COVID-19 Updates for Local Governments & Improvement Districts

Non-health news, announcements, information and advice from the BC government to help local governments manage and begin to open their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last updated: January 13, 2022

On this page:

  • Recovery Fund Support
    • Canada-BC Safe Restart Fund for Local Governments
    • Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program
    • COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream
  • Governance and Operations
    • Bylaw Enforcement
    • By-Elections & Assent Voting
    • Meetings
    • Bylaw Approval

Recovery Funding Support

Canada-B.C. Safe Restart Fund for Local Governments

The Canada-B.C. Safe Restart Fund will provide up to $540 million in federal and provincial funding (50/50 cost-shared) to local governments throughout British Columbia to support operating costs and revenues impact due to COVID-19.  The funding will be administered through three streams:

  • $425 million for Local Governments to address local government facility reopening and operating costs, emergency response costs, lost revenues and other COVID-19-related impacts;
  • $100 million for Strengthening Communities to support local governments in addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, the challenges posed in local communities by homelessness, and community concerns with street disorder and safety; and,
  • $15 million for Development Services to continue the work identified through the Development Approvals Process Review (DAPR) and support innovative local government efforts to improve the efficiency of development approval processes.

Read the news release and backgrounder.

Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program

The Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) will provide one-time infrastructure grants to local governments, Indigenous applicants and not-for-profit organizations for projects in communities throughout British Columbia.

Under CERIP, the Province is committing up to $100 million to support community economic resilience, tourism, heritage, and urban and rural economic development projects. The projects will help communities impacted by COVID-19 and support B.C.'s post-pandemic economic recovery.

Funding has been awarded and the program is fully allocated. Read the news release and backgrounder.

COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream

The COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream (CVRIS) will provide infrastructure grants to Indigenous applicants and not-for-profit organizations for projects in communities throughout British Columbia.

Under CVRIS, the Provincial and Federal Governments are committing up to $80 million to support building infrastructure that will help British Columbians with the significant health and socio-economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by responding to the needs of communities.

Read the news release and backgrounder.


Governance & Operations

Bylaw Enforcement Authorities

Bylaw enforcement officers are asked to continue to support efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in communities by providing information and assistance to the public on Provincial Health Office Orders.

Enforcement of local government bylaws related to COVID-19 prevention measures should be coordinated with other agencies that play a role in PHO Order compliance and enforcement, such as local health authorities and WorkSafe BC.

Learn more about bylaw enforcement.

Police and select special provincial constables (liquor, cannabis and gaming inspectors/investigators, community safety unit officers and conservation officers) continue to be empowered to issue violation tickets for infractions related specifically to violations of the PHO Orders. Ticketing and penalties are not expected to be the first course of action to address violations. Ticketing is intended for repeated/persistent patterns of non-compliance and for unsafe and aggressive behaviour.

Local State of Emergency

Section 5 of Ministerial Order M84 requires local governments to seek Ministerial approval before declaring a state of local emergency or using any powers under the Emergency Program Act in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Local governments are permitted to declare a local state of emergency under the local government legislation for other emergency situations (e.g. wildfire).

By-Elections & Assent Voting

The ministry is working with local governments and its election partners to ensure each community will have the supports they need to safely proceed with by-elections or assent votes in their communities.

A new Elections in Special Circumstances (COVID-19) Regulation is available to local governments to use as a tool to support safe by-elections and assent votes.

Learn more about by-elections and assent voting.

Meetings

The Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Order on Gatherings and Events (PDF) permits in-person public attendance at council or board meetings (subject to any requirements of regional health orders). Proof of vaccination is not required for local government business (including meetings). The authority to hold electronic meetings under the COVID Related Measures Act and Ministerial Order M192 – Local Government Meetings & Bylaw Process expired on September 28, 2021.

Local governments that want to continue to hold electronic regular and committee meetings may choose to amend their procedure bylaw to use the new electronic meeting authorities that came into force on September 29, 2021.

Learn more about local government meetings.

Bylaw Approvals

The authority for municipalities to adopt certain financial bylaws in the same date under the authority of Ministerial Order M192 expired on July 10, 2021. Local governments must adopt bylaws over two meetings in accordance with the Community Charter, section 135 - Requirements for passing bylaws.


Public Hearings

The Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Order on Gatherings and Events (PDF) permits in-person public attendance at public hearings (subject to any requirements of regional health orders). Under this order, proof of vaccination is not required for local government business (including council and board meetings. 

