The individual applicants were unsuccessful in attempting to quash the decision of the Ontario Government (the Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services). The Minister had decided to cancel a pilot program offering basic income to individuals in Ontario. The Court held the Minister’s decision was a policy and funding decision and could not be quashed by the Court.
Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – Minister of Children Community and Social Services – Government – Funding of programs
Bowman v. Ontario (Minister of Children, Community and Social Services),  O.J. No. 746, 2019 ONSC 1064, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, February 14, 2019, J.A. Thorburn, R.B. Reid and F.L. Myers JJ.
The Respondent, Government of Ontario (represented by the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services), announced a basic income pilot research study in April of 2017. The objective was to “study whether a basic income can better support vulnerable workers and give people the security and opportunity they need to achieve their potential”.
As part of the pilot program, there was a randomized control trial in Hamilton and Thunder Bay; 1,000 participants were assigned to a control group, and 1,000 were assigned to receive payments. Lindsay, Ontario was a saturation site where all 2,000 participants received payments. The Applicants reside in Lindsay. Each of the participants received an information booklet. The booklet says it is a three-year study and says it will last “up to three years.” The booklet says participation in the pilot program is temporary.
The Respondent engaged Veritas to “perform the initial and ongoing ethical review of the research study with the Research participants’ rights and welfare in mind”.
The Minister decided to cancel the pilot project on July 31, 2018, with payments to end in March 2019. This was announced publicly. Veritas expressed public concern about the Respondent’s decision. Veritas also did not approve the Respondent’s proposed wind down strategy for the pilot program. The Respondent started to wind down the pilot program and then terminated its engagement with Veritas.
The Applicants, Dana Bowman, Gracie Marie Doyle Hillion, Susan Lindsay, and Tracey Mechefske, applied to the Court seeking to quash the Minister’s decision. The Applicants argued that the decision affects their financial interests, they relied on the pilot project to their detriment, and the decision adversely affects their well-being.
The Respondent argued, in part, that the pilot project is a government funding decision which does not give rise to individual rights enforceable on judicial review.
The Court first considered when policy decisions are subject to judicial review. The decision to wind down the pilot project was a policy decision. The government cannot be required by the court to make or continue to fund an expenditure, as the distribution of government funds is a political function. For this reason alone, the Court dismissed the application for judicial review.
The Court considered whether the decision altered individual rights, obligations or legitimate expectations. The Applicants were seeking to quash the decision. The Court held there was no legitimate expectation to be consulted on policy decisions to fund. The Court rejected this ground of review.
The Court considered whether the decision was irrational or in bad faith. The Court held that policy decisions made without consultation do not constitute bad faith because there is no right to procedural fairness or any legitimate expectation to be consulted on policy decisions.
The Court considered whether an order to quash this type of decision could be made by the Court as it would require the Respondent to continue funding. The Court could not make such an order.
The Court dismissed the application for judicial review. The Court made no order regarding costs.
This case was digested by Scott J. Marcinkow, and first published in the LexisNexis® Harper Grey Administrative Law Netletter and the Harper Grey Administrative Law Newsletter. If you would like to discuss this case further, please contact Scott Marcinkow at firstname.lastname@example.org.