Rule 6.01 of the Rules of Civil Procedure permits the court to consolidate multiple proceedings or order that they be heard at the same time or immediately after the other.
This relief can be granted if the proceedings have a question of law or fact in common; if the relief claimed arises out of the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences; or for any other reason such an order ought to be made.
The purposes of rule 6.01 are to avoid a multiplicity of proceedings, to promote the most expeditious and least expensive resolution of disputes, and to avoid inconsistent judicial findings.
In Patterson v. Stewart Title Guaranty Company, 2020 ONSC 4609, Justice Boswell stated that both consolidation and hearing together essentially accomplish the same goal, but in slightly different ways.
Consolidation compresses two actions into one. It allows for one set of pleadings, one set of discoveries, a common pre-trial, and a single trial, with no prospect of inconsistent findings. Further, consolidation prevents the potential for multiple actions to proceed at different paces. One of the downsides to a consolidation order is that it requires the redrafting of pleadings.
An order that multiple actions be heard together (or one after the other) also guards against inconsistent findings. However, it does not provide for one set of pleadings, one set of discoveries, and one pre-trial, and it does not guarantee one trial. It does not guard against the risk that the multiple actions proceed at different paces. Further, it does not provide for the sharing of evidence among all parties to the actions.
That being said, the court can make ancillary orders to address these issues, such as an order requiring common discoveries and for all parties in all actions to exchange affidavits of documents. The court can also order a common pre-trial.
Therefore, there is not a great deal of difference between an order consolidating actions and an order that multiple actions be heard together or one after the other, with terms.