Algoma Central Corporation v. Canada

In Miscellaneous Maritime Law Topics on (Updated )

The issue in this case was the validity of harbour dues in respect of public (regional) ports under the Canada Marine Act. The first issue was whether the case ought to have been brought by way of judicial review proceedings. The Court held that the case should have been so brought but nonetheless decided to hear the case on the merits. The second issue concerned whether the case was appropriate for summary judgment and the Court held that it was. The third issue was the validity of the harbour dues. The plaintiff’s argument was that the dues were in the nature of a tax since the government provided no services and that pursuant to s. 53 of the Constitution Act only Parliament had the authority to levy a tax. The Court reviewed the Act and noted that the Minister’s authority to charge fees was not contingent on services being provided. The Court further reviewed the relevant authorities on the distinction between a regulatory charge and a tax and held that the dues were a regulatory charge. The final issue was whether the practice of not charging similar dues to U.S. ships was discriminatory. On this issue the Court held that the Minister had broad discretion to distinguish between different users and that the exercise of this discretion was not a grounds to invalidate the dues.