Supreme Court Decision Expands Municipal Liability

Topic: Heads Up Alert, News
By: Thomas Barakat
Manager, Public Policy and Government Relations
Published: December 2023

In the case of R v. Greater Sudbury, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that an owner (i.e., a municipality) cannot evade responsibility for a workplace death by claiming to have contractually delegated responsibility for safety to a project contractor.

This decision will have significant implications for municipalities. Now municipalities are exposed to broader responsibilities that owners, constructors, and employers have under the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA).

Prior to the ruling, municipalities were able to delegate health and safety responsibilities to a general contractor, who would assume primary accountability for these obligations. However, this has now changed. As a result of this ruling, municipalities effectively assume the OHSA obligations as owners, constructors, and employers on capital projects.

Good Roads strongly recommends that its member municipalities carefully review the Supreme Court decision and consult their legal counsel. Contract language may need to be reviewed and amended. Vigilant monitoring of construction sites is now crucial to ensure compliance with applicable workplace safety requirements.

This ruling increases a municipality’s risk exposure which will also increase the cost and time needed for construction projects.

Good Roads will continue to monitor this evolving situation and advocate for the Government of Ontario to provide a solution.