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A house divided: The Supreme Court of Canada’s recent jurisprudence on the standard of review
University of Toronto Law Journal  (IF1.234),  Pub Date : 2019-01-01, DOI: 10.3138/utlj.2018-0085
Robert Danay

Abstract:In this article, the author examines the Supreme Court of Canada’s administrative law jurisprudence in 2016–18 to measure the level of deference that the Court afforded to administrative decision makers and to assess where the law may be headed next. The Court’s voting patterns indicate that its members have become increasingly polarized, moving away from the high level of unanimity that has historically prevailed in this area. Led by Justice Suzanne Côté, a minority of justices have frequently dissented or concurred in order to disagree on either the identification or the application of the standard of review. These justices have taken a more interventionist approach, voting to apply the correctness standard and to overturn administrative decisions at higher rates than the rest of the Court. This quantitative polarization reflects doctrinal disagreements on basic questions such as the extent to which administrative decision makers should be presumed to have expertise relative to the courts in interpreting their enabling statutes, whether there is any room in the standard of review analysis for either the concept of jurisdiction or a contextual inquiry, whether legislative supremacy or the rule of law should take precedence, and whether the standard of review analysis should be replaced with a single reasonableness standard. Looking ahead to the Court’s forthcoming reconsideration of Dunsmuir v New Brunswick, which approach prevails may be determined by Justice Michael Moldaver, whose voting pattern on the issue has been inconsistent, and the Court’s newest member, Justice Sheilah Martin, whose views on the standard of review analysis are not known.