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Proper Use of Authority

Government agencies are given the authority to make certain decisions in certain circumstances. The government gives agencies authority over certain matters by passing laws establishing the agency and setting out the decisions the agency can make and how those decisions must be reached. Agencies can only deal with matters that they are authorized to deal with and even then there are rules that govern how decisions must be made.

The type of decision must be one that the agency has the authority to make. The decisions an agency has the authority to make are determined by the laws that set up the agency. For example, an agency established to determine if workers are entitled to compensation for injuries they sustained on the job could not decide whether a worker should receive social assistance.

The way the agency made the decision must be authorized by the law setting it up. When agencies are created, they are given discretion to make decisions. If that discretion is not used properly, an agency’s decision could be considered unauthorized. There are a number of ways that discretion can be improperly used by an agency.

An agency cannot...

  • give another agency the authority to make decisions that only they are authorized to make. Agencies can delegate some of the work but they must ultimately have control over the decision.
  • have a policy that restricts the decision-making authority they are given. For example, if an agency has the authority to compensate victims of crime for expenses such as counselling and physiotherapy, they cannot decide that they will never compensate for counselling expenses as a matter of policy.
  • use the powers that they have been given for a different purpose. For example, if they have the authority to expropriate land for conservation purposes they could not expropriate land to be used for something like a restaurant.
  • take irrelevant matters into account when making their decisions. For example, if an agency considered someone’s gender when deciding if the landlord could evict them from a rental property.

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PLEA gratefully acknowledges our primary core funder the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan for their continuing and generous support of our organization.