SCC Case Information
Jon Breslaw v. City of Montreal
(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)
Case summaries are prepared by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (Law Branch) for information purposes only.
Civil procedure - Class actions - Validity of municipal by-laws - Application for refund of taxes paid - Application for declaration of non-compliance - Whether courts below erred in holding that class action was not appropriate procedure for seeking nullity of municipal by-law and recovery of property tax collected - Whether courts below erred in holding that facts alleged did not seem to justify conclusions sought (art. 1003(b) C.C.P.).
On January 1, 2002, several municipalities were amalgamated to form the new City of Montreal. Section 150.1 of the Charter of Ville de Montréal, R.S.Q., c. C-11.4, limits annual increases resulting from the amalgamation in the tax burden borne by the aggregate of the units of assessment in a sector of the City to five percent (sectors are the former municipalities that have now been amalgamated). However, s. 150.5 provides that “[t]he Government may, by regulation, determine the only cases in which an increase is deemed not to result from the constitution of the city”. These specific cases are then disregarded in establishing the percentage by which the tax burden has increased. In 2003 and 2004, the City passed by-laws concerning the tax burden. Section 2 of each of these by-laws identified cases in which increases did not result from the amalgamation.
The Appellant, Mr. Breslaw, was a ratepayer. Believing that the effect of the tax burden by-laws was to make certain units of assessment in certain sectors of the City bear a tax burden greater than the limit allowed by the Charter, he filed a motion for authorization to institute a class action against the City in order to have the two by-laws quashed and obtain a refund of the taxes paid. The City opposed the action on the ground, inter alia, that the class action is not an appropriate procedure for striking down a municipal by-law. Moreover, even if the by-laws were struck down, the taxes could not be refunded because they had been collected under the by-laws concerning taxes for the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years. To address these arguments, Mr. Breslaw filed an amended motion in which he asked that s. 3 of each of these two by-laws be declared inconsistent with s. 150.1 of the Charter.
The Superior Court authorized the amendments but refused to authorize the class action, holding that the facts alleged did not seem to justify the conclusions sought by Mr. Breslaw (art. 1003(b) C.C.P.), and in particular the conclusion of a declaration of non-compliance. It also held that the class action is not an appropriate procedure for claiming a refund of property taxes. The Court of Appeal affirmed that judgment.