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 Ministerial Order No. 83/2020 (as referred to in our March 26, 2020 post) is repealed.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.
Most significantly, section 15(1) of the new Order provides that a public hearing under Part 14 of the Local Government Act may be conducted by means of electronic or other communications facilities. For the purposes of providing notice of a public hearing conducted under section 15(1), the notice must include instructions for how to participate in the public hearing by means of electronic or other communication facilities. The material that is to be made available for public inspection for the purposes of the public hearing may be made available online or otherwise by means of electronic or other communication facilities. Additionally, a reference in the notice to the place of the public hearing includes a public hearing that is conducted by means of electronic or other communication facilities. The Order also applies to a delegated public hearings. Local governments wanting to hold a public hearing under the authority of the new Order will need to carefully consider the extent to which the common law requirements of procedural fairness continue to apply.
The new Order is in effect and applies only during the period that the Provincial state of emergency remains in effect.