This case was heard in the Federal Court of Appeal.
As the federal government explored options for constructing either a toll bridge or a tunnel between Prince Edward Island and the mainland, the Department of Public Works assessed the environmental impacts of a hypothetical bridge. The environmental evaluation did not assess the impacts of a specific bridge design, but instead considered the concept in the abstract. Although the government indicated that its final choice would receive a more specific environmental evaluation, that evaluation was not carried out. Instead, the government referred the design to an Environmental Assessment Panel, which did not support the final choice that the government had made.
Friends of the Island Inc. applied for a Court order that would compel the Minister of Public Works to commission an environmental assessment of the specific bridge that it had chosen to construct. They also argued that the Government of Canada would breach the Prince Edward Island Terms of Union if it did away with the established ferry service between Prince Edward Island and the mainland.
After considering the relevant law and legal principles, the Court allowed the application and ordered the Minister of Public Works to initiate the environmental assessment that was legally necessary. It also held that the applicants were correct in their view that discontinuing the ferry service would breach the Prince Edward Island Terms of Union.
When the Court delivered its decision, it stated that the applicants would recover costs from the defendants. Several of the defendants appealed that aspect of the decision in the Federal Court of Appeal, where the Court held that the lower court had erred in allowing the applicants to recover costs in relation to an application for judicial review. It therefore allowed the defendants’ appeal and reversed the Federal Court’s order as to costs.
To read about this case in the Federal Court, go to Friends of the Island Inc. v. Canada (Minister of Public Works), 1993 CanLII 2942 (FC).