The judge, who dismissed Ontario’s petition to quash three tobacco companies in court on Friday , explained the reasons for his refusal on Thursday. It essentially recalls that the status quo must be preserved between all parties to maximize the possibilities of resolving their differences.
The decision of Ontario Superior Court Judge Thomas McEwen led to the sine die of the province’s lawsuit against a dozen tobacco companies, which should have opened in 2020. Three of these tobacco companies obtained in March the protection of the courts under the Creditor Arrangements Act.
Justice Glenn Hainey granted them such protection after the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal ordered these three companies to pay $ 15 billion to 100,000 Quebec tobacco victims.
At the same time, it decided to suspend all legal proceedings against tobacco companies in Canada, including the prosecution of 13 tobacco companies, their overseas parent companies, and the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council.
Ontario was asking Justice McEwen for an exception to recover billions of dollars the province spent on health care for people with tobacco addiction. Ten years after launching a $ 50 billion appeal, the province is now spending $ 330 billion.
The magistrate had dismissed earlier in April the request of the Quebec victims of smoking , which also sought an exception to try to be compensated under the judgment of the Quebec Court of Appeal 1 st of March.
In fact, he largely reiterates the same reasons he gave Quebec victims for his refusal to comply with Ontario’s request to withdraw court protection from Imperial Tobacco Canada, JTI-Macdonald and Rothmans Benson. & Hedges.
Justice McEwen first acknowledges that the prosecution of Ontario is important, but he recalls that the trial will be very long, over a year according to him, and that other provinces in the country have initiated similar remedies.
He explained that it would be unfair for Ontario’s trial to go ahead as planned if it were to grant it the exception the province is seeking, while the other provinces’ remedies would still be suspended under the Hainey decision.
A consortium of six provinces was behind the three big tobacco giants against Ontario in this cause. Only Alberta and NL supported Ontario’s efforts. Quebec is the only province absent in this litigation.
The relative harm to all parties in this case far outweighs the relative harm to Ontario. In that sense, it would be inappropriate to promote the interests of Ontario to those of other parties.
It is necessary, according to the magistrate, to avoid hindering the restructuring process of the three tobacco giants by letting Ontario’s prosecution run its course so that this province can, if necessary, be compensated before the others.
The judge added that the Ontario lawsuit would be
a distraction in the restructuring process should he stand as expected next year. He recalls that the process is still in its early stages and that it is important to give tobacco companies time to avoid bankruptcy by avoiding
costly delays .
Finally, there is nothing to prove, according to the magistrate, that the Ontario remedy has more merit in appearance than the remedies of other provinces or Quebec victims of tobacco.
The president of the Campaign for Justice Against Tobacco Manufacturers, Garfield Mahood, says he is very disappointed with the judgment on behalf of all tobacco users in the country. He does not hesitate to call them fraudsters.
It is much more than a monetary problem, because the provinces could, if they wanted to, raise tobacco taxes considerably to get their money back, it is more of a public health problem.
Mr. Mahood says the industry prefers to favor a resolution with its creditors rather than facing legal challenges in Canada.
In the event of a victory, the pursuit of Ontario becomes null and void, and the industry will continue to endanger public health if it avoids bankruptcy.
He feels that the decision of the magistrate is unfair because the victims of Quebec took 21 years to succeed in two courts.
They did their homework, they were ahead of the provinces on this issue, but the protection that the Ontario courts have given to these three tobacco giants means that these victims can not receive the compensation to which they are entitled.
Mr. Mahood added that some victims of Quebec may die of their affection even before seeing the color of their money.
In his opinion, the decision is also unfair to Ontario because the parent companies of these three Canadian companies are not bankrupt in the United States or the United Kingdom.
They could therefore compensate Ontario for defeat after a lawsuit, but Ontario can not sue these parent companies without pursuing their three subsidiaries in Canada at the same time.
The Ontario Attorney General’s Office, Caroline Mulroney, did not call us back to tell us if the province is going to appeal Justice McEwen’s decision.