On June 17, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued a new order under the Emergency Program Act relating to local government meetings and timing requirements for bylaw passage, with the intent of moving local governments toward more normal operations.
Ministerial Order 192 (which can be found here) repeals and replaces MO139. While still permitting flexible conduct of local government business in light of COVID-19, such as conducting public hearings and Council or Board meetings electronically where necessary, MO192 requires local governments to commence more normal operations by making “best efforts” to allow members of the public to attend open meetings of the local government.
If, despite best efforts, attendance of members of the public cannot be safely accommodated, the Council or Board must adopt a resolution providing the rationale for the continued need to meet without the public present and describing the measures being taken to nonetheless ensure the principles of openness, transparency and accessibility are met.
MO192 also requires that local governments make best efforts to provide facilities that enable the public to hear, or watch and hear, meetings that are held wholly or in part electronically. Again, a resolution must be adopted if the local government is unable to provide facilities for the public to hear, or watch and hear, electronic meetings, setting out the reasons for not providing facilities for the public to listen or observe electronic meetings and describing the measures being taken to ensure the principles of openness, transparency and accessibility are met.
Lastly, MO192 eliminates the prior authority under MO139 for regional district boards to adopt a bylaw by simple majority at the same meeting as third reading, and limits expedited same-day bylaw adoption by municipal councils to only certain financial and taxation bylaws. Regional districts continue to have the general authority under s. 228 of the Local Government Act to adopt certain bylaws at the same meeting as third reading, provided the motion for adoption receives at least 2/3 of the votes cast.
Further guidance on best practices and what constitutes “best efforts” can be found here in the Guidance document prepared by the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.