Savard, Chamberland, Ruel
Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court granting an application for judicial review. Allowed.
In 2012, the appellant signed a 5-year agreement for childcare services for her daughter at a reduced contribution of $7 a day. On April 21, 2015, the new Educational Childcare Act (CQLR, c. S-4.1.1) came into force. The Act stated that the reduced contribution now included a basic contribution, payable to the service provider, and an additional contribution, payable to the Minister of Revenue to be credited to the Educational Childcare Services Fund, based on family income. The appellant refused to sign a new subsidized childcare services agreement and was assessed an amount of $1,035 by the Agence du revenu du Québec (ARQ) for the additional contribution for 2015. The appellant objected and argued that the ARQ could not unilaterally amend the 2012 agreement or impose a higher rate. The ARQ denied her objection and the Court of Quebec, Small Claims Division, providing brief reasons, allowed her summary tax appeal. The Superior Court subsequently granted the ARQ’s application for judicial review. The Superior Court held that the Court of Quebec’s judgment was an excess of jurisdiction because it was not sufficiently reasoned. The Superior Court therefore returned the case to the Court of Quebec. The appellant appeals that judgment.
The standard of review the Superior Court was to apply when reviewing the Court of Quebec’s judgment was reasonableness. The Superior Court correctly held that the Court of Quebec’s reasons for its judgment were insufficient and therefore an excess of jurisdiction.
Section 93.30 of the Tax Administration Act (R.S.Q., c. A-6.002) requires that every summary appeal judgment contain a summary of the reasons upon which it is founded. The brevity of that summary must not be at the expense of the reasoning’s intelligence or its need to be intelligible, especially when the matter raises complex legal questions of law that are of public interest, as with this case. The Court of Quebec judge failed to explain why the ARQ is not a third party to the agreement and simply referred to the Supreme Court’s teachings in Dikranian v. Quebec (Attorney General), (S.C. Can., 2005-12-02), 2005 SCC 73, SOQUIJ AZ-50345328, J.E. 2005-2231,  3 S.C.R. 530. Nor did the Court of Quebec judge explain why the 2015 legislative amendments, which are not retroactive, do not apply to the appellant. This is a material deficiency at the heart of the judgment it had to render and is tantamount to an absence of reasons. This suffices to find the judgment unreasonable.
For reasons of efficiency, expediency, and economy of judicial resources, however, the Court will answer the question raised by the summary appeal rather than returning the case to the Court of Quebec. Section 88.2 of the Educational Childcare Act is unambiguous. The legislator’s intention was to apply the additional contribution as of April 22, 2015, to all parents whose child was attending a subsidized daycare on that date, whether that attendance started before, on, or after that date. Even if the appellant had an acquired right not to pay the additional contribution, the legislator’s unequivocal intention was to affect that right. The summary tax appeal is therefore dismissed.
Ruel J.A. is nonetheless of the view that the Court of Quebec’s judgment was sufficiently reasoned and that the Superior Court judge should have assessed its reasonableness based on the criteria developed in Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov (S.C. Can., 2019-12-19), 2019 SCC 65, SOQUIJ AZ-51654335, 2020EXP-27.
Text of the decision: Http://citoyens.soquij.qc.ca