Letter: Game-Changer for Cities, Towns, and Municipalities

On October 21, 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada made a decision that will impact the decisions made on a daily basis for every City, Town, and Municipality in Canada.

SCC #39108 is the case number you can look up in recent rulings on the Supreme Court website, or just google SCC #39108.

In a nutshell, a woman injured in Nelson B.C. trying to get over a snowbank left by the city workers sued the city for negligence. The provincial court ruled in favour of the city. On appeal to the Supreme Court of B.C., the ruling was overturned in favour of the resident.

The City of Nelson took that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada and lost.

The legal costs alone for the City of Nelson, and subsequently their residents and business taxpayers, are mind-blowing. (Not to mention they will now be on the hook for the complainant’s costs as well as penalties.

Insurance and liability costs for the City of Nelson will jump. More importantly to us, so will ours.

Our new council will be making decisions immediately on budgets and taxes. Two agenda items are joined at the hip. They need to analyze the operations and culture of Administration’s priorities of “Grant-funded capital projects” vs the day to day, (or minute by minute) prioritization and response to the safety and wellbeing of the residents.

I would suggest a thorough analysis of the “Report an incident” program. Timelines of response, prioritization of actions, and resolution averages in relation to the severity of the reporting. All this would end up as “evidence #1” in any litigation against the town,

Council only has one employee. Their direction and follow-up on this has potential for a huge impact on the town and its residents. This requires a culture change within the town hall, the town employees, and the residents themselves.

I encourage our new Mayor to reach out to the Mayor of Nelson and review their thoughts on this, and what they are willing to share.

Alan Otway

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