Extension would harm the public interest by delaying environmental enforcement: Ont. Court of Appeal

The parties failed to justify the delay, and their proposed appeal lacked merit: court

Extension would harm the public interest by delaying environmental enforcement: Ont. Court of Appeal

The Ontario Court of Appeal has dismissed a motion seeking an extension of time to file for leave to appeal a prior judgment, finding that an extension would prejudice public interest by delaying the enforcement of environmental protections.

In Continental Imperial Exploration Ltd v. Ontario (Environment, Conservation and Parks), 2024 ONCA 328, the court dismissed a motion seeking an extension of time to file for leave to appeal a prior judgment. The decision comes after analyzing the moving parties’ failure to justify the delay in their application and the lack of merit in their proposed appeal.

The court had previously ruled against extending the time for the moving parties to bring a judicial review application concerning enforcing a director’s order under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). The Court of Appeal upheld this decision, pointing to an established pattern of delay by the moving parties in various legal processes, which undermines their claim for an extension.

The criteria for granting such an extension include a timely intention to appeal, the length of and reasons for the delay, potential prejudice to the responding party, and the merits of the appeal. While the moving parties asserted a timely intention to appeal, this was not deemed sufficient to explain their delayed response. Furthermore, the court found that granting the extension would prejudice the public interest by delaying the enforcement of crucial environmental protections.

The court found that the appeal lacked substantial merit. The tribunal and the motion judge had previously noted that the moving parties were aware of the director's decision, contradicting their claims of insufficient notice which could have justified an extension under s.141 of the EPA. This section allows for an extension if a party did not receive adequate notice of a decision or order, which the tribunal found did not apply in this case.

The court noted that cases like Ventin v. Director, Haldimand-Norfolk Regional Health Department, and Kagawong Power Inc. v. Ontario (Director, Ministry of the Environment) were distinguished by specific circumstances that misled the appellants about the enforcement or finality of orders. Such conditions were absent in the present matter, weakening the moving parties' position.

In conclusion, the appeal's lack of merit, combined with procedural delays and the potential for ongoing prejudice to the public interest, led to the Court of Appeal's decision to dismiss the motion for an extension. The court highlighted the importance of maintaining timely and effective enforcement of environmental laws, discouraging delays that could hinder regulatory actions critical to public welfare and environmental protection.

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