensational case raises the question as to what types of cases does the highest court of the land choose to hear?
Mr. Magder’s application for leave to appeal had taken an unusual path, as it came straight from a decision of the Ontario Divisional Court rather than the Court of Appeal of a province or the Federal Court of Appeal. In Magder v. Ford, 2013 ONSC 263, the Divisional Court had overruled the decision of Ottawa Regional Senior Justice Hackland, who had declared the Mayoral seat vacant as a result of Mr. Ford’s having breached the Act. Justice Hackland found that Mayor Ford had been in a conflict of interest by speaking and voting in a Toronto City Council meeting with respect to whether he should repay monies donated to his charity by lobbyists. The Divisional Court overturned this decision in January of this year. As a result, Rob Ford retained his position as Mayor.
In refusing leave to appeal, the Supreme Court did not issue reasons, which is the custom for such cases. Therefore, we cannot know precisely why the court refused leave to appeal.
What we do know is that few cases are granted leave to appeal, as the court can only handle so many cases in a given year. In any given year the Court receives between 500 and 600 applications for leave to appeal and generally grants 10-13% of those.
We also know that there is a strict test applied by the Supreme Court in determining leave applications. In order to be granted leave, a court is guided by whether the matter is of national and public importance. In addition, stringent filing requirements of the court must be met.
The refusal by the Supreme Court to hear the Rob Ford case highlights the court’s strict adherence to its rules of procedure and its selective nature.