Many administrative decisions call for meticulous factual determinations. The interests at stake may be serious. For example, whether one obtains immigration status to remain and work in Canada, whether one is granted parole from prison, whether a new television station secures a broadcasting licence, whether a licensed restaurant loses its liquor permit, whether a business person is barred for life from trading in shares on the stock exchange and from holding an office or directorship in any corporation, whether one can build a planned building on one's property, whether a physician loses privileges to work in a hospital - these are critical decisions which are likely to influence one's ability to earn a living or deal with one's private property. Quasi-judicial powers are discretionary, almost judicial, in nature. Since they are exercised by administrators, not courtroom judges, they are called "quasi-judicial". The quasi-judicial characterization means the administrative process in which it occurs approximates the formal procedures of courtroom litigation. In other words, if the stakes are higher, the procedural safeguards are more rigorous.
Most decisions of civil servants involve no dispute or consideration "on the merits". The renewal of driving, pet and other licences, the admittance of a Canadian citizen back into the country, the registration of interests in a Land Titles Office, the incorporation of a company, the enrollment of a child into a public school and the payment of a fine in traffic court are examples of routine administrative actions. They leave little room for decision-maker discretion or political interference. Once specified determinants are satisfied, for example, for the issuance or renewal of a passport or the application for social services benefits, the government action is routine and virtually certain. Procedural protections for these merely administrative acts are minimal. Otherwise formalities and appeals would paralyze government administration. Only procedural fairness is required, loosely meaning the administrator has to follow the rules, demonstrate honesty, and avoid insidious discrimination and malice toward the person. Some believe that natural justice and procedural fairness are merging into a concept known today as "the duty to be fair."
Review of an official's or board's decision by a court. The law courts enjoy the inherent power to review the legality of administrative actions. That is because courts exist to interpret legislation, including the delegation of legislative power to administrators. They have also long used the prerogative remedies to exercise supervisory jurisdiction over lower courts and other tribunals. The applicant usually asks for one of the Latin "prerogative writs" described in the box below (because they were traditionally a form of royal prerogative). They were used to control the servants of the Crown. All these remedies are within the discretion of the reviewing judge.