Win for Antrim.
Antrim Truck Stop owner Jack Cameron's lawyer successfully argued he suffered an unreasonable and disproportionate burden Highway 17 was rerouted.
It’s finally over.
Antrim Truck Stop owner Jack Cameron and his legal team are celebrating a victory that has implications across the province and comes after a lengthy battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
In a decision announced March 7, the Supreme Court has agreed the province’s decision to reroute Highway 17 would have effectively closed the truck stop, had it not been relocated. The moving of the highway during its expansion to four lanes was made with no offer of compensation to Cameron.
“He feels somewhat vindicated,” said Cameron’s lawyer Shane Rayman of Rueter Scargall Bennett. “And he’s happy that it’s now over. This has been gnawing away at him since the early 1980s. It took up money and time and resources and created a lot of stress for the Cameron family.”
When the provincial Ministry of Transportation four-laned Highway 17 in 2004, the truck stop wound up nearly two kilometres from the rerouted highway. Cameron moved the business to the outskirts of Arnprior.
And then he took the province to the Ontario Municipal Board, asking for damages. Cameron’s basic claim was expropriation without compensation. Moving the highway effectively closed the business or would have had it not been relocated, he maintained.
Under Ontario’s Expropriation Act, property owners can be compensated for a decline in market value, even without official expropriation.
Cameron sought $8.2 million in compensation and was awarded $393,000, a decision that MTO appealed. The case went before the Ontario Court of Appeal, where the reward was overturned and Cameron was denied any compensation.
Initially, Cameron was awarded damages for injurious affection, part of Ontario's Expropriations Act, in which a business is compensated if construction affects them financially.
The Ontario Superior Court of Appeal side with the government, saying the highway extension served the public and that leaving the Antrim Truck Stop near the road would have interfered with the project.
On Thursday, March 7, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Court of Appeal should not have set aside the OMB's decision and restored its compensation order, as well as awarding limited appeal costs.
Rayman is thrilled with the victory and said the entire experience has been amazing.
“For me it was already a win as a lawyer as soon as I got leave to appeal,” said Rayman. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”
He explained that what was needed to be proven to win the right to appeal was that the case is one of national and public importance, not whether the Court of Appeal’s decision was right or wrong.
The Supreme Court decision was unanimous, something Rayman wasn’t expecting.
“I hoped to win, but I always knew it was an uphill battle because it was a unanimous decision at court of appeal. I would have thought it would be a divided (Supreme) court.”
In terms of implications, Rayman said there are two.
“First, is the Court of Appeal decision pretty much closed the door on virtually all but the most extreme claims for injurious affection where no land is taken,” he said. “The Supreme Court decision doesn’t expand the law that already existed, but it reverses closing the door.”
Secondly, said Rayman, the entire law of nuisance was examined.
When a person disturbs someone’s property rights and creates damage, the Court of Appeal said they look at the utility of defendant’s conduct and balance that with the injury to property.
Ontario argued the highway expansion was benefitting the public.
Rayman said he did not argue that every property owner affected by a highway should be compensated.
Tall mast lighting along the 401, for example, is a minor disturbance that might make a house slightly less desirable for purchase but doesn’t warrant compensation.
“You could not expect the government to compensate for all injury,” he said. “But when there’s a property owner who suffers unreasonable and disproportionate burden, some form of compensation is warranted.”
The ruling will be viewed with interest as the four-laning of Highway 17 continues up the Valley past Arnprior and eventually to Pembroke.
Cameron purchased Antrim Truck Stop in 1978 from his mother-in-law. The business offers fuel, truck centre and scales, a restaurant, and the God and Country gift shop.