Judicial Tribunal Bias: A Case in Point

In its judgment in the June 2013 Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board case, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal made the pro-government bias of that Province’s  Labour Relations Board (a Board that the Court acknowledged was an adjudicative tribunal) plain for all to see. (2013 SKCA 61 at paras. 12-16):

[12] Premier Wall explained the reason behind the move [RE: the move to remove the incumbent Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board Chair and Vice-Chairs in the middle of their appointments and replace them with the government’s own choices] . The central thrust of his explanation was this: The new government, consistent with the position taken by the Saskatchewan Party before and during the election, had introduced or was about to introduce significant changes to Saskatchewan’s labour relations legislation and considered it desirable, therefore, to appoint a new chairperson to ensure the new legislation would be interpreted and applied in keeping with the policy choices reflected in the changes.2  In short, the government saw the matter as one of confidence in the Board to further these policy choices in accordance with their intent.

(Footnote 2: For a more extensive account of what the Premier said of the matter, see Saskatchewan Federation of Labour et al v. Saskatchewan (Attorney General), supra [ 2010 SKCA 27].)

[15] Such are the political realities when it comes to the appointment of the members of the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board, including the chairperson and vice-chairpersons, and to the replacement of the latter when, as a result of a general election, one government resigns and another takes its place. This is not said pejoratively, for the political reality comports with the law as enacted by the elected representatives of the people of the Province [RE: the reference is to section 20 of the Saskatchewan Interpretation Act].

[16] It also comports with long standing practice borne of a desire by successive Saskatchewan governments to ensure that their policy choices in the often contentious field of labour relations are realized in accordance with the intent of the legislation embodying those choices. These choices may on occasion be weighted in one way or another, having regard for the particular mix of social and economic policy considerations they reflect. Hence, they are seldom free of controversy, as they were in this instance.  


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