Decision Date: June 8, 2016
Panel: Alan Andison
Keywords: Wildfire Act – ss. 2, 3; Administrative Tribunals Act – s. 24(2); fire suppression costs; cost recovery order; administrative penalty; extension of time; special circumstances
Gary Andrew Brammer appealed a determination issued by the Deputy Fire Centre Manager (the “Manager”), Prince George Fire Centre, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (the “Ministry”). The Manager determined that Mr. Brammer had contravened sections 2, 3(1), and 3(2) of the Wildfire Act when he and another person detonated an explosive charge on private forest land resulting in a fireball and hot metal shards that ignited a wildfire, and they failed to immediately report the fire or extinguish the fire. Firefighters from the Ministry extinguished the fire. The Manager levied an administrative penalty of $1,000 against Mr. Brammer for the contraventions, and ordered Mr. Brammer to pay the Ministry’s fire suppression costs of $48,286.43.
Mr. Brammer filed an appeal against the determination, but his appeal was filed approximately nine months after the expiry of the three-week appeal period. He requested an extension of time to appeal pursuant to section 24(2) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, which authorizes the Commission to extend the time to file an appeal if the Commission is satisfied that “special circumstances” exist.
The Commission considered the meaning of the phrase “special circumstances” in the context of the legislation. The Commission found that special circumstances may include the reasons for the delay, the degree to which the appellant was responsible for the delay, and the appellant’s diligence in pursuing the appeal. The Commission noted that the time limit for filing an appeal is intended to bring finality to the process, and the risk of prejudice to the government’s interests increases as more time passes before an appeal is filed.
Next, the Commission considered the circumstances in this case. The Commission found that although Mr. Brammer may have intended to file an appeal sooner than he did, there was no evidence that he had actually tried to do so. The evidence showed that, after Mr. Brammer received the determination, he was in communication with the Ministry for several months regarding how much money he owed, and errors in invoices that he had received. There was no evidence that he had tried to file an appeal or had tried to inquire about an appeal. The Commission concluded that Mr. Brammer was diligent in inquiring about the invoices he received as a result of the determination, yet he failed to take reasonable steps or make reasonable inquiries regarding an appeal of the determination. The Commission concluded that there was no evidence that Mr. Brammer had experienced any special circumstances that would warrant granting an extension of time to file an appeal, especially given the lengthy delay in this case.
Accordingly, the application for an extension of time was denied.