Deference to Sanction Findings

The Ontario Divisional Court continues to show deference to sanctions (or penalties) imposed by regulators. In 1855456 Ontario Inc. v. Registrar, Motor Vehicle Dealers Act, 2002, 2021 ONSC 2905 (CanLII), https://canlii.ca/t/jfg85 the Court dealt with a revocation of registration related to the sale of two vehicles where there were concerns about the accuracy of representations made to the consumers and about the safety of the vehicles.

The Court held that the decision on sanction would stand unless palpable and overriding error was shown. The Court described the degree of deference as follows:

Courts in the criminal context have used a variety of expressions to describe a sentence that reaches this threshold, including “demonstrably unfit”, “clearly unreasonable”, “clearly or manifestly excessive”, “clearly excessive or inadequate” or representing a “substantial and marked departure” from penalties in similar cases. This high threshold applies equally in the administrative law context. To be clearly unfit, the penalty must be disproportionate or fall outside the range of penalties for similar offences in similar circumstances. A fit penalty is guided by an assessment of the facts of the particular case and the penalties imposed in other cases involving similar infractions and circumstances, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario v. Peirovy, 2018 ONCA 420 at para. 56.

The registrant’s main argument was that revocation was excessive given their previous clean record. The Court noted that this consideration was considered by the tribunal “but [it] nevertheless concluded that the two proven breaches involved sufficiently serious misconduct as to warrant revocation”.

The fact that the tribunal addressed that argument, albeit briefly, in its reasons assisted the Court in upholding the decision.

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