What is Administrative Law?

You may not have heard of administrative law, but administrative law has more than likely had an impact on you or your business at some point. Administrative law is a broad area of law that touches on many industries. The easiest way to think about administrative law is government regulation of many different industries. When the government makes rules, provides services, or enforces laws, it delegates some of its powers to decision-makers to administer these laws. The object of having many delegated decision-makers is to make quicker, more cost-effective decisions, which are specialized to a certain industry.

The main areas where most people or businesses will come into contact with administrative law are when they are starting a business (i.e., disputing business licensing, municipal decision-making, or liquor licensing), paying taxes (i.e., disputing tax assessments), or driving (i.e., driving prohibitions). Environmental regulation is another area where administrative law regulates and affects many large industries such as agriculture, mining, forestry, and fisheries and wildlife. Another example is labour and employment law, aspects of which are regulated by a number of administrative decision-makers, such as the Worker’s Compensation Board or the Human Rights Tribunal.

Within each industry, there are a wide variety of types and levels of administrative decision-makers. Some decision-makers follow very structured rules of procedure under their own legislation and are comprised of a formalized tribunal or board with court-like processes. Others are less formal and are only one government worker in their office making decisions based on written submissions. How a decision is made and how your opportunity to be heard regarding the decision will vary depending on the context of the subject matter and the applicable legislation.

Despite the wide variance between types of administrative decision-makers, there are some guiding principles of administrative law that all administrative decision-makers must follow. Decision-makers must follow the rule of law and be within the limits of the power delegated to them by the governing laws. Similarly, decision-makers must make decisions consistent with the discretion delegated to them, meaning a decision-maker must exercise their discretion as set out in their governing legislation and not overly bind themselves to policy or the view of others.

A key principle of administrative law is fairness, called procedural fairness. Decision-makers have a duty to be fair to participants, and their processes must meet procedural fairness requirements. Fairness principles include a right to know the case being made against them with an opportunity to respond, a right to meaningfully participate in the process, the right to an impartial decision-maker, and the right to sufficient reasons for the decision.

If a participant has concerns about the procedural fairness of the decision-process or believes the decision-maker made errors in their decision, dependent on the type of the decision-maker, they can seek an internal review, a review by another decision-maker (i.e., Worker’s Compensation Board decisions can be appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal), or judicial review by a court. The type of review available will depend on the applicable legislation. The standard or rather the “standard of review” against which the court or the other administrative decision-maker will conduct their review is determined by the specific type of decision. Therefore, the applicable type of review will be both industry specific and issue specific.

Depending on the type of administrative law process, the procedures and dispute can get complicated quickly. Deadlines can vary greatly, and missing a deadline can have a significant impact on your case. It is also important to have the right evidence before the decision-maker at the beginning, as the opportunity to later provide more evidence on review or appeal is restrictive. Therefore, when you face an administrative law issue, you may want to seek legal advice.

If you have any questions about administrative law decisions or disputes, please contact Miranda Wardman at [email protected] or by phone at 250-869-1278.

The content made available on this website has been provided solely for general informational purposes as of the date published and should NOT be treated as or relied upon as legal advice. It is not to be construed as a representation, warranty, or guarantee, and may not be accurate, current, complete, or fit for a particular purpose or circumstance. If you are seeking legal advice, a professional at Pushor Mitchell LLP would be pleased to assist you in resolving your legal concerns in the context of your particular circumstances.

It is prohibited to reproduce, modify, republish, or in any way use content from this website without express written permission from the Chief Operating Officer or the Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell LLP. Third party content that references this publication is not endorsed by Pushor Mitchell LLP and in no way represents the views of the firm. We do not guarantee the accuracy of, nor accept responsibility for the content of any source that may link, quote, or reference this publication.

Please read and understand our full Website Terms of Use and Disclaimer here.

Legal Alert, Pushor Mitchell’s free monthly e-newsletter