Thomas G. Heintzman, O.C., Q.C., FCIArb

Construction Law Canada

This website is intended to encourage discussion about recent developments in construction law in Canada.

The commentary in this website will relate to legislation and case law. Each item for discussion will be set out individually. The item will have a short description of the subject matter. Then, a lengthier discussion of the item will follow. The discussion is solely a matter of my personal view and opinion and does not constitute legal advice.

The discussion will generally follow the subjects addressed in my book: Heintzman & Goldsmith on Canadian Building Contracts (5th ed. Carswell).  Reference to that text will be made from time to time as “CBC”, that is Canadian Building Contracts. However, a broader range of subjects will be addressed in this site than those addressed in CBC.

I welcome any views about the commentary in this website and hope that a dialogue will develop about the distinctive aspects of construction law in Canada.

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Who Is Entitled To The Holdback Funds: The Contractor’s Trustee In Bankruptcy Or The Payment Bond Surety?

When a contractor goes bankrupt and the bonding company pays the subcontractors, who is entitled to the holdback funds in the owner’s hands: the contractor’s trustee in bankruptcy or the bonding company? In Iona Contractors Ltd. (Receiver of) v. Guarantee Co. of North America, the Alberta Court of Appeal recently held that the bonding company […]

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Review Of Arbitral Awards: Where Is Sattva Taking Us?

The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Creston Moly Corp. v. Sattva Capital Corp., 2014 SCC 53 (Sattva) is a seminal decision in the review of arbitral awards. That decision apparently set a wide net of protection around arbitral awards. It did so by ruling that an arbitral award interpreting a contract should usually be […]

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Can A Change To A Construction Contract Be Set Aside For Duress Or Coercion?

Building projects often give rise to heated discussions. When a change order is made in that sort of situation, can one party later say that the change order was made under duress or coercion? The Newfoundland Court of Appeal said Yes in the recent decision in Hickey’s Building Supplies Ltd. v. Sheppard. Background Facts This […]

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Can General Damages Be Awarded For The Breach Of A Building Contract?

Generally speaking, damages for a non-financial loss are not awarded for the breach of a business contract. That is because those sorts of damages are not foreseeable. The breach of a business contract may give rise to anxiety and distress, but that result is usually thought of as part of the vicissitudes and rough and […]

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Quebec Court of Appeal Awards Impact Damages

When a breach of a building contract occurs, the damages can be extensive because the breach can have an impact on the performance of other parts of the contract. For this reason, a unique aspect of construction disputes is the potential award of what are called “impact” costs or damages. In the recent decision of […]

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Subcontractor’s Lien Rights May Be Terminated By The Contractor’s Abandonment

The construction and builder’s line statutes in Canada generally provide that a lien may be lost if an action is not commenced or a lien registered within a certain period of time within the “completion or abandonment” of the work. Usually, the word “abandonment” is applied to the party claiming the lien. But in Tervita […]

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Are There Exclusive and Inclusive Definitions Of “Improvement” In The Lien Statutes?

The Saskatchewan Queen’s Bench recently considered the definition of the word “improvement” in the Builders’ Lien Act of Saskatchewan. In Propak Systems Ltd. v. Grey Owl Engineering Ltd., that court held that the lien statutes of some provinces, like British Columbia, contain “inclusive” definitions and others, like Saskatchewan’s, contain an “exclusive” definition that also requires […]

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Does Construction Insurance Apply To The Suppliers To The Project?

An important issue in construction projects is the identity of the persons covered by the insurance coverage which applies to the project. If one of the parties– say the owner or the contractor – takes out the insurance, does it cover subcontractors or suppliers? Typically the courts have been reluctant to find that the project […]

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Is A Trustee Under Payment Bond Obliged To Advise Potential Beneficiaries Of The Existence Of The Bond?

The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench recently considered an interesting issue relating to labour and material payment bonds. When a contractor requires a subcontractor to obtain such a bond, does the contractor have a duty to tell the subcontractors about the existence of the bond so that they can make a timely claim under it, […]

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