HBC’s legal challenge may hinge on evidence behind lockdown provisions, experts say

Hudson’s Bay Co. is facing a formidable but not impossible challenge in contesting government-mandated lockdowns in Toronto and nearby Peel Region that are keeping its stores closed, legal experts say.

In documents filed Thursday, HBC called the pandemic lockdowns “absurd” because they leave big-box stores open while forcing the department store chain to shutter its locations. The retailer is seeking to have the lockdown regulations quashed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and a declaration that HBC’s exclusion from remaining open is “unreasonable, inconsistent … irrational, (and) arbitrary.”

“On the face of it they would face an uphill struggle,” said Paul Daly, chair in administrative law and governance at the University of Ottawa.

However, the legal argument is not “fanciful,” he said, because there are examples of successful legal challenges to arbitrariness in the corporate arena. Tesla, for example, won a court battle in 2018 over the withdrawal of subsidies for electric cars by the Ontario government because the company was able to convince the court the withdrawal was arbitrary and singled out the electric-car maker.

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This content has been updated on December 11, 2020 at 14:55.