During the recent flooding emergency in southern Alberta, a
state of local emergency was declared by the City of Calgary under
the provisions of the Emergency Management Act.
During that emergency, a number of stories emerged about
merchants charging grossly inflated prices for basic supplies, such
as water and lodging. In one widely-circulated example, a
liquor store in an area hit by blackouts was reported to be
charging $20 for bags of ice (pictured above).
In response to allegations of gouging, the head of the Calgary
Emergency Management Agency was quoted as saying:
"Under the Emergency Management Act in the province of
Alberta, price-gouging or price-fixing above normal levels during a
state of local emergency is illegal, and it would take some
co-operation between ourselves and police, but individuals could be
prosecuted for that."
In fact, the Emergency Management Act does not speak to
price gouging or price fixing at all, and does not create an
offence as suggested.
The statute that should have been referred to in these
circumstances is the Fair Trading Act. That Act makes it an
unfair trade practice to charge an excessive price for goods or
services provided that certain conditions are met:
6(1.1) It is an offence for a supplier to engage in an
(2) It is an unfair practice for a supplier, in a consumer
transaction or a proposed consumer transaction,
(d) to charge a price for goods or services that grossly exceeds
the price at which similar goods or services are readily available
without informing the consumer of the difference in price and the
reason for the difference;
In these circumstances, in order for a conviction under the Act,
the Crown would have the burden of proving that the price charged
grossly exceeds ordinary price for the goods or services.
There have been relatively few prosecutions under the Act and
the Courts have expressed concern over the lack of a definition of
"grossly exceeds". For example, in one case the Court acquitted the defendant
because the Crown did not meet its burden of proof on this point,
having this to say about this issue:
There is a fundamental ambiguity in the phase "grossly
exceeds". Does it mean 1½ times, 2 times, 3 times,
3½ times, the price for which similar goods are available?
What are the objective criteria for determining whether a price
"grossly exceeds" the usual price? There is nothing in
the legislation to assist the Court.
In addition, even if the Crown's burden above is met, there
are a number of defences available: if the retailer is able to show
that the goods or services are not readily available, or if the
difference in price and the reason for the difference is disclosed,
then the offence may not be proven.
With assistance from Amanda Vogeli, summer student
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Under the Income Tax Act, the Employment Insurance Act, and the Excise Tax Act, a director of a corporation is jointly and severally liable for a corporation's failure to deduct and remit source deductions or GST.
Under the Income Tax Act, the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Pension Plan Act and the Excise Tax Act, a director of a corporation is jointly and severally liable for a corporation's failure to deduct and remit source deductions.
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