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: February 17, 2021

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Restarting Local Governments

B.C.’s Restart Plan sets out a careful, four-phase approach to restarting the province. Working in concert with public health monitoring from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), the plan gradually allows for more social and economic activity. The reopening of local governments, businesses and other organizations must comply with public health and safety guidance from the PHO and WorkSafeBC.

The phased approach to BC's Restart Plan is on pause for the duration of province-wide restrictions.

WorkSafeBC Resources

There are key resources for local governments as they develop their own transition plans, and for different sectors in communities – most important is guidance from WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC has issued guidance for many sectors including: accommodation; arts and cultural facilities; offices; parks; restaurants, cafes, and pubs; retail; childcare; and gyms and fitness centres (which includes recreation centres); sports and recreation; and parks and tourism.

Local Government Resources

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs will continue to provide local governments with information and a connection into the broader B.C. Government to help with local government transitions, to address questions and to connect local governments with resources as they become available that may be important to local governments beginning to re-open their communities.


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) prevents in-person public attendance at council or board meetings. The Office of the Provincial Health Officer encourages electronic meetings; however local government staff and elected officials may continue to hold in-person council and board meetings as necessary.

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

Minister Order 192 [Local Government Meetings & Bylaw Process] repeals the authority for expedited passage of bylaws that was provided under M139. Municipalities may continue to do three readings and the adoption of certain financial bylaws in the same day.

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.

Local governments are now enabled to hold public hearings electronically so they can continue to make important land use decisions during the provincial state of emergency. Public hearings are subject to both Order M192 and the PHO  Order on Gatherings and Events, which prohibits in-person attendance at public hearings.

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


Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP)

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in response to a high volume of requests from local governments, CARIP reporting requirements are waived for the 2019 reporting year.

Local governments must have signed the B.C. Climate Action Charter and have committed to take action and develop climate action-related strategies to be eligible for the grant.


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.

For 2020, local governments are authorized to:

  • Borrow, interest-free, from existing reserve funds (including funds for capital purposes) to help pay for operating expenses, such as employee salaries (this borrowing may be repaid over five years without interest)
  • Delay provincial school and police tax remittances until the end of the year (though this money must be prioritized to ensure full remittances to other public authorities)
  • Carry 2020 revenue anticipation borrowing for an additional year, which means local governments have two years to pay back a revenue anticipation loan, instead of a previous limit of one year

School tax rates for commercial properties will be reduced for the 2020 tax year by $720 million (or approximately 25% of the total property tax burden levied on all commercial properties).

Commercial properties include:

  • Class 4 (Major Industry)
  • Class 5 (Light Industry)
  • Class 6 (Business and Other)
  • Class 7 (Managed Forests)
  • Class 8 (Recreation/Non-profit)

The penalties for late payment on these commercial classes will be postponed to October 1, 2020. The last payment date will without penalty will be September 30, 2020.

Municipalities are still required to meet their remittances to other public authorities such as regional districts, regional hospital districts, TransLink and transit authorities, BC Assessment, the Municipal Finance Authority, Greater Vancouver Water District, Greater Vancouver Sewage and Drainage District, and other public authorities.

In the case of public authorities that have multiple remittance dates, such as TransLink and BC Assessment, municipalities must prioritize full remittance in August to ensure these authorities have the necessary cash flows to meet their operational requirements.

Submitting Financial Reports

The deadline for annual reports, Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) reports, audited financial statements and Local Government Data Entry (LGDE) forms is August 31, 2020.

Local governments that can complete and submit these reports before the August 31 deadline are encouraged to do so.

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 timeframe 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).

Improvement districts that wish to hold electronic meetings beyond the current Provincial State of Emergency or in 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