Up to a point, said the Manitoba Court of Appeal in 2127423 Manitoba Ltd o/a London Limos v Unicity Taxi Ltd, 2012 MBCA 75. London Limos applied for, and was granted, taxi licences by the provincial taxicab board. The application was opposed by two competitors, Unicity and Duffy’s Taxis. They challenged the board’s decision on the grounds that they had received only summary information about the London Limos application (they were denied access to detailed information, specifically the business plan of their competitor) and that the board had failed to provide reasons for its decision. This, they contended, amounted to a breach of natural justice and the regulator’s duty of fairness to them.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal held that while the board clearly owed a duty of fairness to parties in proceedings before it, any duty owed to non-parties like the objectors was of a lesser character. The board was not required under its governing legislation to hear their objections at all, although it allowed them to participate. It was misconceived for the objectors to expect the same level of disclosure that a party would receive, given that they did not have to make or defend a case that was being adjudicated. Not being directly affected by the licensing decision, they could expect ‘reasonable’ disclosure of what London Limos was asking for – but it was unreasonable for them to demand confidential business information. The fact that the objectors had failed to ask for written reasons when they first challenged the board’s decision was not fatal to their case, but it was a relevant factor that suggested they understood the rationale for the decision without needing written reasons. In the circumstances, a simple order from the board was enough.

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