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N.S. court rejects appeal by Bay Ferries, clearing way for Tory lawsuit over CAT management fees

The CAT, a high-speed passenger ferry, departs Yarmouth, N.S. heading to Portland, Maine on its first scheduled trip on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

Nova Scotia’s top court has rejected an appeal by Bay Ferries Ltd., meaning a lawsuit seeking details about the company’s public subsidies can proceed.

The province’s Opposition Progressive Conservatives are trying to find out how much of the millions in public funds to be paid this year for ferry service between Bar Harbor, Maine and Yarmouth, N.S., will be a management fee for the operator.

Bay Ferries argued last month before the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal that the party’s court notice should be quashed because of a judge’s error in allowing the appellant to be changed from the Tory caucus to leader Tim Houston.

READ MORE: Decision on disclosing CAT ferry fees won’t come until at least March 2020

The company also pointed out that the original Freedom of Information request seeking the information on the management fee came from Lisa Manninger, the Tory director of research, who wasn’t named as an appellant in the case.

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In a written decision released today, the Appeal Court says Supreme Court Justice Peter Rosinski did not make a “palpable and overriding error of fact” in rejecting those arguments, and so it dismissed the appeal.

The Tories launched a lawsuit in February in an attempt to enforce a recommendation by former information commissioner Catherine Tully, who called for full disclosure of the ferry service funding agreement.

The government maintains the management fee is confidential commercial information and should remain so.

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‘We’re still very hopeful’: province not yet waving white flag on CAT season – Aug 29, 2019

In its ruling Wednesday, the Appeal Court said there was ample evidence to support Rosinski’s finding that all parties involved in the Freedom of Information process understood Manninger’s role.

“Ms. Manninger did not launch her own frolic,” the ruling states.

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“Rather, she executed what is expected of the director of research for a political caucus. To everyone familiar with the protocol, Ms. Manninger was the nominal applicant for the leader and caucus members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia in their role as the Official Opposition.”

The Appeal Court also said Houston was a proper applicant in the lawsuit, saying the conclusion is “a product of practical common sense.”

The Tory lawsuit is to return to court for full trial on March 26, 2020.

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