|Master Donald Short|
Seemingly reluctant to agree with his colleagues in other provinces and grant any of the industry's request for more details from the provinces before they had to file their defence, he nonetheless nodded along with their decision to cut them a tiny slice.
But he would not play along with this being a reason for further delay. "The action is in its eighth year. Not one defence has been filed," he complained.
Ten provinces. Ten lawsuits. Zero consolidation
With the legislation that enables these special suits "having virtually the same operative content," Master Short suggests that the work of each court system to process the actions could be better coordinated and made repeated references to the complexities of the decisions that the courts were being asked to make.
 In these circumstances one would have hoped that there could have been an agreement amongst the parties to consolidate the various provinces’ claims in some manner, so that the enormous costs for both sides associated with any one action, would not be multiplied unnecessarily.
 Perhaps there is still a possibility for interprovincial cooperation on some basis. One would hope that all the parties could see the wisdom in choosing a single test case.
 Given the legal expertise at the various counsel tables in these actions, I cannot fathom why a concerted effort to determine on a rational basis what liability there is, if any, would not ultimately accrue to the benefit of all.
Thousands of requests. Four rulings. Judicial Comity.
Master Short also made clear that it was no easy task to process the multiple requests that were made by the defendant companies and the responses provided by the province's representatives. the companies were demanding particulars on 3 of every 4 paragraphs in the provinces "Fresh as Amended" claim (which itself was the result of an earlier and successful pre-trial motion by the companies).
He referred to over 200 pages of charts and appendices he had to review, and to the 13,000 requests submitted to Alberta.
His decision, he said was guided by the "pragmatic" need to ensure that the case can get to trial. It was this "practicality" and "judicial comity" which led him to align his decision with those of Justice Strekaf in Albera and Justice Goodridge in Newfoundland. (The Alberta decision can be read here. The Newfoundland decision can be found here.)
"Moving forward," he wrote "It is now time for the defendants to deliver their pleadings. They have had 6 years to circulate and consider drafts. I am therefore ordering that all defenses, cross-claims and counterclaims be served and delivered by March 31, 2016."
His last words were directed, I think, for the provincial governments. He urged the parties to "strive to meet the goals" of the general principle that guides the rules of procedure for Ontario Courts. "To to secure the just, most expeditious and least expensive determination of every civil proceeding on its merits."