Regulatory Rule-Making Still Under Increased Scrutiny

A lower Alberta court disagrees with the British Columbia Court of Appeal and says regulators need empirical evidence that their rules protect the public interest. “Anecdotal” evidence (i.e., the views of Council members) is not enough. This Court held that rules making it a conflict of interest for pharmacists to offer inducements (e.g., reward points) to patients to buy drugs are invalid. In Sobeys West Inc v Alberta College of Pharmacists, 2016 ABQB 232, the Court characterized the rules as relating to the cost of drugs and competition between pharmacists, finding the rules unrelated to the professionalism or ethics of the individual pharmacists. Interestingly, the Court also ascertained the mandate of the College’s powers to make rules by referring to Hansard debates of the legislature when the statute was being enacted, rather than focusing primarily on the legislative scheme itself.

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