Employment Standards Act Temporary COVID-19 Layoff Provision Extended

In the context of the novel coronavirus, employers in British Columbia, including local governments, have been increasingly faced with difficult decisions relating to contracts of employment. Employers are contending with the need to balance their obligations towards employees with the practical and financial realities of maintaining operations. In the present circumstances, employers are therefore increasingly resorting to layoffs as a means of attenuating the financial and operational impact of COVID-19. (more…)

New Local Government Meetings and Bylaw Process Order (MO192)

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. (more…)

WorkSafeBC requires all employers to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan

Worker safety has been at the forefront of the operational concerns raised by employers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the province implements its Return Plan and workplaces, including local governments, cautiously reopen their doors, there is an urgent public health interest in preventing the spread of coronavirus. To this end, WorkSafeBC has released guidelines relating to COVID-19 and Returning to Safe Operation – Phase 2  in order to help employers navigate their heightened obligations to employees. In addition, WorkSafeBC has now required all employers to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan which outlines the policies, guidelines and procedures the employer has put in place in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. (more…)

Damages Claim Relating to a Zoning Error Dismissed for Failing to Establish a Private Law Duty of Care Where Only a Public Duty Existed

The BC Supreme Court recently dismissed an action brought against the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (the “RDOS”) by a land owner and developer seeking lost profits and other damages relating to the alleged frustration of his attempts to move forward with a planned large-scale development. Jeff Locke and Josh Krusell of Stewart McDannold Stuart successfully defended the RDOS in this proceeding. The developer’s claim largely related to the decision of the RDOS Board to down-zone the subject property after it was discovered that the property had been inadvertently up-zoned years earlier. (more…)

New Local Government Finance (COVID-19) Order

On May 15, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued a new order under the Emergency Program Act that relates to local government financial matters affected by COVID-19.

Borrowing from Reserve Funds

The order states that municipalities, regional districts, improvement districts, and other specified bodies may, during the 2020 calendar year, borrow from reserve funds, on certain conditions.  The money borrowed must be used for operational shortfalls during 2020, and must be repaid to the applicable fund by the end of 2025. No interest need be charged.  If money remains outstanding at the end of 2025, that money must be added to the 2026 financial plan, budget or estimate, as applicable, as a cash transfer to reserves, plus a penalty equal to 5% of the outstanding amount. (more…)

Court Finds that Zoning Bylaw is Consistent with Official Community Plan and Denies Challenge Brought by Community Association against High-density Development

The B.C. Supreme Court recently dismissed a judicial review petition challenging the validity of a Town of Gibsons zoning bylaw amendment on grounds that it conflicted with the Official Community Plan (OCP) by allowing for a new high-density residential development in Gibsons. (more…)

Court of Appeal weighs in on Application of Vavilov to Local Governments

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada in the decision of Canada (Minister of Immigration) v Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65 (“Vavilov”), revised the test for determining the applicable standard of review in judicial review decisions. Following Vavilov, the default standard of review is reasonableness, subject to a few very specific exceptions. For a more detailed analysis of Vavilov see a summary of the decision previously published on our website here.

As most types of local government decisions do not fall into the limited exceptions, we have been waiting to see how the new judicial review test and framework will play out in the context of local government decisions. We recently provided analysis of a local government judicial review in the post-Vavilov world conducted by the BC Supreme Court, which can be found here. (more…)

New Local Government Meetings and Bylaw Process (COVID-19) Order

On May 1, 2020 the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued the Local Government Meetings and Bylaw Process (COVID-19) Order No. 2. Ministerial Order No. 83/2020 (as referred to in our March 26, 2020 post) is repealed.

The new Order continues and expands upon the provisions of Ministerial Order 83/2020, by providing that the ability to hold an open meeting without the public being present is extended to a trust body, or a board of variance established by a local trust committee under the Islands Trust Act. For regional districts, the new Order makes it clear that in addition to boards and board committees, other bodies established by a regional district, such as a commission, are not required to allow members of the public to attend an open meeting. The ability to hold electronic meetings is similarly extended to other regional district bodies, to a trust body or board of variance under the Islands Trust Act, and to improvement district boards and their committees. For improvement districts, an annual general meeting is not permitted to be held by means of electronic or other communication facilities, but the new Order allows an improvement district to defer the date of its annual general meeting, and the preparation of its financial statements, to December 31, 2020. (more…)

Court Approval of Waiver of Liability Clauses Contained in Section 219 Covenants

Recently, in Nelson v British Columbia (Environment), 2020 BCSC 479 (“Nelson”), the BC Supreme Court examined and ultimately approved a broad exclusion of liability clause contained in a restrictive covenant registered on title to property pursuant to section 219 of the Land Title Act, RSBC 1996, c. 250 (the “LTA”).

Under the LTA, an Approving Officer may, as a condition of approving a subdivision, require that a restrictive covenant be registered on title to the lands being subdivided “if the approving officer considers that the land is, or could reasonably be expected to be, subject to flooding, erosion, land slip or avalanche”.  Under the LTA, such covenants may contain terms “of a negative or positive nature”.  The LTA also makes express provision for the inclusion of indemnity provisions whereby the subdividing party, and the successors in title to that party, may be obliged to indemnify the subdividing authority for matters addressed in the covenant. (more…)

Changing Property Tax Due Dates and Penalties in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Under section 234 of the Community Charter, July 2 is the date on which property taxes for a year are due under the general tax collection scheme. The Municipal Tax Regulation provides that if all or part of the property taxes payable under the general tax collection scheme remain unpaid after July 2, the collector must add a penalty equal to 10% of the portion that remains unpaid. Under the general tax collection scheme, a municipal council does not have the authority to change the due date, or to provide any relief from the penalty provisions of the Municipal Tax Regulation. So far, the Province has not changed the due date under the general tax collection scheme in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, or the penalty provisions under the Municipal Tax Regulation. (more…)