Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Another six month extension efficiently arrived at

Say this for Justice Thomas McEwen's management of the insolvency protection for Canada's Big Three Tobacco Companies: he is efficient.

It took little more than half an hour for his court to extend insolvency protection for the companies -- adding another 6 months to the two years that have already passed since they sought protection after the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled they had to compensate some of the Quebec smoekrs they injured. 

Despite the enormity of the case (Justice McEwen described it as "one of the largest if not the largest restructuring cases in Canada's history") and despite the army of lawyers on the file (150 on the service list), this judge succeeded in minimizing the time the curtain on this case was raised for public view. (Streamed live on Youtube, the hearing really was on public view!)

It would have been even faster had not the tobacco farmers chosen to signal that they want their claim to be hived off from those of the provinces and injured smokers. Although their motion to this effect was not officially up for discussion today, they had signalled their intent in a small submission related to the extension. 

One way Justice McEwen makes his hearings efficient is by letting the lawyers know how he is going to rule on their submissions before they make their arguments. He did this to efficient effect today with Mr. William Sasso, who (virtually) stood to signal where the farmers would be going with their request for separate treatment.

After a couple of moments, Justice McEwen interrupted Mr. Sasso on procedural grounds (the motion was not scheduled for this hearing). He then made clear (to these ears at least) that the farmers' request was a lost cause. 

"I will let you know my views candidly", the judge said, drawing a parallel between the concerns of aging and dying farmers' and those of  the aging and dying Quebec smokers whose request for separate treatment he had rejected earlier in the process.  He even cast doubt on the receivability of the farmers' motions ("if I decide to hear the motion"). Hearing this, Mr. Sasso quickly announced that he had nothing further to say. 

Aside from this hic-cup, the hearing ran quickly and agreeably. Each company briefly identified any major issues in their updates on the file and offered assurance that the mediation was continuing in good faith. Many of the provincial teams voiced their approval to the extension, one mentioning that they were "fully engaged" in mediation. The Monitors gave a collective thumbs up.  No word was said in opposition to the extension.

And there we have it, likely with no more on this case for another six months unless the doors open and a deal is announced.

Developments, if there are any, will be posted on the Monitor's sites. By the end of the afternoon, the extension orders had already been uploaded to those portals.