All written decisions should contain a section which sets out how the decision-maker arrived at the decision. The important components of an analysis are:
- Findings and how they are supported by the evidence; and
- Reason why the parties’ submissions were accepted or rejected.
The most common problem with written decisions is that they do not provide reasons or rationale. Instead, they often reach a broad conclusion without supporting rationale. In situations where there is conflicting evidence, the reasons should identify the decision-maker’s rationale for giving one piece of evidence more weight than another. As the decision-maker, ask yourself these questions: “Why did I accept this piece of evidence over another? Why was a certain piece of evidence more relevant in relation to the specific legislation?”
As Sara Blake, a recognized expert on administrative law, points out:
“It is not sufficient to outline the evidence and argument and then state the tribunal’s conclusion. Nor is it sufficient to repeat the applicable statutory provisions. That does not reveal the rationale for a decision. The most common fault in tribunal reasons is the failure to explain ‘why’. With respect to each important conclusion of contested fact, law and policy, the reasons should answer the question, ‘Why did the tribunal reach that conclusion?’ Most importantly, reasons must explain why the material aspects of the position advocated by the losing party were rejected.
“Reasons need not be lengthy. In most cases, a few sentences explaining the rationale for each material conclusion is sufficient. Reasons need not be given on every minor point raised during the proceeding nor must reference be made to every item of evidence…A transcript of the tribunal’s deliberations is no substitute for reasons, as it reveals only musings and observations by the panel members without coherently explaining the rationale agreed to by the panel…”