Case: Terracap Investments (Frontier) Inc. v North Battleford (City), 2020 SKCA 130 (CanLII)
Keywords: Municipal Property Assessment; Leave to Appeal; The Cities Act, SS 2002, c C-11.1; The Municipal Board Act, SS 1988-89, c M-23.2
The Applicants, a group of landowners in North Battleford, seek Leave to overturn a decision of the Assessment Appeals Committee of the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (the “Committee”).
At issue are the assessed values of five properties, including an enclosed mall and “pad” sites. The Applicants dispute the method of assessment (i.e. “income method” vs. “cost approach”) and launch a successful appeal to the Board of Revision, who agree “[t]he subject property shall be assessed using the Income approach applying the provincial model established by the appraising agency”. (See para. 4). The City appeals to the Committee under s. 165(3.1) of The Cities Act, SS 2002, c C-11.1; the Committee determines that, while the income method is recommended, the Assessor made no mistake in choosing the cost approach. (See para. 4).
The Court of Appeal grants the Applicants’ request for Leave.
This case reaffirms the importance of establishing jurisdiction on appeal, bearing in mind the statutory context. Section 33.1 of The Municipal Board Act, SS 1988-89, c M-23.2 narrows the scope of available appeals such that an appeal to the Court of Appeal can only be brought, with Leave, “on a question of law or on a question concerning the jurisdiction of the board”. (See para. 7).
In this context, this provision modifies the application of the ordinary test for Leave (i.e. the test established in Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. v Saskatchewan, 2002 SKCA 119). The Court of Appeal set out the modified test at para. 55 of Saskatoon (City) v North Ridge Development Corporation, 2015 SKCA 13. (See para. 8).
The Applicants herein raised 6 separate alleged errors in the Committee decision. However, as noted by the Court of Appeal, the essential task at the Leave stage was not simply to identify errors, it was to use the modified test and raise “a question of law that would be a proper basis for an appeal”. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal briefly summarized and dismissed 5 of the 6 alleged errors. (See para. 10).
The Court of Appeal re-framed the Applicant’s issue re whether the Committee had erred in holding the Board was bound by a previous decision in a previous assessment year to satisfy the modified test for Leave. (See para. 11). For the Court of Appeal, the “real issue” was whether the Committee erred in its interpretation of s. 165(3.1) of The Cities Act. Presented in this way, the Court noted the issue was “a question of broad and recurring significance in the assessment field” and that answering it would be “of ongoing and general assistance to the Committee in its work and, of course, to property owners and assessors as well.” (See para. 14).
Counsel for the Applicants: Samuel Edmondson (Scharfstein Gibbings Walen Fisher LLP, Saskatoon)
Counsel for the Respondents: Troy Baril (Miller Thomson LLP, Saskatoon)