Cancellation of the COVID-19 State of Emergency – Transition from the COVID-19 Related Measures Act and the new Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, 2021

As of the end of the day on June 30, 2021, the COVID-19 State of Emergency, as previously declared under the Emergency Program Act (British Columbia), was cancelled. The Province is now in a period of transition under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, SBC 2020, c. 8. The COVID-19 Related Measures Act was adopted to enact as statute law various Ministerial Orders that had been made under the Emergency Program Act (“COVID-19 Orders”) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (more…)

New COVID-19 Restrictions in British Columbia Affecting Employers

On November 19, 2020, pursuant to the province’s ongoing state of emergency relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government announced new province-wide restrictions by order of the Provincial Health Officer, many of which affect employers, including local governments.

COVID-19 Safety Plans:

Most notably, employers are being asked to review their COVID-19 Safety Plans. We wrote about the requirement for all employers to develop and implement a COVID-19 Safety Plan in a previous blog post. WorkSafeBC has now provided a guide for employers for reviewing and updating their COVID-19 Safety Plans. The restrictions also emphasize that an employer must ensure that a worker attending the employer’s work site has done a daily health check for symptoms of COVID-19. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Update re: Temporary Suspension of Limitation Periods in BC

On April 8, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General made Ministerial Order MO98 pursuant to the Emergency Program Act, titled the Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order No. 2. This Ministerial Order replaces MO86 made on March 26, 2020.

The new Ministerial Order continues to suspend all mandatory limitation periods and any other mandatory time periods for the commencement of a “civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal” in the Provincial Court, Supreme Court or Court of Appeal. However, it has carved out an exception for limitation periods and time periods under the Builders Lien Act and certain provisions of the Strata Property Act. Therefore, limitation periods and other mandatory time periods related to builders’ liens remain in effect.

Protection Against Liability for Essential Service Providers

On April 2, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General made Ministerial Order M094 pursuant to the Emergency Program Act, RSBC 1996, c. 111, titled Protection Against Liability (COVID-19) Order. Order M094 will remain in effect until the declaration of a state of emergency expires or is cancelled, or if extended, until the last extension of the declaration expires or is cancelled. (more…)