Alberta is the latest province to become an “opt-out” jurisdiction for class actions. The revised legislation will enable all qualified plaintiffs to participate in a class action, unless they “opt-out” or formally decline to make a claim should a settlement be reached.

However, lawyers doubt the province's new rules, which could take effect in early 2011, will make Alberta a preferred jurisdiction for plaintiff lawyers launching national class actions.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec and Nova Scotia also have “opt-out” class action regimes. However, British Columbia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick are “opt-in” jurisdictions, where plaintiffs are left to take the necessary steps to participate in class actions.

Barry Glaspell, a partner in the Toronto office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, says that all provinces need to get on the same page to facilitate national class actions. He notes that Alberta's legislation requires plaintiff lawyers to notify lawyers in other provinces who have filed similar class actions with a national scope, and the matter could be deferred to a more populated jurisdiction.

“There is an increasing tendency toward national class actions in Canada, particularly in pure economic loss cases and personal injury,” says Barry. Provinces should make an effort to harmonize their class action legislation to avoid conflicts, carriage fights and, ultimately, higher costs, he adds.

He also advises that each province should keep a formal registry of class actions, along with the Canadian Bar Association's National Class Action Database.