Ridout Barron


Calgary Real Estate, Wills and Estates, and Business Law Blog

How does construction law address delayed government projects?

Delayed projects and cancelled contracts are one of the biggest challenges construction companies face. When a major project in Alberta gets pushed or cancelled due to budget restrictions or timeline issues, many wonder how this effects the companies involved under construction law. This is certainly a conversation worth having right now as 42 school projects promised by the government years ago remain unfinished.

While the province was under Progressive Conservative leadership, 195 projects were planned as part of a large new school and modernization blitz. Two years ago, the provincial auditor noted that the schools would likely not be built on time. As at least 42 remain unfinished, it appears the auditor was correct. According to reporters, at least six projects have not started, one has been cancelled, and the remaining 34 are behind schedule.

Proposed federal business law changes for emissions under review

Federal regulations often play a major role in business operations. For Alberta oil sands and pipelines, environmental regulations are a constant business law concern. However, the federal government has recently announced that it plans to not require Alberta energy businesses to pass a tough proposed environmental assessment as long as they fit under the province's existing regulatory plan.

Currently, Alberta business law enforces a 100-megatonne emissions cap. Federal bodies say that this cap is consistent with national efforts to hit climate-change targets. As a result, energy project developers will only have provincial regulations to contend with.

New legislation addresses human rights concerns for farm workers

The challenges faced by businesses and their employees often vary depending on industry and location. In Alberta, human rights concerns about farm labour have led to recent changes to employment standards legislation. This means that farm owners will have more employment laws to consider when managing waged, non-family employees.

The legislation designed to address these human rights concerns was enacted on Jan. 1, 2018. It is called the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, and entitles all Alberta farm employees to general holiday pay and vacation pay. Employees who work their scheduled shifts before and after the general holiday or who work on the holiday itself if required are eligible for this pay.

Albertans debate tax and business law changes

As many business owners know, changes to provincial and federal legislation can have a major impact on operations. In Alberta, business law changes regarding provincial sales tax have been tabled and turned down multiple times since PST was repealed in 1937. Today, every other province has a provincial sales tax while Alberta will be continuing without one under the province's 2018 budget.

There was some speculation that sales tax may be introduced in the new budget. This is because, without relying on oil and gas money, it would be difficult to balance the budget. The provincial finance minister has told Albertans that despite the unbalanced budget, they are not introducing a sales tax.

Human rights concerns at work an issue in marijuana legalization

As the provinces prepare for marijuana legalization, Ottawa is discussing some of the finer points of how worker rights relate to the drug. There are many human rights concerns in the workplace related to pot, including whether workplaces will be able to test for the substance and if the law will distinguish between medical and recreational marijuana in the case of worker rights. The conversation in Ottawa is currently deadlocked, while an Alberta case about workplace testing prepares to enter the Supreme Court.

The Alberta case arose out of human rights concerns from employees at Suncor, where random drug testing was enforced. The federal government is expected to await the final results of the case before making a determination on testing for the rest of the country. Committee members tasked with making a decision on workplace safety legislation say that federal regulations likely won't be in place before the drug is legal.

Business law challenges lead to closure of Sherwood Park gym

Legal issues can have serious consequences for individuals and businesses alike. In Sherwood Park, a dispute between a landlord and his commercial tenant has forced a health club to close its doors. Business law issues, including those around rental agreements, often force businesses to relocate or close altogether.

In this case, a landlord locked the health club's employees from their Alberta location after negotiations regarding rent stalled. The health club was seeking lower rent due to concerns over how construction and other nearby issues affected their membership. However, the parties were unable to come to any agreement, and the landlord eventually closed their doors. World Health Edmonton Inc. still hopes to reopen the gym.

Airlines opt for civil litigation against Alberta Health Services

Business disputes can often end in the courtroom, but a recent story shows these conflicts don't always just involve private enterprises. Two airlines in Alberta have recently filed a lawsuit against Alberta Health Services, alleging that they picked the airline for air ambulance operators in an unfair way. The civil litigation will center on the Request For Proposals (RFP) and decision-making processes that Alberta Health Services (AHS) underwent to choose an airline.

The issue began when AHS requested proposals for the contract at 10 locations in Alberta. Can-West Corporate Air Charters were awarded the contracts for eight locations last March. However, before that happened, AHS contacted two other companies to extend their contracts in those locations as Can-West did not have the infrastructure to take over on the scheduled date.

Tim Hortons franchisees threaten civil litigation over virus

Disputes can arise in many different businesses, but the many layers of leadership can make franchises a particular challenge. Tim Hortons franchisees in Alberta and throughout Canada have sent a letter to the franchise's parent company, Restaurant Brands International, regarding a computer virus which they claim caused significant losses. They say they will pursue civil litigation against the parent company should the company not meet to negotiate a resolution to the problem. 

The civil litigation is being threatened after a number of stores had their cash registers knocked offline. The franchises were unable to complete any transactions during this time. This led to losses, including employee wages, food spoiling and missed sales. The franchise owners in Alberta and other parts of Canada who are members of the Great White North Franchisee Association (GWNFA) say that the parent company should compensate affected stores for these losses.

Expired liability insurance and allegations of past harassment

It may seem unnecessary for risk managers to keep papers on expired insurance policies around. However, Alberta risk managers may find these documents useful. If an allegation about harassment that occurred a long time ago emerges, having proof of liability coverage from that time could prove helpful.

Allegations of harassment can sometimes come out months, years or even decades after an incident occurred. Depending on the type of coverage an organization had at the time and the proof it has of holding such a policy, an insurance company may be required to pay for legal expenses related to a harassment lawsuit. In a 2006 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, it was noted that if an organization had an occurrence-based policy with an occurrence-based extension, its insurance company could be required to cover such incidents.

Union has human rights concerns about drug testing despite ruling

Random drug testing is a hot button topic in employment law. Employees and unions may argue that there are human rights concerns with this practice, as it violates workers' privacy and dignity. Although employers may argue it is a necessary safety precaution, a recent decision from the Court of Appeal of Alberta has confirmed a ruling in a recent case over the matter.

The union that represents employees of Suncor energy, Unifor 707A, took legal action against the random tests when they were first administered in 2012, claiming there were human rights concerns about the how the drug testing invaded workers' privacy. Suncor said the testing was necessary due to the workers needing to operate heavy machinery. The union represents 2,800 employees.


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