CODE COVID: What the pandemic has taught us about long-term care
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
What you need to know about COVID-19 today
Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
Business Tool Kit 2021
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Daily forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
The Heroes of 2020
Judge rules in a case that 'turns on a matter of principle,' where a resident objected to paying for a service that didn't quite go all the way
It might be a stretch to describe it as a David-versus-Goliath scenario, but a recent court decision out of Grand Bank in which a resident successfully defended himself against a regional waste management board lawsuit may have implications for other areas.
Arthur Baker was sued by the Burin Peninsula Regional Services Board after refusing to pay an invoice for household waste collection.
As Judge Harold Porter points out in his decision, the case “turns on a matter of principle.”
“The (board) sent the defendant an invoice for household waste collection, even though the board does not send their contractor on the road where the defendant lives,” Porter wrote in the decision’s introduction.
“(Baker) replied by offering the board a choice. It could collect his garbage, and he would pay the fee for that service, or he would take care of it himself, without paying the fee. The board disagreed with both options, and sued the defendant for the waste collection fee.”
Baker told the court he would gladly pay for garbage collection just like all of the homeowners on the Burin Peninsula. Unlike with the vast majority of residents on the Burin Peninsula, however, the (board) doesn’t collect his household waste at the end of his driveway.
Instead, Baker and his neighbours have to carry their household waste to a collection point where the Lance au Loup road meets the Burin highway, and leave it there, in approved bins, for the contractor to pick up.
"Clearly, adding a step where the defendant has to load his garbage into his personal vehicle and drive it to the end of the road, and then unload it there to wait for the garbage truck to come by is unnecessarily complicated, and increases risks already identified by Mr. Baker. The solution is obvious: cut out the middle step altogether. That is what the defendant has done," the judge stated.
“As a result of (Baker’s) objection to having to carry his household waste to the highway, leave his bin there to await the contractor, and then collect the empty bin later that day, and bring it home, Mr. Baker has opted out. Since he has to take the waste away from his home anyway, he takes it to a dumpster, and dumps the waste himself,” Porter noted.
“Here one might wonder, parenthetically, how a retiree, or a handicapped person, or even a person without a vehicle is supposed to carry their waste from their homes, down the Lance au Loup road to the intersection with the highway.
“Opting out has not been well received by the board: the board has sued Arthur Baker for non-payment of the waste collection fees.”
Porter noted there are apparent conflicts in the board's policies.The judge said Baker’s home is not, as board policy describes, “situated on developed property within a route given regularly scheduled servicing by a municipality or the Department of Transportation and Works.
“The plain wording of the board’s policy appears to exempt him from being charged a fee for service which is not provided to him,” Porter said.
In the case, Baker also raised the issue of discrimination, in the sense that he and his neighbours on the Lance au Loup road were being billed for a service they do not get, while everyone else has their household waste collected at the end of their driveway.
“In an egalitarian Canada, this discrimination is unacceptable,” the decision reads.
“As long as they pay the fees, Mr. Baker and his neighbours on Lance au Loup road are entitled to the same level of service from the board as everyone else. The converse is also true: if the board is unwilling to provide the service, then (Baker) and his neighbours will have to find someone else to take away their garbage. If they do that, then obviously they cannot be required to pay for a service which is not available to them.”
Porter concluded the board cannot have it both ways.
“Either it collects the garbage for a fee, or it does not. The fee is for the collection of household waste at the end of the taxpayer’s driveway. (Baker) is prepared to pay the fee, and is waiting on the board to perform the service. Until that happens, Mr. Baker owes nothing to the board.”