Adlair Aviation lost gov't medevac contract fair and square, Nunavut judge rules

Justice Paul Bychok decided against Adlair Aviation in its civil suit alleging the Government of Nunavut improperly awarded an air ambulance contract in 2011 to one of Adlair’s competitors.

Judge says Adlair's lawyer 'failed the most basic ethical obligations of a lawyer'

A Nunavut judge has found in favour of the Government of Nunavut in a civil suit filed by Adlair Aviation. Adlair Aviation sued for $31.5 million, arguing the government did not act properly in awarding of a medevac contract for the Kitikmeot region in 2011. (CBC)

A Nunavut judge has ruled that the territorial government did not act improperly in awarding a 2011 air ambulance contract, dismissing a civil suit brought by Cambridge Bay-based airline Adlair Aviation.

The airline argued the government asked follow-up questions to the eventual winner of the medevac request for proposals, but not Adlair, when its application was missing the numerical breakdown of how it would address the territory's Inuit employment requirements.

The contract winner, Aqsaqniq Airways, a partner of Yellowknife-based Air Tindi, was asked about its number of staff, schedules, and whether its aircraft would be able to service the region.

Justice Paul Bychok said asking for these clarifications was not the same as asking for missing information, and while Adlair's lawyer, Ed Brodgen, argued the airlines' proposals were treated differently, Bychok found "no merit" in the argument.

In a summary judgment released Friday, he found Adlair's proposal "deficient" and determined there was no evidence to contradict that the contract had been awarded fairly.

No backdoor deal

Adlair also argued it was more than coincidence that a separate civil suit filed by another Air Tindi partner airline — arguing the territorial government had inappropriately awarded a medevac contract — was dropped after Aqsaqniq Airways won the 2011 contract.

Brodgen argued that awarding the contract to Aqsaqniq was part of a backdoor deal meant to make the other Air Tindi partner's suit go away.

However, Bychok said Brodgen was unable to provide any evidence of this and that the court must make decisions based on evidence tested in court, and not suspicions. Brodgen was also unable to make a legal argument of government wrongdoing, Bychok said in his judgment.

"Mr. Brodgen submitted the defendants 'violated the laws and principles of the Regulations of Nunavut,'" the judgment read. "However, he made no specific reference to any Nunavut law or regulation which he claims the defendants violated."

'Virtually incomprehensible'

Bychok said Brodgen should have assessed the case after all the evidence was reviewed and made the decision not to move forward with the suit then.

Bychok said moving forward with the application "squandered" the court's time and resources because there was little to go on and some of Brodgen's arguments were "virtually incomprehensible."

In April 2016, Bychok ruled that affidavits submitted by Brodgen on behalf of Adlair were inadmissible because they were based on "hearsay and speculation."

In his argument to move the case to trial, Bychok said Brodgen's arguments were "rambling," "without focus," and "failed to contain any references to the law."

In his decision, he said Brodgen "failed the most basic ethical obligations of a lawyer" by not keeping up to date with the area of law and not putting his client's best possible case forward.

Bychok awarded legal costs to the Government of Nunavut at the higher of the two rates available to judges in civil court.

The Government of Nunavut has 10 business days to submit a bill of its legal costs.

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