"Reprehensible" Government Conduct Results in Special Costs Order
Adding to my archived posts addressing tensions between BC’s Judiciary and the Government, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, finding the Government acted in a ‘reprehensible‘ way when dealing with Provincial Court Judges salaries in resorting to “secretive…unconstitutional considerations“. This resulted in an order for payment of special costs.
Today’s case (Provincial Court Judges’ Association of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Attorney General)) is the latest chapter dealing with a salary dispute between the Provincial Court Judges’ Association of BC and the Government. The PCJA succeeded in their petition respecting the remuneration dispute. The PCJA then sought payment of special costs associated with the litigation Mr. Justice Macaulay agreed this was an appropriate remedy and provided the following rebuke to the Government:
 The aggravating feature in the present case is the entirely inappropriate response of the AG in the Cabinet submission. The AG knew that the Cabinet submission focused on issues, including the question of linkage between judicial and other civil servant salaries, that the Supreme Court of Canada had expressly rejected in Bodner as unconstitutional. That is evident from the wording of the submission and is deserving of censure.
 Given the importance of the process to the public and the PCJA, coupled with the need for transparency in this proceeding, two other matters also deserve censure. First, ordinarily a copy of the Cabinet submission would not be produced. It was only produced in this case as a result of court order. If the Cabinet submission had not been produced, the court may not have appreciated that the government response was based on constitutionally inappropriate considerations. In part, that is because the government affidavit material described the content of the Cabinet submission in a misleading way.
 Second, the AG spoke to the media on May 25, 2011, and specifically raised the linkage to other salaries as “another factor” for consideration by government in formulating its response. The AG did not provide an affidavit or any sworn evidence in this proceeding but he did respond, albeit by letter of his counsel, to questions that counsel for the PCJA raised respecting the media interview. Counsel for the PCJA describes the response as disingenuous. I am not prepared to go that far in the circumstances but the response was certainly less than forthright. The actual content and context for the interview is only available because the media recorded it.
 In my view, the government’s conduct relating to the important constitutional process of setting judicial remuneration as well as its conduct during the judicial review proceeding deserve judicial rebuke. I reach this conclusion reluctantly but have kept in mind that the effectiveness of the process necessarily depends on the goodwill of government. The secretive resort to unconstitutional considerations during the framing of the government response is entirely inconsistent with the obligation of government as was its failure to be forthright during the proceeding.
 In the result, the Legislative Assembly made its decision not understanding how Cabinet arrived at its decision. The public, the PCJA and the court are all entitled to more from the AG and the government
 As a result, the PCJA is entitled to its costs, to be assessed as special costs.