Alberta’s “New” Streamlined Trials


On January 1, 2024, some amendments to the Alberta Rules of Court will come into force, altering the procedure by which civil actions can be adjudicated summarily.  The new amendments entirely repeal Part 7, Division 3 of the Rules, which pertains to Summary Trials, and that part is replaced by a new Part 8, Division 5, which pertains to “Streamlined Trials”.  While there are some similarities between the old “Summary Trials”, and the new “Streamlined Trials”, there are also some crucial differences.  “Summary trials” are considered to be an underutilized tool in the litigator’s arsenal, and the amendments pertaining to “Streamlined Trials” appear intended to encourage more parties to use this litigation tool to resolve contentious matters and issues in a more streamlined and efficient manner. 

For instance, Streamlined Trials can be imposed by the Court on its own motion (for instance, during a case conference), or via an application made by one or more party (R. 8.25).  This gives the Court a more significant say in scheduling matters to be resolved via Streamlined Trials where that would be appropriate.

In an application on whether or not a matter should be referred to a Streamlined Trial, the Court will consider “statements by the parties of the issues to be resolved” and “outlines of the evidence that would be called at the streamlined trial.”  Unlike the old “Summary Trials”, there is no longer a reference to a requirement to lead substantive affidavit evidence in an application to schedule a matter to be decided via a Streamlined Trial (see R. 8.27).  This could lead to more efficiency in bringing applications to schedule matters for a Streamlined Trial.

In terms of the procedure to be used at Streamlined Trials, the default procedure is that evidence will be entered via affidavits (R. 8.30(2)), although the new rules do contemplate that some oral evidence and live cross-examination could be permitted (see R. 8.25(3)).  This procedure gives the parties and the Court greater flexibility in determining the best procedure to resolve particular issues at a Streamlined Trial. 

Rule 8.28 makes the parties jointly responsible for preparing the “record” for a Streamlined Trial.  The new rules encourage parties to create common exhibit books and, where possible, agree to non-contentious facts to focus the Streamlined Trial on the real issues in dispute.

Rule 8.31 indicates that, at the conclusion of a Streamlined Trial, the presiding judge must grant judgment.  Unlike the old “Summary Trials”, there is no longer a provision which gives the judge a residual discretion to refuse to issue judgment – for example, if the judge is not satisfied that the Court has a sufficient record to determine the issue summarily.  While this does reduce the presiding Justice’s discretion to refuse to grant judgment, this Rule will ensure that the parties put their best foot forward to ensure the matter can be properly determined on its merits. 

While the new “Streamlined Trials” bear some similarities to the old “Summary Trials”, the new procedure gives the Court, and the parties, greater flexibility in scheduling matters to be determined via a Streamlined Trial, and in setting the procedure to be used in a Streamlined Trial.  Time will tell whether these new procedures lead to greater efficiencies, and reduced litigation costs for litigants. 

This post is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this post to be outdated.


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