The tendering and procurement process in Canada has traditionally been treated by the courts as a special area of contract law in which fairness and protecting the integrity of the tender process have been guiding principles. Courts have implied terms into contract “A” bid contracts that have obliged owners to act fairly, and wide discretionary clauses have been interpreted narrowly to ensure the integrity of the tendering process.
Owners looking to maximize their control over the selection of contractors have continued to fine-tune instructions to bidders and attempt to limit their own liability. How far will the courts go to intervene in these commercial contracts because of the special status historically bestowed on the tendering process? In a 5 – 4 split decision, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has delivered its views in the case of Tercon Contractors Ltd. v. British Columbia (Ministry of Transportation and Highways), 2010 SCC 4. The SCC has highlighted the importance of maintaining the integrity of the tendering process and treating bidders fairly, but has also “laid to rest” the doctrine of fundamental breach in connection with exclusion clauses and provided guidelines for the future preparation and analysis of tender documents.