Skip to content

Court dismisses application against Regina City Manager

Judge rejects application seeking an order against Niki Anderson to include homeless funding in budget document.
City Hall Regina Oct. 2022
A lawsuit against the Regina City Manager is dismissed, just as budget deliberations get under way at City Hall in Regina.

REGINA - A King’s Bench judge has dismissed an application that would have ordered the Regina city manager to include homeless funding in the budget.

The mandamus application by Councillor Andrew Stevens and Florence Stratton against City Manager Niki Anderson was dismissed in a ruling from Justice John Morrall released on Wednesday afternoon.

The court application stems from a June 15 motion unanimously passed at council, which called for a full operational budget to solve homelessness throughout the city, using a housing first, supportive housing. The wording called for the funding to be clearly demarcated in a line item in the budget.

But a court fight erupted soon after Anderson presented her proposed budget to members of council on Nov. 21. The homeless funding was not included as a line item in the draft budget, but the budget book did include a review of the various costs associated with it.

The next day, Nov. 22, the applicants' lawyer, Councillor Dan LeBlanc, filed the mandamus application, with arguments taking place on Dec. 13 in Regina King's Bench Chambers.

In his 38-page ruling, Justice Morrall relied heavily on the test for mandamus from the Federal Court of Appeal decision Apotex Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General), 1994, which was cited by counsel in the case.

Based on the legal tests and other case law, Justice Morrall made the following determinations:

That the respondent owes no public duty, and in fact complied with any legal duty she may have so that mandamus may not be sought against her;

That the respondent does not owe any duty to either applicant. Justice Morrall determined applicant Stratton "has no interest in the matter aside from being a concerned taxpayer," and as for councillor Stevens, he said the City Manager is "employee of one body, not 11 individuals" and it would "lead to chaos for her to be accountable to 11 individuals with disparate views";

That there was “complete lack of any demand for compliance” on the part of any applicant or anyone else;

That the city manager acted “based on relevant considerations which would include being concerned about the financial health of the City in proceeding as she did." He found the "exercise of fettered discretion in terms of the complexities of the details on the proposed budget" rendered mandamus unavailable in this situation.

In making the overall ruling against mandamus, Morrall added “I find that the court should be quite leery of being involved in the political machinations and debates between members of municipal, provincial or federal decision-making bodies. While establishing goalposts can be part of the court’s gatekeeping function, the remedy of mandamus is a blunt tool, and must be used equitably and appropriately.

“In this specific context, I find there is only strategic value in tinkering with the proposed budget for the applicant. The aggrieved Councillors will have the full use of the democratic process to put the line item in the final budget, if that is a will of the majority of Council. It is my view this would be an adequate and effective remedy in the circumstances. The proposed budget is an important tool to begin discussions, but it has no legal force or authority. It is only council who can determine what will constitute the final budget.“

In dismissing the application, Justice Morrall also awarded column 2 costs to the respondent Anderson.

What this means now is that the budget deliberations will proceed at council based on the original draft budget document presented Nov. 21, without the homeless line item included. However, it leaves open the likelihood that there will be extensive debate and discussion on whether that line item should be included before the budget is passed. It is also expected council will also hear from delegations speaking on the homeless issue in the coming days.

Budget deliberations are already under way at Regina City Hall. The special council meeting began with the Regina Police Service budget presentation, and deliberations are expected to last for the rest of the week at City Hall.