Administrative tribunals and decision-makers are likely the part of government that you interact with most on a day-to-day basis.  For example, school boards may decide whether your neighborhood has a local school, the Ontario Energy Board determines how much you can be charged for hydro, if you have a dispute with your landlord you may go before the Landlord Tenant Board, if you are discriminated against at your work you may complain to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. These are just some examples of the hundreds of administrative decision makers and tribunals. How do these decision-makers fit into our system of government? What is the source of their authority to make these decisions? And why are they so prevalent? These questions are the subject of this week’s blog post.

Administrative decision makers and tribunals exercise delegated authority. This means that they make decisions that would otherwise be made by the legislative or the executive branch of government and are empowered to make these decisions because that authority is delegated to them by legislation. The reason administrative tribunals and decisions makers are so prevalent is because they can resolve issues in their own area of specialization more expeditiously and more accessibly, with greater technical expertise. Members of tribunals are appointed because they have special expertise with respect to the types of decisions they will be making that elected officials or judges will likely have.

However, because their authority is delegated, there are limits on the types of decisions administrative decision makers can make, and how they can make them. Administrative decision makers must exercise their delegated discretion in accordance with their enabling legislation. If they fail to do so, their decision will be ultra vires, and subject to judicial review. Judicial review is the way in which the courts can review the decisions of administrative decision makers, which may be discussed in a future blog post.

- Isabelle Crew, Queen’s Law’17