Bhasin v. Hrynew, 2014 SCC 71:
Canadian common law in relation to good faith performance of contracts is piecemeal, unsettled and unclear. Two incremental steps are in order to make the common law more coherent and more just. The first step is to acknowledge that good faith contractual performance is a general organizing principle of the common law of contract which underpins and informs the various rules in which the common law, in various situations and types of relationships, recognizes obligations of good faith contractual performance. The second step is to recognize, as a further manifestation of this organizing principle of good faith, that there is a common law duty which applies to all contracts to act honestly in the performance of contractual obligations. Taking these two steps will put in place a duty that is just, that accords with the reasonable expectations of commercial parties and that is sufficiently precise that it will enhance rather than detract from commercial certainty.
There is an organizing principle of good faith that parties generally must perform their contractual duties honestly and reasonably and not capriciously or arbitrarily. An organizing principle states in general terms a requirement of justice from which more specific legal doctrines may be derived. An organizing principle therefore is not a free‑standing rule, but rather a standard that underpins and is manifested in more specific legal doctrines and may be given different weight in different situations. It is a standard that helps to understand and develop the law in a coherent and principled way.
The organizing principle of good faith exemplifies the notion that, in carrying out his or her own performance of the contract, a contracting party should have appropriate regard to the legitimate contractual interests of the contracting partner. While "appropriate regard" for the other party's interests will vary depending on the context of the contractual relationship, it does not require acting to serve those interests in all cases. It merely requires that a party not seek to undermine those interests in bad faith. This general principle has strong conceptual differences from the much higher obligations of a fiduciary. Unlike fiduciary duties, good faith performance does not engage duties of loyalty to the other contracting party or a duty to put the interests of the other contracting party first.
This organizing principle of good faith manifests itself through the existing doctrines about the types of situations and relationships in which the law requires, in certain respects, honest, candid, forthright or reasonable contractual performance. Generally, claims of good faith will not succeed if they do not fall within these existing doctrines. However, this list is not closed. The application of the organizing principle of good faith to particular situations should be developed where the existing law is found to be wanting and where the development may occur incrementally in a way that is consistent with the structure of the common law of contract and gives due weight to the importance of private ordering and certainty in commercial affairs.
The approach of recognizing an overarching organizing principle but accepting the existing law as the primary guide to future development is appropriate in the development of the doctrine of good faith. Good faith may be invoked in widely varying contexts and this calls for a highly context‑specific understanding of what honesty and reasonableness in performance require so as to give appropriate consideration to the legitimate interests of both contracting parties.
The principle of good faith must be applied in a manner that is consistent with the fundamental commitments of the common law of contract which generally places great weight on the freedom of contracting parties to pursue their individual self‑interest. In commerce, a party may sometimes cause loss to another — even intentionally — in the legitimate pursuit of economic self‑interest. Doing so is not necessarily contrary to good faith and in some cases has actually been encouraged by the courts on the basis of economic efficiency. The development of the principle of good faith must be clear not to veer into a form of ad hoc judicial moralism or "palm tree" justice. In particular, the organizing principle of good faith should not be used as a pretext for scrutinizing the motives of contracting parties.