COVID-19 updates for local governments and 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: July 22, 2022

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Recovery funding support

Canada-B.C. safe restart fund for local governments 

The Canada-B.C. Safe Restart Fund will provincial funding (50/50 cost-shared) to local governments throughout British Columbia to support operating costs and revenues impact due to COVID-19.

To ensure full transparency regarding the use of funds, local governments are required to annually report on how this grant was spent. This will be part of annual financial reporting under section 167 of the Community Charter. Each local government will provide a schedule to the audited financial statements respecting the amount of funding received, the use of those funds, and the year-end balance of unused funds. Each local government must continue to annually report on the use of grant money until the funds are fully drawn down.

Temporary Financial Measures

In 2020, government provided a suite of temporary financial measures to assist liquidity and provide financial supports for local governments, including the authority to borrow interest free from existing statutory reserve funds. The measures only applied for the 2020 calendar year. Commencing 2021, these measures are longer be in place. However, any borrowing from reserves funds in 2020 is still subject to the repayment terms under EPA Order M159.

Governance and operations

2022 general local elections and assent voting

The ministry will  continue to monitor COVID-19 Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Orders to support local governments to conduct safer local elections and assent votes in their communities. 

The Elections in Special Circumstances (COVID-19) Regulation expired on March 31, 2022.

Meetings

Local governments that want to hold electronic meetings can amend their procedure bylaw to use the electronic meeting authorities that came into force on September 29, 2021.

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).


Public hearings

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 circumstances—in person, electronic, or a hybrid format. 

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.

Improvement district governance and finance

Annual general meetings and elections

Ministerial Order M336 (PDF, 634KB) (Order M336) provides those improvement districts in the schedule with the authority to set an election date separate from their annual general meeting (AGM). Order M336 also removes the requirement that improvement districts in the schedule 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 in emergency circumstances must submit an amended procedure bylaw for registration with the Inspector of Municipalities. Improvement district elections must be held in-person