Insurance Institute – Tax Court of Canada finds that the parties’ subjective intention not to be employer-employee can, to some extent, override objective indicia of their relationship

Graham J wrestled with the implications of the finding in Connor Homes that significant weight should be given to the subjective intention of the parties as to whether they were in an employer-employee, rather than independent contractor, relationship, before applying the objective indicia of whether there was an employment relationship set out in Wiebe Door and Sagaz (i.e., control, ownership of tools, opportunity for profit, and risk of financial loss). He considered that what this meant was that where, as here, the parties (an NPO providing educational services to industry members, and an instructor retained by it) clearly intended their relationship to be that of independent contractors rather than of employer and employee, it was not fatal that an application of the above objective factors indicated that there was an employment relationship. Instead, all that was required in such circumstances was that they “carry on their relationship in a manner that is similar to [rather than the same as] what one would expect from their intentions.”

Thus, although here, application of the four objective factors by themselves would have indicated an employment relationship, that application only fell somewhat short of the mark (e.g., although the instructor had no risk of loss, he had an opportunity for gain in the somewhat limited sense of “an ability to increase his effective earnings through up-front investment and efficiencies in a manner similar to that of an independent contractor”), so that their relationship was that of independent contractors.

Neal Armstrong. Summary of Insurance Institute of Ontario v. M.N.R., 2020 TCC 69 under s. 5(1).