Local governments are now authorized to hold electronic public hearings. Changes to the Local Government Act, sections 465 and 466 (and other sections), took effect September 29, 2021 giving local governments the flexibility to choose the hearing format that best suits their current circumstancesin person, electronic, or a hybrid format. Proof of vaccination is not required for local government business (including public meetings).

(Note that the earlier emergency authority to hold electronic hearings under the COVID Related Measures Act and Ministerial Order M192 – Local Government Meetings & Bylaw Process expired on September 28, 2021).

Local governments are not required to authorize hearing procedures in their procedure bylaw to hold electronic hearings. However, those local governments that have included hearing procedures in their procedure bylaw are encouraged to review and update it as necessary to accommodate the new legislative framework.

Learn more about public hearings.


Finances

Local governments are encouraged to maintain a strong level of cash assets, prioritize core municipal operations, and possibly defer non-essential capital expenditures until the COVID-19 pandemic no longer poses a threat to municipal revenue.

In 2020, government provided a suite of temporary financial measures to assist liquidity and provide financial supports for local governments, including:

  • Borrowing interest free from existing statutory reserve funds
  • Carrying over 2020 revenue anticipation borrowing into 2021
  • Allowing municipalities the discretion to delay tax sales and redemption period by an additional year
  • Delaying remittance on school taxes until the end of the calendar year (December 31, 2020)

The above measures only applied for the 2020 calendar year. Commencing 2021, these measures will no longer be in place. However, any borrowing from reserves funds in 2020 is still subject to the repayment terms under EPA Order M159.

Read the news release and backgrounder.

Bylaws

Bylaw and supporting information submission can be done electronically through LGgovernance@gov.bc.ca. A scan of a certified bylaw at third reading may be submitted for approval.

  • Local Government Data Entry (LGDE) forms and LGDE tax forms can be submitted through the LGDE system
  • There is a “Document Submission” option in the LGDE system that will allow local governments to submit other financial documents through the LGDE system, including:
    • SOFI reports
    • Audited financial statements
    • Adopted annual financial plan bylaw
    • Adopted annual property value tax bylaw
  • Questions regarding this new submission portal or other financial questions can be emailed to LGDE@gov.bc.ca 

Manual mail submissions will still be accepted. Mail submissions may take longer to process. 

Submitting Financial Reports

In 2020, the deadline for annual reports, Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) reports, audited financial statements and Local Government Data Entry (LGDE) forms was extended to August 31, 2020.

In 2021, the submission deadline for the financial reports reverts back to the dates stipulated in legislation:

  • Financial Reporting Forms: Local governments are required to submit an annual Local Government Data Entry (LGDE) form.  Local governments must submit to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs their forms by May 15Learn more about financial reporting forms
  • Statement of Financial Information: The statement of financial information must be made available for public viewing by June 30th and be accessible for the following three years in accordance with the Financial Information Act

Improvement District Governance & Finance

Annual General Meetings & Elections

The current Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Order on Gatherings and Events (PHO Order) now permits limited public attendance at meetings, including improvement district annual general meetings (AGMs).

Improvement district meetings and elections must follow the public health and safety measures required by the PHO and WorkSafeBC and improvement districts are encouraged to continue to monitor PHO Orders and BC’s response to COVID 19. Meetings must adhere to the rules for organized gatherings under B.C.’s Restart plan.

It is recommended that improvement districts spread out in-person interactions by holding elections separate from AGMs. Ministerial Order M336 (Order M336) provides improvement districts with the authority to set an election date separate from their AGM. Order M336 also removes the requirement that improvement districts hold an AGM during the time frame set out in its Letters Patent (e.g. January 1 to May 1).  

Improvement districts that wish to hold electronic AGMs must submit an amended meeting procedure bylaw for registration with the Inspector of Municipalities. Improvement district elections must be held in-person.

Finance

Regardless of when the 2021 AGM is held, the 2020 Audited Financial Statements must be presented to the improvement district board of trustees for acceptance and then submitted to the Ministry no later than May 15, 2021. Immediately following the 2021 AGM, trustees list, statistics and AGM minutes must be submitted to LGIF@gov.bc.ca.

Electronic Meetings

The authority to hold electronic meetings under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act and Ministerial Order 192 expired on July 10, 2021.

Improvement districts that wish to continue to hold electronic meetings beyond July 10, 2021 or hold electronic meetings during future emergencies must amend their meeting procedure bylaw and submit it for registration with the Inspector of Municipalities.

For questions regarding governance and meetings please contact LGgovernance@gov.bc.ca.

For questions regarding improvement district finance please contact your Financial Analyst or LGIF@gov.bc.ca

Learn more about improvement districts.