dimanche 24 août 2014

Dimanches rétro: la fonction essentiel de l'intérêt est de compenser le créancier pour le non-paiement d'une somme d'argent qui lui est due de sorte que la législation provincial qui prévoit le paiement d'intérêts est intra vires

par Karim Renno
Irving Mitchell Kalichman s.e.n.c.r.l.

Dans le cadre de la présente édition des Dimanches rétro nous remontons à 1947 pour traiter de l'affaire Reference as to the Validity of Section 6 of the Farm Security Act, 1944 of Saskatchewan ([1947] SCR 394) où la Cour suprême du Canada traite de la nature fondamentale de l'intérêt sur des sommes d'argent dues et la possibilité pour de la législation provinciale de valablement prévoir le paiement d'intérêt.

Dans cette affaire, la Cour était saisie de la question relative à la validité constitutionnelle de l'article 6 du Farm Security Act de la Saskatchewan. Celui-ci prévoyait une méthode particulière de calcul de l'intérêt sur des montants dûs en vertu de la loi.
Il était plaidé que cet article était ultra vires des pouvoirs du législateur provincial puisque l'intérêt est une compétence exclusive fédérale.
Dans un jugement majoritaire, la Cour suprême vient confirmer la validité constitutionnelle de l'article en question. Comme le souligne l'Honorable juge Rand, l'essence de l'intérêt est de compenser le préjudice subi par le créancier d'une somme d'argent lorsque celle-ci n'est pas payée promptement. Cette "sanction" civile est donc accessoires aux pouvoirs des provinces et donc intra vires:
Interest is, in general terms, the return or consideration or compensation for the use or retention by one person of a sum of money, belonging to, in a colloquial sense, or owed to, another. There may be other essential characteristics but they are not material here. The relation of the obligation to pay interest to that of the principal sum has been dealt with in a number of cases including: Economic Life Assur. Society v. Usborne and of Duff J. in Union Investment Co. v. Wells; from which it is clear that the former, depending on its terms, may be independent of the latter, or that both may be integral parts of a single obligation or that interest may be merely accessory to principal. 
But the definition, as well as the obligation, assumes that interest is referrable to a principal in money or an obligation to pay money. Without that relational structure in fact and whatever the basis of calculating or determining the amount, no obligation to pay money or property can be deemed an obligation to pay interest. 
Apart then from the difficulties presented in a plan for the payment of interest and principal to which section 6 of the Interest Act would apply, and to cases where by special stipulation interest becomes more than merely an accessory to principal, and whatever else may be intended, the indisputable effect of section 6 must be taken to be a reduction of the principal and the maintenance of the quantum of interest as if that deduction had not been made. That effect cannot here be overborne by any play with the words of inconsistent conceptions; we are bound to treat the statutory language as language of reality, and as carrying its plain and unequivocal meaning. On this view, and, assuming for practical purposes what seems to be implied by section 2 of the Interest Act, that interest involves a “rate” relationship to the principal, the statute works a change of rate as the principal is diminished, which, in the Crowd’s contention, is legislation in relation to interest, a field of civil rights committed exclusively to the Dominion. 
Mr. Mason argues that the enactment is designed to promote the stability of agriculture and is valid under section 95 of the Confederation Act. The immediate operation of the statute is put on the theory of the prevention of the annual growth of certain debts where crop failure prevents the parallel growth of the wealth out of which economically and generally it is said they are contemplated to be paid, accomplished by extending to the creditor the risk of that failure now borne alone by the debtor; but viewed most favourably to the provincial contention, the statute only in a most limited manner embodies that conception. 
It is confined to creditors who have security for debt on land and it assumes that in substance it is only to that land and its fruits they look for payment, and that the fortunes of the debt should be deemed wrapped up in the fortunes of its security. It does not apply to farmers who have availed themselves of the benefits of the Farmers’ Arrangements Acts of the Dominion, although why on the theory advanced they should be denied its benefit is difficult to see. Then clause 8, by giving the Mediation Board power to exclude a contract or class of contracts, and having regard to clause 7, enables the benefit of the section to be overborne by economic or even ethical considerations quite incompatible with the notion of a debt contractually conditioned in a genuine risk; and whatever the legislature may have had in mind, the section invests the Board with a power to restrict its application to any condition or to any class of debtors whatever. 
The conclusion of the argument is that with such a purpose in view, the effect on the contract of interest is incidental to legislation valid under the principle of the decision of the Judicial Committee in Ladore v. Bennett. The ratio decidendi of that case rested on the provincial power to create and dissolve municipal organizations for local government, including the delimitation of their capacity to incur liability; and the view that contracts with these bodies stipulating for interest are made subject to that power; legislation dealing in substance with such institutions might therefore incidentally affect contracts of interest.
Référence : [2014] ABD Rétro 34

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