A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has dismissed a case brought forward by commercial garbage haulers who challenged a Halifax bylaw because they wanted to pay lower tipping fees outside the city.
The Solid Waste Association of Nova Scotia had hoped to quash a bylaw that keeps waste inside the Halifax Regional Municipality borders. The city estimates that 6,700 tonnes of metro garbage was taken to landfills outside the municipality last year. That would cost the city more than $750,000.
But in a 26-page decision, Justice Suzanne Hood wrote that the association — which represents about seven of the existing 50 garbage haulers in the province — does not have the legal standing to bring the application forward.
The court action stems from the charge of $115 a tonne to commercial companies to unload their garbage in the Otter Lake landfill outside Halifax. Lower fees of around $75 per tonne are the norm outside Halifax and some haulers want to make use of them, yet are prevented from doing so by the bylaw that prohibits such waste export.
Justice Hood wrote that the association has a genuine interest and an arguable case, but doesn’t have legal standing because there’s a reasonable, alternative way to get the matter before the courts.
"In either a prosecution or a civil proceeding, an individual garbage hauler will have an opportunity to bring the validity of the bylaw provisions before the court," the judge said in her decision.
Association lawyer Bruce Outhouse said Monday that his clients face two choices.
"The options are either to appeal or to, in effect, have one of SWANA’s members announce to HRM that we’re going to break the law so they could be prosecuted to test the law," he said. "Those options are under discussion and a decision will be made in due course."
The association would have 30 days to bring forward an appeal of the decision.
Councilor Reg Rankin (Timberlea-Prospect), whose district is home to the landfill, said the decision was "good news."
Bylaw enforcement officials will pursue commercial haulers who break the law, he said Monday. "This municipality believes in the bylaw and I believe, when appropriate, we will charge and we will not be deterred by any possible reference to court."
According to the minutes of the June 2002 council meeting when the bylaw was passed, solid waste staff were aware that haulers were taking their garbage outside the municipality to take advantage of the lower fees.
The municipality can’t lower the tipping fee because it’s about halfway through a four-year contract with the company that operates the landfill.