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: June 18, 2021

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Restarting Local Governments

On May 25, 2021 the provincial government launched BC’s Restart, as a four-step plan to bring British Columbians back together and allow for a slow and gradual return to normal life.

BC’s Restart was designed based on data from the BC Centre for Disease Control and guided by public health advice. Progression through the four steps will be measured by the number of people vaccinated, COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations and deaths, while taking into account new clusters and outbreaks. The restart plan has approximate dates for each step, but progressing from one step to the next will be guided by data, not dates, and advancement to the next step will not happen until it is safe to do so based on guidance from public health and the latest available data.

The reopening of local governments, businesses and other organizations must comply with public health and safety guidance from the Provincial Health Office and WorkSafeBC. Sector associations will work with public health and WorkSafeBC to update sector guidelines to meet updated public health guidance. Based on the updated sector guidelines, all updated workplace safety plans should be ready by July 1, 2021.

As guidelines change for different sectors, local governments may need to update their COVID-19 Safety Plans to account for changes, depending on the services they provide – for example, as of May 25, low intensity indoor fitness classes are once again permitted. 

For more detailed information on the four steps visit:

Please visit the B.C. government COVID-19 web site for more information about the steps and updates to public health guidance, as well as the WorkSafeBC COVID-19 web pages and the BC Centre for Disease Control COVID-19 web pages.


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.

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.

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.


Governance & Operations

Bylaw Enforcement

Order M314 authorizes police and other enforcement officers the ability to issue $2,000 violation tickets for contraventions of the Provincial Health Officer’s order on gatherings and events, and $200 violation tickets for individuals not following the direction of police or enforcement staff at events, or engaging in unsafe or aggressive behaviour at large gatherings or in businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

By-Elections & Assent Voting

Local governments with council or board vacancies will determine when to hold by-elections in consultation with public health officials and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

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.

Meetings

The current Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Order on Gatherings and Events (PDF) now permits limited in-person public attendance at council or board meetings (subject to the PHO Order on Gatherings and Events and safety guidelines). Local governments can continue to hold electronic meetings under the authority of Ministerial Order M192.

Under Ministerial Order M192 local governments must continue to make best efforts to hold council and board meetings that are open to the public and to provide facilities that enable the public to hear, or watch and hear electronic meetings. Local governments must continue to ensure openness, transparency, accessibility and accountability in respect of the meeting.

Approval Processes

Local governments that have projects requiring an alternative approval process (AAP) will want to consider health and safety procedures for the AAP process. This may include how the public will access and submit AAP forms while physical distancing, increased communication to ensure the public are informed and providing a longer time line for the AAP process.

Local governments that need to proceed with assent voting in their community will want to reference the guidance material provided by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

Bylaw Approvals

Municipalities may continue to do three readings and the adoption of certain financial bylaws in the same day under the authority of Ministerial Order M192. This authority will expire on July 10, 2021 after which time local governments must adopt bylaws over two meetings in accordance with the Community Charter, section 135 - Requirements for passing bylaws.

Local governments may find there are longer timelines for the bylaw approvals process provided by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

If a bylaw requires urgent review, please provide a rationale for why it is critical to operations when the bylaw is sent for review. Email bylaws to LGgovernance@gov.bc.ca.


Public Hearings

Local governments are required to hold public hearings prior to adopting certain land use bylaws, such as official community plans (OCPs) and some zoning bylaw amendments.

At a public hearing, persons who believe that their interest in a property is affected by a proposed land use bylaw must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard or to present written submissions.

The current (PHO) Order on Gatherings and Events (PDF) now permits limited in-person public attendance at public hearings (subject to the PHO Order on Gatherings and Events and safety guidelines). Also, for the near future, the COVID-19 Related Measures Act (CRMA) and Ministerial Order M192 - Local Government Meetings & Bylaw Process (PDF) continue to apply, allowing local governments to hold electronic public hearings. This gives local governments the flexibility to choose the hearing format that best suits their current circumstances—in-person, electronic, or a hybrid format.

Find ways to keep people informed of any changes to public hearing processes – through the local government website and by using social media platforms.


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 public health.

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.

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

Bylaws

Bylaw submission can be done electronically through LGgovernance@gov.bc.ca.

  • Local Government Data Entry (LGDE) forms and LGDE tax forms can be submitted through the LGDE system
  • New this year, there will be 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
    • Budgets
    • Tax bylaws 
  • 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. 


Improvement District Governance & Finance

Annual General Meetings & Elections

The current Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Order on Gatherings and Events (PHO Order) prohibits public attendance at meetings (including improvement district annual general meetings).

Improvement districts can monitor the PHO orders and make plans for when the restrictions are changed, and in-person annual general meetings (AGMs) can be held or otherwise consider holding the AGM electronically. Improvement districts that wish to hold electronic AGMs must submit an amended meeting procedure bylaw for registration with the Inspector of Municipalities.

Improvement districts that wish to hold in-person AGMs, when permitted by the PHO, are encouraged to develop plans to safely conduct physically distanced AGMs.  

Ministerial Order M336 (Order M336) provides improvement districts with the authority to set an election date separate from their AGM. It is recommended that improvement districts spread out in-person interactions by holding elections separate from AGMs. Order M336 also removes the requirement that the improvement district hold its AGM during the time frame set out in its letters patent (e.g. January 1 to May 1). Under the Local Government Act, AGMs must be held every 12 months.

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 COVID-19 Related Measures Act and Ministerial Order 192 provide improvement districts the temporary authority to hold meetings electronically (excluding AGMs) until July 10, 2021.

Improvement districts that wish to hold electronic meetings beyond July 10, 2021 or hold electronic meetings during 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